By Donna Jones; Posted: 03/01/2010 07:21:09 PM PST on MercuryNews.com
“…At a time when farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing demographic in agriculture, FarmLink might be said to be indispensable too.
According to a 2007 U.S. Department of Agriculture census, the most recent figures available, one in four farmers is 65 or older, a 22 percent increase over 2002 figures. The percentage younger than 45 dropped 14 percent during the same period to comprise just 22 percent of American farmers.
The average age of Santa Cruz County growers in 2007 was 57.8, slightly over the national average of 57.1. FarmLink says in California, farmers 65 and older outnumber those younger than 35 by 8 to 1. The nonprofit seeks to reverse the trend and ensure the future of family farming.
Industrial agriculture has its place, said Reggie Knox, Central and South Coast program director for FarmLink. But preserving small family farms is crucial to supplying communities with locally grown, less processed, nutritious food.
FarmLink works to accomplish that goal by helping the next generation of farmers gain access to capital, access to land, access to the knowledge base of agricultural veterans before it’s too late, Knox said. “We can have high quality food or we can go all the way to Chile or South Africa or China for our food,” he said.”
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