American Farmers Are Growing Old, With Spiraling Costs Keeping Out Young: The nation’s farmers are 17 years older than the average American worker.
Abra Berens (at left) and Jess Piskor are business partners on their Bare Knuckle Farm in Northport, Michigan. The small-scale farm sells produce through a CSA and at the local farmers market, and hosts private dinners. Photograph by Fritz Hoffmann, National Geographic
Andrea Stone for National Geographic; Published September 19, 2014
TRAVERSE CITY, Michigan—Art McManus slowly threads his 2001 white GMC pickup through a rolling grove of cherry trees, their limbs heavy with crimson fruit. Eyeing his 25-year-old grandson working with a crew of farmhands, he stops to watch them attach a mechanical shaker that grips a tree and violently rocks its cherries into a canvas catch frame and conveyor.
“Each one of those trees is like a child—when a limb breaks, it bothers me,” says McManus, who planted this orchard of maraschino cocktail cherries more than a decade ago. “It took all this time to get it to this point, and I’d like to keep it going.”
But the 73-year-old owner of the 150-acre Southview Orchards isn’t sure he can make that happen. None of McManus’s three grown children wants to take over the tart cherry farm.