Yamhill Valley Grown, Your Guide To Local Food - Page 22

Aging Farmers and The Next Generation Friends of Family Farmers helps grow Oregon’s small farmers It goes without saying: no farmers, no food. And yet, even in a state like Oregon, where more than 38,000 farmers and ranchers raise in excess of 220 different agricultural products to make agriculture the state’s second biggest industry, our farms and farmers are in jeopardy. Our farmer population has been aging. The average age of Oregon’s farmers and ranchers is 58.5. Many farmers and ranchers are, and will be, retiring in coming years. According to the Oregon Department of Agriculture, nearly 50% of Oregon farmland is expected to change hands over the next decade. Since not all young people want to or know how to transition on their parents’ operation, many of these family farms will be left without anyone to farm them, and could be at risk of development, consolidation, and/ or out-of-state ownership. One solution to this problem is for young and beginning farmers to take on stewardship of Oregon’s farm- and range- land. However a number of barriers stand in their way. Farmers find it extremely difficult to find high-quality land for sale, and to qualify for and afford financing for the purchase of land and equipment. Furthermore, many aspiring young farmers do not come from farming families, and so they require education and training. And since farming can be an emotionally-draining profession with long, brutal hours, slim profit margins, and nature’s make-or-break fluctuations, every farmer needs the resiliency offer by their fellow farmers and mentors. Friends of Family Farmers has been tackling these 22 issues head-on. Among FoFF’s programs is the Next Generation Program, including the following tools for farmers just starting out: * iFarm is an online matchmaking service for landseekers and landholders. Beginning farmers can search for land for lease or sale or for partnerships, and owners of agricultural property can offer their property for any arrangement that suits them. For more information, visit: http://www.ifarmoregon.org. * Online resources are av