the generational gift

I consider our family among the elite.

[Now, now, don’t turn your nose up and click off just yet. Hear me out.]

I married into a family that has farmed for three generations. Our children will (hopefully) inherit land, livestock, and equipment that their great-grandfather worked.

It’s a gift.

The reality is that no one  in their right mind would go out today and purchase (from scratch) the land, equipment, livestock, and materials necessary to make a farm workable and profitable, and not expect to go belly-up.

“…if you’re not born into a farm family, getting into the business might prove to be the most difficult thing of all about farming.” – Chris Torres

Backyard chickens + weekend farming may be one thing — making a living off the land and tasking to provide for a plethora of humanity is another. Our large family farm provides for three families, and even then all three of the significant others have jobs off the farm. Not to mention the side “projects” that even the farmers themselves have (fence building, horse shoeing, custom farming for others, etc.).

“Many outside the farming community have these visions — well-intentioned visions by the way — of areas dotted with small farms and “hero” farmers tasked with feeding people eager for a return to “good food.””

This quote is from a recent editorial by Chris Torres in the Lancaster Farming newspaper, and is what ignited this writing spark. He cited the National Young Farmers Coalition and their ideas on how to make farming more accessible to young people looking to jump in the farm arena. These ideas included No Farms No Foodrestrictions on selling land to non-farming activities or organizations, and working to reduce purchase price on land for farming practices.

I feel a fist around my heart when I see real estate signs on farmland advertising them as perfect for industrial or commercial ventures. Pardon me, but where would you like your food to come from if you sell all the farmland or make it inaccessible to farmers?

Here’s the call to local and federal government & organizations: land zoned ‘agriculture’ should stay that way, and those who wish to farm should be able to enter without starting behind (or underneath) the 8-ball.

My neighbor, fellow farmer, and the Virginia Commissioner for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Matthew Lohr, takes pride in understanding and doing his part to help the farm seekers.

“These are people who don’t have any expectation of inheriting a farm but who have a strong desire to be a farmer,” Matt writes. “We need farms and farmers for food, fiber, wood products, green spaces, wildlife habitat and a high quality of life. Can you imagine how bleak the landscape would be without farms?  … Here’s what I can imagine, however: a whole new generation of farmers whose education, background, enthusiasm and philosophy suit them to the responsibility, sense of accomplishment and noble vocation of farming.”

How have you turned from farm seeker to farm owner? I’d love to hear what your state or area is doing to protect and project agriculture for future generations!

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