The Average Age of California Farmers Continues to Climb

The L.A. Times profiles the young farmers who are making good food their mission—but small-scale agriculture comes at a cost.

Photo: Doug Stevens for

Photo: Doug Stevens for L.A. Times; Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

The average age of a California farmer hit 58 in 2012.

There are currently fewer than 6,400 farmers ages 25 to 34 in California, and California farmers 65 and older outnumber those ages 25 to 34 by a ratio of six to one, reports the L.A. Times.

Meanwhile, consumers are demanding fresh and local food grown with minimal environmental effects; sales of organically-farmed food jumped nearly 84% in 2012 from 2007.

So why aren’t so many youngsters taking up farming as an occupation? Referring to small-scale agriculture, the 30-year-old co-owner and farmer of Ellwood Canyon Farms, Jeff Kramer, says, “There’s nothing romantic about it. It’s hard work and long hours for little pay.”

But a small population of dedicated 20 and 30-year-olds are making sustainable and organic farming their mission, in an attempt to bridge the gap in the currently out-of-wack food system and to get quality, nutritious food to consumers.

organic The Average Age of California Farmers Continues to Climb

[Photo: Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times]

“Many new farmers are motivated primarily by the desire to show that mainstream methods aren’t the only way to grow food,” according to the L.A. Times. And consumer preference have paved the way for those young farmers that are willing and able to carve out a niche.

Kramer’s business partner, Jack Motter, says,

“Conventional agriculture and mono-cropping systems is what everyone does, because that’s a pretty obvious way of how to make money. You know, get bigger, make it cost less for your production side of it, and sell more of it. But that also completely conflicts with your small, diverse, organic, sustainable farm. So, I’m always cautious of chasing the dollar—because, is that the dollar I want to be chasing?”

It’s not easy to attract today’s convenience-obsessed Millennials—many of whom haven’t done a day of manual labor in their life—with that kind of reality.

Realizing this, agriculture trade groups have developed programs, including training and financial incentives, aimed at attracting young people to small-scale and organic farming, reports the Times.

Watch a video profiling the new generation of farmers in California over on latimes.com.

[via L.A. Times]

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