Undoubtedly, the future of agriculture will depend upon organic farming. And the future of the world will depend upon our children and grandchildren. So what are we doing today to train the next generation of organic farmers for tomorrow?
America’s largest cooperative of organic farmers, Organic Valley, recently organized its first Generation Organic Teach-In. Through the program, young organic farmers visited over 84 classrooms across the country, educating more than 1,825 elementary school students about the benefits of organic farming and food. The group planned the event during October, which also happens to be National Farm to School Month.
A group of young Organic Valley-affiliated farmers between the ages of 16 and 35 designed a group known as Generation Organic. These young people believe in the power of organic farming to change the world, and they’re not afraid to speak out about it. During the recent Teach-In, the Generation Organic farmers shared stories and photos about their family farms and led discussions about how they produce high-quality organic food. The farmers also planned fun and interactive activities for the kids, letting them milk a rubber udder and churn their own butter in the classroom.
To ensure the longevity of the world’s food supply and the sustainability of the environment, we need young people to find passion and purpose in the agricultural industry. America has lost approximately 4.7 million farms since 1935. Of the 2.1 million farms that remain, the average farmer’s age is 57. Organic Valley and Generation Organic are helping young people see organic farming as a viable and rewarding career option.
The Organic Teach-In program spanned all the way from Maine to California, with key stops at elementary schools across America’s heartland. This is the first program of its kind, but hopefully this will now become an annual tradition. Carrie O’Reilly, a 29-year old farmer who spent spent time with students at St. John’s Lutheran school in Goodhue, Minnesota, commented, “Not every city kid thinks they can grow up to be a dairy farmer. This got them thinking.”
“It’s exciting to see our Generation Organic farmers engaging with schools through the Teach-In and with their communities in their daily lives,” George Siemon, CEIEIO of Organic Valley and one of its founding members, said in a press release. “Generation Organic gives these young organic farmers an opportunity to share with other youth their vision for a better world. These young people are the future of sustainable agriculture. Their hard work and enthusiasm inspires us all.”