Who Will Be The Next Generation Of Farmers?
A headline caught my eye the other day while browsing the New York Times - "2 of a Farmer’s 3 Children Overdosed. What of the Third — and the Land? Up to that point, that question have never crossed my mind, and that alone gave me pause.
The Winemiller family featured in the article has lost two of its three children to the opioid epidemic, and the fate of their family farm is uncertain for the first time in generations. The Winemiller family isn't alone - opioid-related deaths are concentrated in the Mid-West and have had a disproportionate impact on farming communities.
The epidemic of opioid use and overdose deaths is not a new story. Unfortunately, it also seems like a waking nightmare that neither ends nor improves. The issue of where these deaths are concentrated seems secondary to crisis at hand. And yet, this epidemic's impact on farming communities can and most like will impact land use over large regions of our countries. The likelihood these farms will remain farms is slim, and sale of farmland to developers, more likely than not, will be the only viable option for farms left without farmers.
Urban farming presents an interesting alternative to to traditional farming models, and also presents a compelling opportunity to combat food deserts in under-served urban areas. Austin's urban farming scene has solidified itself as a case study and model for urban farming initiatives.
National Geographic's coverage of urban farms in Austin is a must read for urban farmers and aspiring urban farmers alike. The intersection of the city's tech scene and agricultural vigor is cultivating more than just locally-grown lettuce. Start ups have become a vital part of the city's agricultural revolution, filling market gaps and creating new ways for small growers to connect to customers and supporters.