Often armed with not much more than unwieldy liberal arts degrees, the mass exodus of 20-somethings from urban areas to farms outside of the city was a much reported story last year; the underlying idea being that growing vegetables from seed to harvest might be more appealing than hitting up the mediabistro classifieds every two minutes during temp job downtime.
A lot of these new farmers, like a lot of old school farmers, believe that smaller farms produce better food, and that by avoiding industrial farming methods, strong farms improve the health of communities and their residents. Calling the young farmers “the new members of the rural class,” the New York Times name-checked Green Acres in an article in Sunday's paper again. Last week, the USDA released its Census of Agriculture report: It turns out that while the ranks of farmers from smaller farms have increased substantially since 2002, the census found that “more often than not, their work in the fields is subsidized by an off-the-farm job.”
Last December, the Young Farmers Conference was held at Stone Barns Center in Pocantico Hills. Stone Barns is the home to an outpost of Manhattan's Blue Hill; at both restaurant locations, chef Dan Barber works with vegetables and meat produced on the property (the place may also be more familiar to Top Chef viewers, as it was featured on an episode a few weeks back). Conference presentations included traditional work songs sung by farmers in the field, and raising poultry from hatchlings (taught by Stone Barns livestock manager Craig Haney). Click on the images to read the stories of the young farmers we met there trying to make a go of it.
(all photos by Tejal Rao)