From Phish to Farm?

The Greenhorns is an upcoming documentary, by Severine Von Tscharner Fleming, about young people, going against The Man, by becoming farmers.

Here’s the trailer.

These ‘hipster farmers’ have also been covered by the NYT, the Huffington Post, The Boston Globe and several other notable publications.

The articles are compelling but are these just a few starry eyed hippies, with good PR skills, born in the wrong decade? Or is this a full-fledged movement?

My science background compels me to find the hard numbers behind tales of young faces rescuing ancient seeds. So I countered counterculture rules and turned to, that’s right, The Man.

Any census is going to miss some rural and small-scale operations, but the USDA has been (arguably) doing their best to keep tabs. Here’s some of their data:

Since World War II, the numbers of farms in the US has generally been declining. But between 2002 and 2007, that trend reversed. In five years, 300,000 new farms were created and “these new farms tend to have more diversified production, fewer acres, lower sales and younger operators who also work off farm,” reports the USDA.

Almost 40% of male farmers under 25, and more than half of those between 25-34, have no inter-generational mentor working along side them. This doesn’t tell us definitively whether or not they were born into the business, but it does suggest that many young people, like Benjamin Shute (formerly of hip-central Williamsburg) and partner Miriam Latzer, are indeed “first-generation farmers.” (Latzer told the NYT, her parents “wonder what planet I am from.”)

Despite an increase in organic farms, New York is one of only a handful of states that has seen a reduction in local farms. Still, the greenhorns are rising. In 1997, there were 156 New Yorkers under the age of 25 running farms. Five years later, there were 228. Among those under 35, the number rose from 1344 to 1874 during the same period. That’s almost a 40% increase.

Now the psych-trained part of me is intrigued. What is drawing young people to this way of life? Added to the process-it-yourself food movement, I have to ask:

Is domesticity the new rebellion?

picture by Niderlander

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