More great news about the future of local farming. The New York Times reports on an optimistic (in my opinion) national trend—more and more college students are seeking internships not on Wall Street, but on the farm.
The Times reports that 1,400 farms sought interns this year, almost triple the number two years ago. The number of small farms, which attract the new agrarians and can use the cheap, enthusiastic help, has grown sharply since 2003 (this according to Katherine L. Adam, who runs the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, financed by the Department of Agriculture).
This is terrific news. Sure, it’s partly a result of the economic recession we are in, but in my mind, it signifies something else—that young people are seeing the impacts they can have when they get local and get their hands in the dirt.
One student interviewed for the story said that “I’m not sure that I can affect how messed up poverty is in Africa or change politics in Washington, but on the farm I can see the fruits of my labor.” Despite the pun or maybe because of it, it seems as though there is a small—but growing—interest in garden-farming.
Closer to home, the Bozeman-based Gallatin Valley Farm to School (GVF2S) program is the first in the nation—and still, the only—to pilot a FoodCorps volunteer, as part of the VISTA program.
VISTA—Volunteers In Service To America—was begun by President Johnson in the early ‘60’s, as a domestic version of the Peace Corps (full disclosure: I served as a VISTA in 1991, teaching adult literacy in housing projects and a medium security prison in Tarentum, PA, a steel town-suburb of Pittsburgh). Americorps is now the formal name, a revised and augmented program introduced in 1993 by President Clinton.
GVF2S hosted the nation’s first FoodCorps VISTA last year and it was so successful that Americorps agreed to supplement the cost of the second year of the program, to study it for national franchising.
More evidence that young people see compelling work on the farm. Couple that with the Friends of Local Food’s Towne’s Harvest CSA at Montana State in Bozeman, and the PEAS (Program in Ecological Agriculture and Society) in Missoula, as part of the Garden City Harvest program to combine traditional academics with hands-on work at an urban, organic farm. . . . and we’ve got a youth farming movement on our hands.
The future looks bright.