The average age of U.S. farmers is 57, and only getting older. But alongside this worrying USDA Census of Agriculture statistic is a more cheering one: the number of young people entering farming seems at last to be on the rise.
Many of these for-profit growers got their hands dirty for the first time in college, volunteering on a farm or even banding together to start one at their alma mater. To support these efforts, the Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation launched Campus Farmers, an online network that connects students and staff growing food on college campuses across the country. The network aims to facilitate conversations and the sharing of resource sharing between all of those passionate about growing food, from wannabe campus growers to those who have already set down roots.
Campus Farmers is the Web 3.0 version of the Foundation's 2009 Student Garden Guide. This resource hub offers a wealth of information about starting an on-campus farm, managing farm finances, and staying in business. Through the website, users can connect to an online document library and browse important farm resources such as project proposals and farm business plans. And if they want to find out, say, a chemical-free way to fight an infestation of tomato worms, they can pose the question to the Campus Farmers Facebook group.
Even the social network-savvy farmer needs someone to lend an ear once in a while. When facing leadership transitions or the task of putting together a business plan, sometimes there’s no replacement for an old-fashioned phone conversation. In fall 2013, the Campus Farmer Conversations Webinar Series was launched to provide a platform for discussing both common challenges and best practices associated with growing food on campus.
Campus Farmers is a piece of the Foundation’s larger mission to change the face of American agriculture, by supporting the next generation of leaders in sustainable food production. We are proud to be a part of this growing movement.