“Let your children grow up to be farmers..let them know what it is like to be free from fluorescent lights and laser pointer meetings. Let them challenge themselves to be forever resourceful and endlessly clever. Let them whistle and sing loud as they like without getting called into an office for “disturbing the workforce.” Let them commute down a winding path with birdsong instead of a freeway’s constant growl. Let them be bold…… Let them learn what real work is. Let them find happiness in the understanding that success and wealth are not the same thing. Let them skip the fancy wedding. Let them forget four years of unused college. Let them go. Let them go home.” The Huffington Post: “Let Your Children Grow Up to Be Farmers”
We do live in extraordinary times – so many challenges – so many chances to dig deep, to discover our core values and to try to live by them. As the above quotes suggest, it is not always easy to reconcile many of our strongly held beliefs in small to mid-scale sustainable agriculture with the hard core financial facts. As someone who works daily with aspiring, idealistic young farmers, these two quotes are frustrating, invigorating, and hit the nail right on its economic head. At the Institute for Mindful Agriculture we have been observing what we are calling the “emerging real food economy” for the past 20 years. It continues to grow and thrive in the Hudson Valley and yet, paradoxically, many small farmers also continue to struggle to survive. The need to grow the next generation of farmers into a strong supportive network that will evolve a “Hudson Valley food shed” requires us to have a long hard look at the economic challenges and farming values presented above.