Time for a Change

July 27th, 2010 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on Time for a Change

The cover story on today’s edition of the Boston Globe is entitled, “End of a 378-Year Era”. The article is about the Tuttle Family Farm in New Hampshire that is now up for sale. The farm is considered the oldest running family farm in the U.S. having passed from father to son since 1632. It’s stunning just thinking of the historical legacy of this farm. In 1632, Williamsburg, VA was just being settled. Only 12 years prior in 1620, the Mayflower landed off the coast of Massachusetts. The article points out that according to the latest federal figures, more than 4 million acres of active farmland were developed between 2002 and 2007, an area roughly the size of Massachusetts. Since 1982, the nation has lost more than 41 million acres of rural land. Massachusetts has lost 24 percent of its prime farmland since 1982, more than all but four states.

Perhaps the greatest hurdle (and not necessarily the most obvious) facing farming today is how to sustain the craft – how to get the next generation excited about working the land. These days our attention is easily grabbed by the latest technological gadget, and we occupy a growing percentage of our time in pretty sedentary ways. Add to the mix an economy that doesn’t have people running to look under “farming” in the help wanted section, and it looks a little lean for the next crop of agricultural artisans. If interest in farming wanes, it will more rapidly affect the smaller family farms like the Tuttle’s. If fewer and fewer smaller farms remain then our agriculture becomes consolidated even more tightly around a few very large agribusiness farms. Having our food supply controlled by the very few feels very unsettling. As I have written before, we need to figure out how to excite the next generation of farmers . . . and just hope that they are even out there. It seems to me that organic farming offers a nice solution. It does involve more of an intellectual and creative opportunity than old-school conventional farming, and it is very open to technological innovation. The changing of occupational generations has typically brought with it exciting and dynamic innovations and progress. Let’s hope this is true with farming.

To read this excellent article on the Tuttle Family Farm in full, click here.