March 2019 - 26

'New American farmer' emerges near you
By Kayla Zacharias
Purdue University
If you've been to your neighborhood
farmers' market or seen a small " local "
section pop up in your grocery store,
you may have noticed a trend: People
want to know where their food is coming
from, and the agricultural industry is
responding. The number of farmers
markets in the U.S. has skyrocketed in
recent years, but with an aging population
of farmers, who's supporting this growth?
Enter the new American farmer.
It's a term used by Andrew Flachs, an
environmental anthropologist at Purdue
University, to describe a movement of
younger people new to agricultural work
who do it for different reasons than
the conventional farmer. They may be
motivated through higher education,
personal politics, disenchantment with
urban life or in search of an authentic
rural identity, he says.
In a new paper in the journal Rural
Sociology, Flachs identifies several hot spots
where this movement is really taking shape:
the West Coast, central Texas and Oklahoma,
central Florida and the Great Lakes region.
" We're seeing these hot spots pop up in
the peripheries of hip cities, " Flachs said.
" Some of these places might seem obvious,
like the West Coast and the northern
Midwest around Madison, the Twin Cities
and Chicago. But we also see some things
that aren't totally expected. "
creating new niche markets, making
space for younger farmers to exist
between urban and rural landscapes.
Identifying where new and small
farmers live and work will pave the way
for further research on what's motivating
this budding sector of the agricultural
economy. New American farmers occupy
an important intersection of niche
marketing strategies, environmental
politics and rural demographic change
that could have a significant impact on
food production and social life in agrarian
landscapes, according to the paper.
Flachs points out that many new
Farmers' markets in larger cities are supporting a new, younger faction of American farmers.
Photo: Mark Simons/Purdue University
Among the unexpected trends he found,
east Texas and the southern Midwest are
becoming increasingly important for this
kind of agriculture. Appalachia, which
has historically been a hub, essentially
disappeared from the map.
In collaboration with Matthew Abel, an
anthropologist at Washington University
in St. Louis, Flachs built a model that
counts how many traits associated with
new American agrarianism appear in
each county. With data from the USDA
agricultural censuses from 1997 to 2012,
they considered factors such as average
sales per farm, number of certified organic
farms, owners under age 34, number
of farms selling directly to individuals,
proximity to farmers ' markets and more.
The findings show that newer farmers
appear to thrive on the outskirts of cities
that provide high demand and purchasing
power, a large population and a healthy
number of farmers ' markets.
The price of real estate is another
important factor in determining where
these markets can flourish. Rural
developers have steadily increased farm
real estate over the last few decades,
which could deter newer farmers from
settling down there. Concentrations
of urban wealth drive up real estate
costs in the city while simultaneously
American farmers approach agriculture
with hopes to embody a nostalgic past
where food and environments were
healthier, but others may be simply
trying to make a living as farmers
amid dissatisfaction with conventional
agribusiness. Although it's easy to
stereotype, it's unlikely that all new
American farmers fit this description.
" Sometimes when we think about these
farmers, we picture young people with
liberal arts degrees looking for some kind
of connection to the earth or wanting to
work with their hands, " Flachs said. " What
we found is that that's probably not the
most representative view of who these
people actually are. I'm glad to have my
stereotype broken up by the data. "
The research was funded by Purdue,
Washington University in St. Louis and the
Volkswagen Foundation. VGN
Need Clamshells?
Kurt Zuhlke & Associates, Inc.
26 |

March 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of March 2019

March 2019 - 1
March 2019 - 2
March 2019 - 3
March 2019 - 4
March 2019 - 5
March 2019 - 6
March 2019 - 7
March 2019 - 8
March 2019 - 9
March 2019 - 10
March 2019 - 11
March 2019 - 12
March 2019 - 13
March 2019 - 14
March 2019 - 15
March 2019 - 16
March 2019 - 17
March 2019 - 18
March 2019 - 19
March 2019 - 20
March 2019 - 21
March 2019 - 22
March 2019 - 23
March 2019 - 24
March 2019 - 25
March 2019 - 26
March 2019 - 27
March 2019 - 28
March 2019 - 29
March 2019 - 30
March 2019 - 31
March 2019 - 32
March 2019 - 33
March 2019 - 34
March 2019 - 35
March 2019 - 36
March 2019 - 37
March 2019 - 38
March 2019 - 39
March 2019 - 40