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‘3/4 of US farming industry’s income comes from 2,000 small private farms’

Development of farming in the United States

In this article, Mary Hayes looks at the development of farming in the United States.

During the global food crisis, many people outside urban agglomerations are increasingly focusing on growing their crops, fruits, and vegetables.

In 100 years of technological development, the principles of farming have also changed. Now many agricultural students are introducing new changes to agriculture.

There are new crops, and new machines for easier land cultivation and animal husbandry, and since most agricultural students come from rural areas, a great deal of technology is moving from theory to practice right now.

John Fee

Consider the story of John Fee and his contribution to U.S. agricultural culture.

John Fee was known in his native Kentucky not only as an abolitionist or abolitionist but also as a man whose words and deeds did not differ.

Nearly a century and a half ago, in 1855, he founded a private college in the town of Berea, where blacks and whites, boys and girls, studied together for the first time.

And not only did they study: students were required to devote at least ten hours a week to physical labor.

It was up to the young people to decide what they wanted to do. The choice was vast – skillful hands were needed in the most diverse departments.

Ag students

But the most popular jobs were on America’s first student farm.

Over time, the number of such farms created to meet the needs of college students and faculty has grown, and their geography has expanded.

There are now about a hundred of them in the United States, and new ones open every year.

The students at these colleges are passionate about learning about farming. But even the best students have difficulty in their studies.

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But it was not always like this. In the 1970s and 80s, as people interested in successful careers became increasingly attracted to high technology and computer science, courses related to agriculture disappeared from community college programs.

It was not until the last decade of the last century that interest in food production among young people began to revive.

But already at a qualitatively different level. Now the main emphasis was placed on the environmental friendliness of agriculture, its natural and environmental friendliness.

Understandably, many incoming American young men and women wanted to learn this alternative way of agricultural development in practice.

For this purpose, many colleges and universities developed special programs in ecological agriculture (Programs in Ecological Agriculture), which became an effective incentive to open new student farms.

National culture 

Now Josh Slotnick, director of one at the University of Montana, admits, “We have benefited greatly from this big wave in national culture.”

He is echoed by Robin Kohanovich, coordinator of a similar program at Central Carolina College, who sees these changes in the nation’s culture as responsible for the growing appeal of agriculture to young people.

And she cites the example of a five-acre farm on Chatham College’s campus, where the number of people willing to join the physician workforce has doubled in just one semester.

As the number of youth farms (most recently at the colleges of the University of Nevada and A&M University in Kingsville, Texas) has grown, so has the variety of academic disciplines that working on the land students choose as their major.

Whether it is agroecology directly related to agriculture or as far removed from agriculture as anthropology, which is the study of human origins and evolution.

Practical experience

For example, students at Prescott Humanities College in Arizona work on a 20-acre Jenner Farm four days a week from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. during the summer semester.

They raise organic vegetables and poultry. And, oddly enough, future humanities majors are not hindered by working on the land.

Maybe because they wake up earlier than their classmates.

Regular study visits to farms and agricultural organizations in neighboring states also do not impair their academic performance.

Members of the student farm movement see them not just as another source of food, but, most importantly, as an alternative to large agricultural companies, which, in their opinion, harm the environment, violate optimal land management regimes, and ruin small family farms by their very existence.

Farm income 

Right now, three-quarters of the income of the U.S. farming industry comes from about two thousand small private farms.

And the members of the movement would like to see their numbers not decrease in the future.

“We help meet the ever-increasing demand for natural organic produce and locally grown seasonal fruits and vegetables,” says University of Montana student David Schaad as he plucks another carrot from one of his ‘sponsored’ beds.

“The current model of agriculture does not allow us to consume only organic food, but it is something we should strive for.”

“Maybe I am too much of an optimist, but I am sure we will get there someday.”

Frederick Kirschenman of the University of Iowa’s Center for Sustainable Agriculture thinks more broadly, as a scientist should.

He thinks student farms are important, not just for our country, but for everyone else.

And he reasons that the planet is running out of fresh water, there is less and less cheap energy, and the threat of unpredictable climate change is looming over all of us.

The gravity of the latter danger needs no proof. It is sufficient to enumerate the catastrophic floods, unprecedented droughts, powerful tropical storms, and destructive tornadoes that have occurred in recent years.

Under these conditions, the scientist believes, it is necessary to switch to new systems of agriculture – more productive, using an ecological rather than industrial approach, based on such flexible, autonomous, and self-renewable farms, as student farms have shown themselves to be.

Age of farmers

Very important for the future progress of farming in the New World is the age of the participants in this movement.

Currently, one-third of the country’s farmers are over the age of 65, and only 5 percent are under 35.

So Kirschenman is probably right when he expresses his hope that student farms will play a crucial role in educating the next generation of future masters of America’s fields.

That is what every university or college administration is counting on when it organizes the next student farm. Often, however, the interests of educators clash with the intentions of the local government to maximize profits from every piece of state-granted land.

“People do not realize that all this land is being used to research exactly how to make a significant profit from it without causing appreciable damage to nature,” says one faculty member at Berea College in Kentucky.

Whereas a few years ago, the student farm was mainly seen as a means to supplement the college or university budget, now it has become an educational laboratory, where young people learn where and how what’s on their table comes from. Knowing this is not only useful but sometimes necessary.

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