Farming: It’s What Highly Educated, City-Bred Women (and Men) Want to Do These Days

 

Kimbal Musk is talking about it and I’m seeing, firsthand, more young women turning to farming. I also recently caught an excellent TV documentary about chefs moving from Brooklyn to the Berkshires (Massachusetts) to become farmers and open true farm-to-table restaurants.

Even the Nat Geo photographer on my recent Antarctica trip, Erika Larsen, had just spent 4 years living with the Sami (the Reindeer People of Northern Scandinavia) where she learned to live sustainably off the reindeer.

My friend Celine Kagan (IG: zucchiniflower) was the first person I knew (in 2016) to chuck her fancy NYC PR job to go work as a farmhand.

  •  She started on a sheep station in New Zealand.
  • Currently she’s working on a farm in Upstate New York.
  • I’m beyond impressed that she has embraced the gnarly job of farming – birthing and butchering animals for food is not for sissies.
  • Another great instagram account to follow on this topic is Kathleen McConkey of Montana (IG: kathmcconks).

Dedicated as I am to State Fairs, I’ve also noticed more young women getting involved with farming and livestock through 4-H.

  • According to the USDA, the number of women-led farms has tripled over the past four decades and remains one of the fastest-growing groups in the United States.
  • Females make up 32% of the farming workforce and are almost one million women strong.

I’m also currently reading the Elon Musk biography which includes stories of Elon’s brother, Kimbal, a longtime advocate of farming and the local food movement.

Business Insider just ran a story on how Kimbal sees a growing movement of young, highly educated people leaving their sedentary office jobs to become local and organic farmers.

Read on below for more on this growing trend to farming among the educated – and especially among women.

 

While I’m sure the overall numbers turning to farming are small, there is data showing that for only the second time in the last century, the number of farmers age 25 to 34 is increasing.

  • In some states, including California, Nebraska, and South Dakota, the number of new farmers has grown by 20% since 2007.
  • Approximately 69% of these young farmers have college degrees – a figure that’s more than double when looking at the general US population.

I’ve been obsessed with farming – urban as well as rural – for some time:

The first “farmer” I wrote about was Gwen Schantz, Vassar graduate and now Chief  Operating Officer of Brooklyn Grange, an urban rooftop farm with locations in Brooklyn at the Navy Yard and in Long Island City, Queens.

3 Questions with Gwen Schantz, Chief Operating Officer, Brooklyn Grange

Another female-led dairy farm I wrote about is The Beck Valley Farm in Wisconsin. Bonnie Dittberner Beck is an inspiring woman who I had the opportunity to meet through Beverly Kahlhamer on one of my trips to Wisconsin.

Farmers have become very cool; I’m inspired by how hard they work

 

BOTTOM LINE:  It will be interesting to track how – and if – young, well-educated people will keep pursuing the boutique farming lifestyle. Farming, as I’ve learned, is 24/7 hard work. There is no such thing as work/life balance for farmers. It’s also a very expensive and risky undertaking to maintain livestock and crops. I suspect while many will give up and return to more conventional lives, this current desire to get back to the land is more than a passing fancy. Only time will tell. In the meantime, I will be looking for more young farmers to interview and feature on the blog. I consider this one of the biggest stories of our time.

Share this post on: