The 2014 U.S. Census found the average age of farmers in the country is 58. There's now a push to get more young people involved in farming. Locally, there's no need to look further than Columbia County where a new wave of young farm owners are changing the agricultural industry, and the face of farming. Jon Dougherty explains in this week's Capital Region Business Beat.
STYUYVESANT, N.Y. -- The produce in your home likely came from a field, perhaps locally.
In the fields of Columbia County, there's a fresh face on these farms -- young women farmers.
"We execute it all. We weed, we cultivate, we harvest, we deliver, we do accounting, book keeping; It all comes under one roof," said Susan Decker, owner of Blue Star Farm in Stuyvesant.
After college, Decker worked in the publishing industry in New York City. She later moved to upstate New York and has a new title: farm owner.
Decker's not alone.
"It feels like the norm around here," said Ironwood Farm co-owner Jenny Parker. "I know more women farmers or at least as many as women farmers as male farmers. That makes me happy and I hope that number grows."
"From a really young age I really felt connected to trying to just do something in the world that would be really helpful for the future," Green Mead Farm Owner Jennifer Hindes said.
In Columbia County alone, there are at least five farms run by young women, like Ironwood Farm in Hudson.
"Labor-wise, there's no difference. I don't feel like I farm anymore or less hard than my male farmer friends, but most of them are women," said Ironwood Farm Crew Member Sara Black.
Despite the momentum, the 2012 U.S. Census said only 14 percent of U.S. farms are women owned and operated. The local farm owners said they hope that number increases.
"To grow food for our local communities, it's diverse, the stewardship is really important and we're a part of that new generation of people who are staking a claim in that big land exchange that is about to happen or is already happening," Black said.
"I like the kind of lifestyle it provides, I get to be outside, I get to use my body," said Ironwood Farm co-owner Aliyah Brandt. "Growing foods is a central need that we all have and it feels really good to meet that need for people."
Along with the everyday tasks, the ladies hope to inspire even more young people to get involved in farming.
"I think it maybe will make younger women or girls feel like they can do anything," Brandt said.
"Once you start making your living this way, it's hard to imagine making it any other way," said Black.
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