Note: According to recent reports, more people in their 20s and 30s are going into farming. Young people are joining university ag programs, farmers markets, and ag social media forums. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has called for 100,000 new farmers within the next few years, and Congress has responded with proposals that would provide young farmers with improved access to USDA support and loan programs. The blog post below is an update of last year's holiday entry. CAST wishes you all a Happy New Year.
On the day of my eighth Christmas, I spent much of the time harvesting the carpet and penning up a herd of cattle in the living room. First I had to arrange the plastic fence that stretched from the barn to the TV stand. Most of the cattle grazed comfortably in one spot unless my brother ran through the room and did a four-year-old’s version of cow-tipping. The field that needed harvesting was between the lounge chair and the sofa. I did not have a real combine in those early years of farming, but I had real kernels of corn, so loads of grain magically appeared, and I hauled them from my “south forty” using a green cab-less tractor and non-hydraulic wagon.
I had some distinct advantages as a starting farmer: Dad’s Christmas gift was a red wooden barn he had made, with a hinged hay-mow door and the classic white trim around the edges. From past birthdays and a few trips to the local Ben Franklin Store, I had some basic equipment and enough cattle and hogs to start a decent operation. And few farmers enjoy climate control as I did. On that winter day, I farmed in 72 degree comfort as sun rays slanted in through the large picture window.With some creative applications of Lincoln Logs and erector set pieces, my ag-operation grew, but I imagine my interest waned as I discovered the hard work and constant attention a farm requires. Or maybe I just had to move the barn and livestock so Mom and Dad could use the living room again. Either way, I hope that in this era of high-tech equipment and confinement farms, some kids still take possession of a barn with a cupola on top and some plastic cows that need a section of fresh carpet to graze on. Dan Gogerty (photo, ars/usda)