Article: Renting helps new farmers grow their businesses

By Casey Parks, The Oregonian

HILLSBORO — All day long, Steve Radtke works on land that is not his.

If he could, he would own the ground he tills and harvests. But acres aren’t easy to come by these days, so Radtke pursues his farming dreams on someone else’s soil.

As more people choose to eat locally grown food, more metro residents are turning to farming, the Oregon Farm Bureau says. That’s good news to advocates who worried that newer generations would reject farming. But as more people choose agricultural careers, they’re learning there’s one missing commodity: land.

Renting has become an attractive option for new farmers, who lack the money or the family connections to buy a farm, as well as for older farmers who are transitioning into retirement but want their land to keep producing food.

There’s enough demand for rent agreements that a new organization, iFarm Oregon, has formed to connect the new generation of farmers with landowners through an interactive Web site and monthly get-togethers.

“Younger people, urban eaters, are really intrigued by the idea of farming,” said Michele Knaus, who works with Friends of Family Farmers, the nonprofit that runs iFarm. “There has been so much in the media that has made farming sound less like something your great grandparents did and more like something that you can actually do.”

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