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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.

The Youth Shall Lead Us

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.

About Dean Williamson

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5 comments

  1. Forward, hoe in hand, into the bright green world of collectiviized agriculture. Why not let farmers farm and participate in un-subsidized free markets?. Enough of government-sponsored programs designed to help college kids get their hands dirty. Besides, if the current regime wasn’t screwing up the economy these kids would be spending the summer mountain biking on Mom and Dad, only Mom and Dad are broke.

  2. And I wish New West writers would quit holding up the New York Times as the great oracle for interpreting life in the West. Jon taking the Gail Collins nonsense seriously recently is a good example. You guys are as bad as Headwaters and High Country News. To paraphrase Stegner, let’s have journalism to match the scenery. God, you guys are tiresome.

  3. OK Bill- no one is forcing you to read any of this, you must get a kick out of being a griping bully. And, since when is it a BAD thing to have folks of any age making gardening cool again whether or not it’s gov’t sponsored. There are far too many adults in this country that don’t know where their food comes from or how it looks as a whole plant. It’s a good thing from all angles, so go read the Missoulian if you think this is “tiresome”. What a whiner.

  4. The great thing about the New York Times story is that it quotes Katherine Adam, who works on the National Sustainable Agriculture Information service. Far from being an elitist “East Coast” operation, this service (also called ATTRA), is based in Butte, right here in Montana (it’s run by NCAT, a nonprofit who has been in Montana for over 30 years.). Great job, NCAT and ATTRA!

    More info on ATTRA here:
    http://www.attra.ncat.org

  5. Dean, I’m glad you mentioned FoodCorps in your piece, but you got some of the details wrong. While the Gallatin Valley Public School Farm to School program is a great one, it was not the organizer of the FoodCorps program. In fact, it did not become a part of the program until Food Corps’ second year.

    Food Corps is the brainchild of Crissie McMullan, director of the Grow Montana coalition. Grow Montana’s mission is to make more Montana food available to Montanans, thereby reducing food miles and enhancing our local economies. FoodCorps has nearly completed three years, and Grow Montana has placed VISTA volunteers in six institutional markets in Montana: Missoula County Public Schools, UM – Western, Salish Kootenai College, Montana State University, Gallatin Valley PS, and UM-Missoula. Crissie McMullan is currentlyexploring the possibilities for taking FoodCorps national.

    For more info., see: http://www.growmontana.ncat.org