It's a well reported fact that the average age of an American farmer is nearly 60 years old. There are frequent pleas from citizens and journalists to make farming a more appealing and accessible venture, motivated by fear that our farmers will literally die out, and the only people growing our food will be mega corporations that specialize in monocrops.
But there is reason for hope amidst the concern, with a growing number of younger farmers scattered across the United States farming various sizes of land, growing diverse crops, and gathering communities around them in the process. Some farmers have worked the land their entire adult lives, interning at farms before starting their own enterprises. Others have left established careers to become farmers. Blessed with relative youth and exuberant energy, as well as an awareness of the positive change they can affect in the community around them, these farmers rely on a thirst for knowledge, connections with fellow farmers, compelling blog posts, a firm grasp of the powers of Instagram and Facebook, and damn good food to promote their businesses.
Within this crop of younger first generation farmers are a surprising number of couples farming together. Young couples moving to rural areas around cities and striking out to work the land together can bring to mind nostalgic visions of stereotypical Americana, visions that were highlighted in an article published a few years ago entitled Pastoral Romance. The author of this article concludes that the increasing number of young people choosing farming as a career are simply reflecting an imagined reality and lack of understanding of the true challenges of farming, eschewing any deep-seated, nuanced motivations that the farmers might have.
I believe this article ignores the true energy behind this new movement of young farmers. As I've met farmers in Oregon, Virginia, New York, and elsewhere, I find myself constantly fascinated by the diverse stories motivating these individuals to farm, including the ways these farmers are employing a variety of skills and even past work experience to differentiate themselves and their food. And for couples who are partners both in farming and in life, I'm fascinated by the many ways the challenges of farming can lead to a dovetailing of skills and passions.
This summer, I’m visiting farms across Oregon, specifically younger, often first generation farmers who farm together as a couple. I'm spending time with a variety of fascinating, unique couples and farms, gleaning answers to questions like,
Why are they farmers? What careers did they eschew to become farmers? Does a particular philosophy nit them together? What's it like spending the majority of their waking hours together? Are there similarities across these couples besides energy and passion?
The first farm in this series is Boondockers Farm, a heritage poultry farm in Beavercreek, Oregon, run by Evan Gregoire and Rachel Korstein.