Knowing Your Roots

Archive for March, 2014

Fresh and Local – Farm succession: Where have all the children gone? In Wisconsin, back to the farm!

Blog 48

Our population is getting old, and the baby boomers are getting ready to retire.  The same is happening with our farmers; what happens when the folks who grow our food decide to retire and not farm anymore?  Will the kids take over? Will the land be sold off?  We need that land for agriculture, so who gets it and for what purpose is a real concern if maintaining a safe and plentiful food supply, providing green space and rural landscapes and fostering rural communities and economies is important!

The USDA Agricultural Census service has been tracking the “graying” population of farmers, and the fastest growing group is over 65.  This trend has been occurring for some time, as fewer and fewer young people have been returning to the farm, and between 2002 and 2007 alone, the number of farmers over 65 grew by nearly 22 percent. The USDA analysis states that, “for every one farmer and rancher under the age of 25, there are five who are 75 or older!”

The key to maintaining these lands in agricultural production is farm succession planning and programs that help farmers develop these plans that enable a smooth transition to a younger generation of farm managers.  Here in Wisconsin, our farmers are bucking the national trend as usual, and we can proudly say that we are in the top 5 US states with the youngest age of head farm operators.  Why is this?  Is it quality of life, or a state philosophy that engenders good planning?  Either way, it is a positive sign for our rural communities, the long-term beauty of agricultural landscapes and the plentiful food supply that we rely on.

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Fresh and Local – Why is Wisconsin-grown food important to us all?

Blog 47

The 2012 USDA census of agriculture tells us that Wisconsin lost 4.1% of its farmland from 2007 to 2012. While this may not sound alarming, it was the 4th largest loss among the US states and that should raise warning flags.  In Wisconsin, we will not feel the impact in major commodities like corn, soybeans and wheat; the US is blessed with fertile production areas from coast to coast that guarantee a safe and affordable food supply, and we are often able to export more than we consume. However, if we look at other key components of our diet, like vegetables, the loss of production capability in Wisconsin could have devastating impacts.  Wisconsin is one of the nation’s premier production centers for potatoes and processing vegetables. Maintaining our ability to produce these crops is important for everyone.

Take a spin around the produce section of your favorite grocery store and you see a veritable cornucopia of goodness. But when you look at where it was grown—Mexico, Central America, California, South America and even Europe—you probably are resigned to the fact that if you want to eat fresh vegetables in the winter, then you have to eat imports. But when you look around the grocery store in mid-summer, and you still see that most of our vegetables are still coming from faraway regions, well then, maybe something needs to be done!  If Wisconsin farmers can continue to grow vegetable crops effectively, it will allow us to maintain a balance between a sustainable supply of produce from our own area, rather than complete reliance on imported and out of state food.   (more…)

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