One of my most popular blog posts has been “Sustainable agriculture jobs after college?” In this next essay, I share a few thoughts about the jobs situation in sustainable agriculture – based on my experience working with young women and men graduating college. My conclusion is that well-paying, meaningful “lifetime career” jobs that offer a sense of security are hard to find right out of college. It may be that getting hired for a lifetime job is an unrealistic expectation for recent college grads in our emerging “on-demand” economy. But that realization might be an opportunity!
Now, might be the time for young people to pursue their vision for a more just and equitable food system, driven by passion and grounded in pragmatism. This might be the time for more food and farming entrepreneurs to lead us to a sustainable food system.
A national news story about Sustainable Food Jobs for example, provides an outline of the many emerging opportunities in this area. Among the areas highlighted were:
- Local and regional farming and marketing
- Restaurants and food services
- Media and marketing
- Law and public policy
- Public health and nutrition
- Technology and entrepreneurship
- Advocacy and community development
- Teaching – especially community-based education
Many of the students who have graduated from the UMass Bachelor of Sciences program in Sustainable Food and Farming and are doing well have created their own new work, rather than “landed a job” in the traditional sense. I encourage graduating seniors to search the job boards online, but mostly as a way of creating a vision or coming up with a new idea for a business or service that nobody has ever thought of before! A brainstorming session in one of my classes came up with a serious, lighthearted, earnest, and ingenious list of future jobs that included; permaculture consultants, food delivery rickshaw drivers, herbal landscapers, wood mill operators, biodiesel processors, vermiculturists (they grow worms and make compost), urban rooftop gardeners, micro-lenders, witch doctors, AAA bicycle workers, compost toilet janitors, alternate transport specialists, population controllers, seed bank managers, urban wildcrafters….and on and on.
I try to be honest with students when they first arrive at UMass to study SustainableFood and Farming. We encourage new students to explore potential internships and employment opportunities , but frankly it doesn’t “get real” until the students get closer to graduation. Those without debt have more flexibility to explore creative options and many land in some really interesting situations.
Our graduates are doing well for the most part. But still I worry. Our B.S. major in Sustainable Food and Farming at UMass has grown from just 10 students in 2004 to about 200 today, with 100 on campus and 100 fully online. We have expanded our number of classes and created many new experiential learning opportunities to accommodate the growing demand for a college degree in sustainable food and farming. With no end in site however, I have to wonder where will all of these college graduates work? And what kind of work will they do?
A report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests a bright outlook for agricultural graduates. The report concludes that “projected growth in these occupations is in tune with our nation’s shift toward creating new businesses and jobs in local and regional food systems, capitalizing on climate change opportunities, developing renewable energy, and restoring and sustaining natural resources.” Many of the projected agricultural jobs will be in new business start-ups. This is surely our experience in New England where the number of farms is increasing!
The new farms are often small, engaged in direct to consumer sales, include both crops and livestock, and may be more likely to be managed by women than in the past. We are seeing lots of successful start-up farms. However, it is not only new farms that are appearing on the landscape in New England, but also creative new businesses that help move products from the farm to the customer. One of the emerging jobs that didn’t exist just a few years ago is called a “value chain coordinator” – a function that “connects the dots” in the food system to ensure people, goods and resources connect with each other. This is an important function that is often missing among start-up farms and markets.
One of my favorite start-ups was Valley Green Feast, a worker-owned cooperative that took orders each Tuesday and guaranteed delivery “to your door” by Friday. Managed by four entrepreneurial young women, this service helped connect farmers and consumers in a way that worked for both. Part of their mission was to make local, healthy, delicious food as accessible as possible to a wide range of consumers. And whenever possible, the delivery was done by bicycle cart!
And the realty of the business world is that most start-ups don’t make it. Although Valley Green Feast lasted 9 years (much longer than most), it had to close its doors in October, 2016. Another of my favorite experiments, All Things Local in downtown Amherst, also only lasted a few years. Consumer demand is driven largely by low price and convenience. Competing with the industrial food system, which exploits people and the environment to maximize short term profitability, is difficult. Nevertheless, people continue to advise us “Let your children grow up to be farmers!”
The reality of the global economy is that most new small businesses fail. Nevertheless, if we look closely at the industrial food system, we see the beginnings of “the great unraveling” in which the control of corporate monopolies are causing more harm than good. While retail food prices have never been lower (the average American family spends less than 10% of their income on food) access to high quality, fresh and sustainably produced food is limited to those in higher income brackets. The global food system drives down both food prices and drives up diabetes, heart disease and obesity while accelerating environmental degradation and social inequalities. We can do better!
The solution to the Great Unraveling is the Great Turning, which relies upon:
- A commitment to personal and community actions which slow down and begin to reverse the damage to the earth including humans.
- An understanding of the structural causes of the the crisis and the creation of alternative enterprises, organizations and governments.
- A dramatic shift in consciousness to acknowledge that humans are a part of…. not apart from the ecosystems upon which we depend for life.
While seemingly difficult to imagine, this is what students learn in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture class, Agricultural Systems Thinking. It is also the foundation for the work of Food Solutions New England, which promotes a vision that calls for our region to build the capacity to produce at least 50% of clean, fair, just and accessible food for all New Englanders by 2060.
I believe that we need lots more experiments in farming, marketing and support businesses like Valley Green Feast and All Things Local. I’m not alone in this belief. Richard Heinberg’s presentation, “Fifty Million Farmers,” predicts the need for 40 to 50 million new farmers and gardeners to help the U.S. adjust to radical climate change and depletion of easily accessible fossil fuel. Sharon Astyk’s book, A Nation of Farmers, presents a similar look at the future of American agriculture. I believe they are on to something, but I don’t know if the opportunities are opening up as fast as needed to help our graduates find meaningful work today.
So, what do we tell agricultural graduates? One thing for sure is “the future will be different than the past.” Almost everyone understands that we are in such a state of rapid and unprecedented change, that we cannot predict the future based on previous trends. I’ve begun to wonder if farmers and food marketers will learn to change to meet the “on-demand economy” that is emerging in some businesses today. A recent article in The Economist states…
“IN THE early 20th century Henry Ford combined moving assembly lines with mass labor to make building cars much cheaper and quicker—thus turning the automobile from a rich man’s toy into transport for the masses. Today a growing group of entrepreneurs is striving to do the same to services, bringing together computer power with freelance workers to supply luxuries that were once reserved for the wealthy. Uber provides chauffeurs. Handy supplies cleaners. SpoonRocket delivers restaurant meals to your door. Instacart keeps your fridge stocked.
The personalized driving service, Uber, is the model for many of these new businesses and has grown exponentially since its beginning in 2009. Will we “uberize” food and farming? What would that look like? It certainly wouldn’t be a straight-line projection from the past. The food system today is highly centralized and controlled by a few major corporations. In a recent report, Oxfam International stated that only10 companies control nearly every familiar grocery store brand.
In spite of the popularity of local food, less than 1% of American farm products are sold directly from farmer to consumer. But in a period of rapid change, it might not be so far fetched to imagine a decentralized production and distribution system, connected through technology. I’ve written about this in a previous blog that examined the concept of a Food Commons. While not exactly Uber, the Food Commons would be a national network of localized food systems and includes the food hubs that are already growing rapidly in many parts of the country.
When we ask the question “where will the agricultural college graduates work in the future” these two visions for American agriculture provide different answers. In the world in which a few corporations control the food supply there is not much opportunity for young, passionate and intelligent entrepreneurs. But in the vision presented by the Food Commons, well we might just need 50 million farmers!
But we will need much more. We need lots of experiments in new and creative approaches to growing, delivering and preparing high quality food. We need food entrepreneurs to lead us to a more sustainable food system.
What do you think? Where are the opportunities? Please share your thoughts in the Comments Box below.
And if you are looking for good work, check out this page: Good Work!
Check out our UMass Sustainable Food and Farming Bachelor of Sciences degree program and our Online Certificate Program at the University of Massachusetts to prepare yourself to explore these opportunities for change. Please join my Just Food Now Facebook group, or follow my Twitter posts.
60 thoughts on “Where will the agricultural college graduates work?”
Topic has crossed my mind many times as I try to anticipate my place in this rapidly changing environment. Minnesota has experienced tremendous growth in CSA’s in the past year. Farm markets are so busy that many vegetables are sold out if you don’t get there early.
Thank you for your insights. I loved the brainstorming session ideas!
A great opportunity for these students may be in one of our Camphill Communities, many of which have productive and thriving agricultural components whether they are growing food for the community itself or managing a CSA and this could all be done as part of our AmeriCorps program which can help address the issue of student loan debt. Would be happy to provide more info if anyone is interested!
Camphill Communities of North America
My life changed profoundly in 2005 when I heard Will Allen of Growing Power proclaim that “it’s not a green thumb but fertile soil that enables you to grow food and flowers, and I can show you how to grow fertile soil!” I became an urban compost fanatic, “grew” good soil, invited friends to grow good food in my small backyard, side yard, and front yard, and discovered a world of urban ag experimenters connecting Milwaukee city folks with Wisconsin’s organic farmers. Milwaukee is now aspiring to link
*”integral urban home” experiments(from foreclosures) with urban/rural connecting and field trips and learning sites for students and their teachers,
* agroecology tours and summer farm camps
*the use of aquaponics demos in schools for STEAM skills and eco mindedness.
I saw a movie, “The Girl From Paris” years ago about a successful city computer professional transitioning to farming not just food but also growing the souls of the city folks invited to stay in the “barn hotel” she added.
Wonder if some of our elder farmers might not team up with some city folks willing to fight the good fight and explore multiple bottom line and multiple income stream ecopreneur experiments on farms tightly connected with cities.
Rather than “land a job” hopefully they will look at and will have the needed skills to be the entrepreneurs creating these opportunities! As someone who completed a Master’s degree in Sustainable Ag and a beginning farmer, most of the skills needed for running a successful farm & food business are not taught on most campuses. Hopefully your program at UMass is improving on that!
Interestingly I just reviewed a new journal article on sustainable food system curricula earlier this morning. I believe both the sustainable agriculture and food systems programs are still stuck in deep denial about productivity needs in agriculture. I say this as an aging farmer from farm families who has watched the continued shrinkage of our producing class along with our natural resources.
We took a wrong turn decades ago when we thought it was possible to neglect natural limits on production. The ability to move people from the “drudgery” of farm work silently removed resources from the production cycle, land, air, water, and people. While we are understanding the need to reverse this, we are stuck with a dearth of knowledge on how to work with the natural systems in ways that promote harvests of highly nutritious foodstuffs. Yes, we can grow more per acre, but much of this is lower nutritional value, and yes we can put more farmers into the system, but with marginalized natural resources, we really can’t afford the trials and error methodology promoted by today’s culture of agricultural education.
I agree that we need tens of millions of new farmers and that these will be lower output farmers most likely practicing on small marginal properties or those with significant restrictions (marginal refers to the productive potential more associated with soil quality, etc. while restrictions refer to the size, shape, distance from market, etc.). I also agree that most, if not all of the graduates of sustainable agriculture programs will need to create their own jobs. This is actually a perk as we have decimated the support systems for rural areas and all scales of agriculture. Some of this is a blessing as the slate is clean for new ideas and leapfrog development instead of nursing outdated systems that drag down production or market diversity.
BUT, all of these still are dependent on the same thing – agricultural production. Without producing farmers, there can be no future in distribution hubs, innovative food businesses, robotics, even GMO research. So it makes sense to capture as much of this dying craft as possible in the annals of agricultural education where it can be both memorialized and propagated through new generations. We do not have the programs in place to send out armies of scribes to record experiences and document wisdoms, but if I were designing sustainable agriculture or food systems curricula, I would make it my priority to get students in contact with the remaining farmers (and not just a selected few) working their craft, and create living documents across the public domain that serve to mentor future students.
Where will you work as a graduate? Wherever you can create the best situation for yourself. Will that be a conventional “job?” No. It must embrace the tenants of sustainability. Ceding the social and environmental equity requirement of sustainability to an employer voids two thirds of the sustainability ideal. We need to embrace our concept of individualism and exceptionalism in a new framework, but to hope to work in sustainable agriculture means preserving the environment. For sustainable agriculture, this means preserving the capacity to produce agricultural products without which no post-production venture succeeds.
To do this, we have a directive from sustainability: provide equity at the farm, social, economic, and environmental. We must revise our ideals of market management to remove all functions that depress the value of production, serve to isolate individuals in the production processes, and which encourage risking environmental health. So called “Food Hubs” that aggregate unprocessed products to compete with wholesale distribution points favoring large scale production fail the tests of sustainability as they build in pressure to impoverish the producer. We can address this through developing and redeveloping farm and regional scale processing that adds value closest to the producer. Wine markets are an example of how varietal distinctions are spread across producers with bottled production then aggregated for distribution. Everything from sausages to canned or frozen peas has similar potential. Building this capacity is an infrastructure development program that adds substantial local employment and stabilizes farm economies through diversification and risk management.
Today we have probably passed the point of reviving “traditional” farming in the U.S. as the numbers of potential masters for apprentice farmers and mentors for new entries no longer exist. At the same time, those seasoned and experienced producers who value their resources are marginalized by our market systems to where they are unable to justify time uncompensated time or the potential losses of un- or lightly-trained interns, novices, even volunteers. We can return agriculture to our schools through farm-to-school programming and school gardens. We can mandate Home Economics in public school curricula putting consumers back in touch with missing parts of their food system. We can do so many things, but fixing our broken production system before food shortages arrive is probably not going to happen. So we can and should put in place the key pieces of the new system we will turn on when our highest producing farmers die out over the next few years.
Such a good set of questions, John. To my mind, they’re linked with the even bigger (and more daunting) questions about why industrial food is so cheap and why (even with subsidies of various kinds) most farmers aren’t actually making much money, except at the very largest scales. And then there’s “Why are health care and education so expensive?”, which also factor into the challenges for people trying to get into the food economy. It does seem likely that we’re going to need those 50 million new farmers, but farming probably isn’t going to be feasible for them until the various big systems now in place are more irrevocably broken than they currently are.
In terms of additional ways that new/young agriculturalists can be supported, I’ve been thinking about the land and buildings at historic sites, many of which were of course originally farms of one sort or another. As non-profits struggle to stay afloat, it seems as though they might partner up with farmers in search of land and housing, and develop ways to cultivate the land, house the farmers, and educate the public, all in one package. A few smart historic sites are already moving in this direction, but it seems to me there’s much more potential there for partnership.
Your recent post really caught my attention. In 2011, I was laid off from my medical sales job, and I considered it a godsend because my real passion is sustainable food systems. However, my education was in kinesiology and my job experience was in sales, customer service and training. My skills are marketable across many industries. I searched for over a year until I finally gave up and got a job at a company that has incredible social responsibility values, but I’m currently working in the technology sector actually. I couldn’t find a single job in local/sustainable ag that paid enough to justify accepting it. They all seemed to be internships for free room and board on a farm, low paying ($10-$15/hr) jobs or just plain free labor for experience. I’d be interested in seeing your discussion open up to people who are passionate about local/sustainable foods but who may be coming from a completely different sector.
I totally agree Ryan. The jobs in farming pay so badly because we expect food to be cheap and don’t want to pay decent wages to the people who put food on our tables. As long as we are willing to exploit the working poor, this won’t change.
U.S. citizens on average invest less than 10% of our income on food, half that of most of Europe and much less than the rest of the world.
I think that creating the infrastructure to make a more direct connection between farmers and buyers would increase the ability for small businesses to sprout up (like Farmers To You, Something GUD or The Foodery in Boston). doing that would increase revenues for farmers making it a more profitable and attractive business for younger graduates to consider. A lot of the money we spend on food doesn’t go to farmers. Fix the disconnect between eaters and growers, and you will fix the food system as well as make it profitable to grow again.
I think that it’s really hard to be smart enough to figure out questions like this because our minds are so subservient to the dominant narratives. More specifically, I would emphasize that sustainability, (i.e. these majors,) is much dependent upon the larger issues of farm justice, of farm commodity policy. We’ve had a massive draining of livestock out of farming, with ⅔ of hogs going to just 4 corporations, etc. That seriously hurts the possibility of crop rotations, as do many related matters (declining infrastructure for small grains, sale barns, etc.). So the growth of sustainability options will be hurt by the mega barriers.
Cheap prices have given the livestock to CAFOs. In general, the American way of capitalism allows the taking (away) of profit/value from other stakeholders (from farmers and other suppliers, from customers, and with low wages along the line). Other corporate macro cultures don’t do that nearly as much. (see “Building Cross Cultural Competence” & related books by same authors). As a result we create less wealth. That’s been well documented in US agriculture. (i.e. Lobao, Stofferan). In part we don’t even focus on profit holistically, creating less, or sacrificing other, more important factors in wealth creation to it. (“Charting the Corporate Mind,” 1st and last chapters).
In policy and advocacy, the Sustainable Agriculture Movement (& related academics,) and the Food Movement (etc.) have rarely demonstrated understanding of these issues, nor has alternative media. I think they have no web sites addressing it.
To fix it, the US must reverse course and seek profits for US agricultural exports, etc. This mostly requires market management (price & supply,) not (much) the so-called (much smaller) sustainability policies and especially not “subsidy reforms” (including “crop insurance reforms”) that everyone knows about.
In the 1980s farm crisis, the input and output infrastructure had the chance to advocate to help fix this, but their advocacy was on the wrong side, (not daring to question the dominant narrative of exploiting stakeholders,) or meager, with devastating results, as so many farm related businesses also went belly up (i.e. tractor and farm machinery brands, from industry to service).
Cheap food has meant prices below full costs for 26 (1981-2006, USDA, Commodity Costs and Returns, every year but 1 for a sum of 8 major crops) to 32 years (5 of them add 6 of 7 years, to 2013) and dairy (20/21 years, 1993-2013). It’s meant not just the loss of farm incomes, but the loss of family farm inheritances. For the 2008 and 2014 Farm Bills, there was almost no awareness that alternative proposals existed, (NFFC, NFU,) or even that this problem exists.
So these huge, (unknown policy) problems ALSO affect the growth of sustainability jobs. Why does the movement miss this? The bitterness of organic/sustainable farmers is an important historical factor. If you don’t know that, you don’t know the history of the sustainable ag. paradigm. From the 1980s, history repeats itself. We’re divided and conquered. So far.
As someone who has been working in sustainable food since 2005 without a sustag or farming degree, my professional advice is to find a job that will help you build specific skill sets and expertise while you build a sustainable project of your own on the side. Learn how to work with and manage a team, develop your cultural and critical competencies, learn how to negotiate, raise money, and make sales, immerse yourself in policy and advocacy issues, and most importantly, unpack your privilege.
Significant student debt is not compatible with any of these “creative” make-your-own job ideas.
I am sad because I got into debt for my “sustainable” BS, then thought I needed to go to law school to get into policy work (graduated 2007), which put me into hopeless debt (over $250,000 counting interest now).
I can neither lawyer nor farm my way out of this situation–no attorney jobs or Ag jobs pay enough to cover a babysitter/daycare…and I’m not alone.
I have been searching for an agriculture job in Portland, OR for about a year now. In Portland, these jobs are so few and far between and competitive! I am a Midwest transplant with a smaller social network than people who have been in Portland for a longer period of time.
because of the harsh realities of the job market in Portland, I have to pursue my own endeavors. I graduated last year with my master of social work and completed an urban farming apprenticeship this past October. I’m looking to utilize my macro-level social work skills with my passion for farming and get folks fed! I started as a volunteer staff member at a local farm incubator non-profit called Emma’s Garden. We are working on finding plots of land within Portland and turning them into neighborhood farms while training new farmers. The work is amazing. Now if only I could get paid for it!
Also, the struggle to become a farmer is difficult. Without money, obtaining land, water rights, infrastructure, and equipment is a huge burden. I’m finding that the increase in farming (at least in Portland) is largely an influx of wealthy, white, young people who want to escape the mundane realities of a 9-5 cubicle. (guilty!)
I’d like to see a way to get more people of color, women, and immigrants onto their own field and building their own businesses!
Although I left the Boston area for Maine last spring (in search of more permaculture opportunities) I still read the Tufts Boston Food System listerv and always see great employment opportunities in the field. I wish I had know about some of these job openings before leaving the Boston area! Another resource is the Good Food Jobs email list. The number of farms in Maine is growing as well as the number of young farmers coming to the state to start or work on farms. Personally, I feel very optimistic about the future of the sustainable agriculture industry 🙂
After trying to get a job in the sustainable agriculture/food sector for nearly 8 years, I’m abandoning ship. I’m a reasonably intelligent and competent person in my 30s with an Ivy League degree and a lot of connections. I’ve applied for hundreds of jobs with no luck. If I can’t get a job, how the hell are these kids going to make it?
And let’s talk finances: to get one of these jobs, you better be prepared to work nearly unpaid internships or apprenticeships for several years to gain the experience that will make you a competitive applicant. So you’re in debt from school, you work for free for several years, and then if you’re lucky you get a job that pays $30,000. And isn’t going to go up much from there.
My advice to your students: Get a degree in a practical skill like engineering, unless you want to live in poverty for the rest of your life. Sorry, but that’s the cold hard truth.
You’re totally right! Right now finding an existing farming job is very hard if one is looking to live a luxurious life, but one does not simply go into farming expecting a luxurious life. As John mentions, going into the major it is very plainly laid out for students: going into the Sustainable Food and Farming is not based around making as much money as possible, but doing good work. This idea that as students we are not learning in order to land the perfect job, but learning to work towards our own personal goals has led, and leads, to students finding/creating jobs and businesses that they are passionate about and enjoy doing no matter the pay. This is the main feeling that I have gotten being in the major, that catering to my own well being physically, mentally, and spiritually, while following my own personal goals day-to-day creates more prosperity than a big pay check ever could.
I understand that. I felt exactly the same way when I was in college. But at some point, unless you’re a trust fund baby, you bump up against the realities of life. You are probably going to want to buy a home, or a farm, or maybe have kids someday. If you’re a woman, the latter needs to happen relatively soon. Those things require cold, hard, cash. You can’t pay for them with passion. Are you willing to give them up to follow your dream? If so, then go for it. If not, reconsider. I speak from experience.
I am a Sustainable Food and Farming major but I am taking a different approach than most of the people I am going to school with. I want to be a holistic personal trainer. This semester I am taking a class about human performance and nutrition. I am learning a lot and am able to apply it now, but I often bring holistic/unique situation questions and thoughts to the class that I have only received answers to in classes pertaining to my major rather than classes in kinesiology or nutrition. I like how I chose to carve my own path through Sustainable Food and Farming and stay with it, which I almost did changed majors. As for my job/career out look, I plan on working for gyms for a while and eventually opening up my own gym that revolves mostly around different kinds of classes. I will also have a nutrition aspect to my gym. I feel pretty optimistic about my future because I want to offer the world something that is very far and few between but very practical and engaging to many different kinds of people and athletes.
I don’t think I have an answer to what I will do for the rest of my life after a Sustainable Food and Farming degree, but I can tell you that my outlook on life has changed quite a bit in a way that I can truly value the non-monetary benefits of any job that I work. While yes, the stats don’t look great as far as all of us graduating and finding a great-paying job, I think I speak for many of us when I say that we are acquiring skills that enable us to lead full, happy lives while making less money than many other majors. We can grow our own food, we can cook, we can make our own soaps and build things. We know about permaculture and multiple functions and being efficient. We can do much more with much less money than many other people. Our health is likely to cost us much less than others because of the large amount of vegetables in our diet, as well as the exercise, fresh air, and healthy soil bacteria that we are constantly exposed to. While these are only a few examples, I think that we can handle not making a ton of money like other professions. Personally, my life goals no longer include making the big bucks. I don’t need STUFF to feel that life is worth living, I don’t have to conform to the way that society thinks I should live. In no way do I think that farmers and farm workers make enough money to compensate for their importance in society, I personally think that farmers should make as much as doctors, if not more. Our services to society are crucial to their survival, and I think that we absolutely need to keep pushing food awareness and keep fighting for small farms and urban farming.
I have a few thoughts on this after reading both the blog post and the comments. Although sustainability is of course linked with agriculture and the Sustainable Food and Farming major, is food/ag centered, I would wonder how many students who enter the major and graduate actually intend to become farmers and grow food for a living. Just based on my experience (as a graduating SFF senior, who is NOT intending on becoming a farmer), there are a fair number of students who intend to work in related fields. In my opinion, what the SFF major affords students, is an integrated, whole-systems overview of what sustainability as an all-inclusive field can look like- with an emphasis on farming, to be sure, but absolutely not limiting students to such.
Recently, in class, our group talked about what what our ideal job would look like. We had 2 future herbalists (one wanting to integrate herbalism and midwifery), 2 future homesteaders, 1 possible researcher/urban food activist and myself: passionate social sustainability and social justice education activist. There are many ways to work in sustainability besides farming (as you well know!!).
Sustainable Food and Farming is so much more than a major. Though I have only been in the major for a semester, I have already met many people who graduated from it not long ago and are already deeply rooted in their communities. These people are teachers, healers, artists, writers, farmers, and though they all have different titles they share a common passion…life. I have never met healthier, happier, or more creative individuals than those I have met through these courses. Another thing they can all do is feed themselves, and when it comes down to it that is the point of working in the first place? The classes we take teach more than just how to farm sustainably. They teach us how to live sustainably, specifically by asking us questions we’re all scared to answer…like what the hell we’re going to do when we graduate.
Sustainable Food and Farming is unlike a lot of the majors, like nursing, engineering, political science, etc. in that the students of these majors have a much more clear and linear path to follow. Their are specific jobs for these more classic majors than SSF and there are jobs that require a specific degree in these majors but I doubt there are nearly as many types or jobs that require a BS in SSF. I think this issue is a blessing and a curse, on one hand this allows for many different possiblities of new jobs that have never been done before to be created and on the other hand many of the SSF graduates dont have nice jobs with good pay that they can be hired to right out of school. I believe creativity is key to success in this major and graduates will have to utilize all their resources including technology and market demand to find good work for themselves. SSF provides a real opportunity to try new things in the food industry that have not been done before especially on the local level with an ever number of people that are desiring to get off the dependency of major corporations and back to independent local suppliers for all their needs, most importantly food. It seems that people increasingly are beginning to see that support of local organizations is anyway is not only good for the environment but also the economy and the community.
As others have commented on here, I believe that the future jobs for the graduates may not be where one might expect. Small farmers have it tough, with consumers demanding cheap food and larger operations receiving subsidies that enable food to be sold for less than the cost of production. In order for small farmers to make a reasonable living, they need to find a way to supplement their income. The big farms do so with subsidies, but small farmers will need to find another way. I think Cathy, in one of the posts above, makes an excellent suggestion in trying to pair up with non-profits, historic sites, etc. It is for these positions that I believe having a Sustainable Food and Farming degree would be useful.
The biggest worry I have being a Sustainable Food and Farming major hoping to farm after graduation is discussed in the article as well as the comments – finding a job that pays. While the Valley does seem to have a lot of small farms focused on diversified vegetable and food production using sustainable or organic methods for local customers, I’ve heard that the area is almost becoming too saturated, with the demand for fresh local food not keeping up with the movement to produce it. This in turn limits the amount of paying farm jobs that seem to be available. As said in the article and comments, it seems to come down to the willingness of people to pay more for food, and I think is exacerbated by the lack of government subsidies going to growing local, organic produce.
That being said, one of the reasons I’m in the major is because I would like to gain wealth in means other than money. This could be skill, knowledge, experience, knowing incredible people and places, and gaining an understanding of the processes of life and growth (particularly in food production) and human culture that underly the food system. Ultimately, (and perhaps this is naiively optimistic) I feel that if I am happy and doing what I’m passionate about, that’s all I’ll really need in life.
While reading this article I noticed that you mentioned that the U.S. potentially needs 40-50 million new farmers to help us combat radical climate change and depletion of easily accessible fossil fuel. I believe that our country certainly needs 40-50 million new people with progressive, open minds to building a sustainable future for ourselves. That being said, farmers concerned with sustainability are just the kind of people we need. They are passionate and down to earth while also intuitive and flexible to change. With a progressive mindset focused on our future prosperity (health of the Earth), I believe that we can overcome the obstacles our society is currently facing, mainly: radical climate change, loss of biodiversity, depletion of fossil fuels, and the division of our country’s personal ideologies and values.
if we have help from the millions of sustainable farmers that we need!
The Sustainable Food and Farming major extends much more beyond the title of just farming. Graduating with this major will allow you to work with communities, work on agricultural protective policies, local movements, and the of course the title of a farmer. I was previously a nutrition major for two years and just switched into this incredible major making it my second semester. Although I have had very little experience in this field so far, the passion and drive is there. I think once I graduate I would like to WWOOF around the US and various other countries to simply get the most diverse vast experience in the farming field that I can achieve. I would like to eventually have my own farm that practices organically and maybe is one day certified. Beyond just the farming I wish to produce a line of herbal and flower essence products that can be used for medicinal value. I have take a few classes focused around herbalism and am currently taking a shamanism class where we will be taught how to make tinctures and given a chance to explore the wonders of plant based medicine. I plan in my future to simply create and bring things to life. One of my other greatest passions is making jewelry or other crafts which I would love to create a market for. I am honestly stressed about the pay rate that farmers are unfortunately given but money is merely a piece of paper. I know that if I continue to follow my heart and do so with determination I will make it through any hardship I face after graduation.
Great article – opened my eyes in a really great way. These are the issues that used to (and still!) keep me up at night, thinking in circles. I was actually reading this as a friend was visiting in my room and I ended up going on a tangent and talking about this article to her, explaining how chronic health issues all stem from our faulty food system. Also talked for a while about CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations)
I think by having a lot of graduates who studied these (and related subjects) we are better preparing ourselves for the uncertain future. We WILL be forced to change. I think I’ve decided that I’m going to stay relatively near this area because of the rising influence of the sustainable food movement. I know that there are a lot of ‘hotspots’ out there for local & sustainable ag and I really hope it spreads. A lot of people would take a pessimistic approach to how the future is going to be, and I used to be one of those people. But by being in this major, I have been empowered. The fate of the future literally lies in our generation’s hands, and I know that there are many out there who are striving for a better world. I am glad to know that the knowledge I’m gaining from being a SFF student will have a positive impact on our society and food system.
There seems to always be a choice, to me, in deciding between doing things that satisfy the heart and things that are financially stable. I think it’s an act of courage and faith to go in search of good work without a promise of the material comforts that our society has taught me are necessities. It’s difficult and I try to manage risks and be honest myself and the people around me. I think the key is action to continue the cycles of learning and growth. Mistakes happen and help is needed. It’s humbling and a reminder of how interconnected we really are. There are a ton of opportunities and ways to make a living and I only see good work growing as more and more people are willing to take those first steps and support others in doing so.
I am one of those you mentioned that agrees that “we need lots more experiments in farming, marketing and support businesses like Valley Green Feast.” The demand for local fresh food has continued to grow over recent years and new innovative ways to make these foods available to the public will only help boost this change. By offering “on demand” services like Valley Green Feast, growers and distributors of local fresh food can excite their communities with their innovations and bring awareness to sustainable farming.
As a Sustainable Food and Farming major I can say that in my future I see myself starting my own operation. I guess I will be one of the millions of farmers that will help provide food to the communities in the US in order to help adjust our system to the realities we must soon face. The dwindling availability of fossil fuels and our planets climate change will soon demand alternative sustainable food production systems. If it takes 50 million new farmers to make this new system a reality I think it is up to the passionate agricultural majors. I believe those willing to take on the challenge will not only have work, but a mission to help build this new food system. A system where these millions provide responsibly grown food as opposed to the current system where several huge companies unethically control it.
As a junior in Sustainable Food and Farming, I realize that I don’t always think about work after graduation. Yet, I do know my goals, which are to do a year of work with food corps before hopefully heading to Tufts University to attend the graduate program Agriculture, Food and Environment. I haven’t thought much beyond this but I am optimistic about finding work, as I see so many posts from people looking for students in the SFF program to work at their local food establishments all over the country, and posts on other sites like god food jobs also looking for people to do similar work.
I am not as afraid of the prospect of not finding work because I am open to traveling and to hoping from place to place and organization to organization to do work. There are so many areas of sustainable agriculture that I am interested in that I know I can definitely find something that I enjoy and that is sustaining. As many people in this program say, it’s not about working for money but about working for the good of the world and the good of the people of the world. Knowing that I am making a lasting positive change in someone’s life through food is more than enough for me. I’m happy to lead a life without every single modern day comfort if it means leaving this world a better place for everyone in the generations to come.
Though some day I dream of going into food policy work in the government (it is my ultimate goal,) I know that I am not tethered by that because of the fact that our SFF program has grown and expanded to prepare us for many different types of jobs in the field. This was not true when I first entered the major, as back then, it was mostly farmer based. But with the rapid advancement in the diversity of classes being offered, I know that there are a lot of opportunities now open to me and I have faith that I will find myself doing many different things I love in this field over the course of my life.
Not limiting job prospects to just local food production or farming right out of college could open career paths that may not have been explored- The Red Cross has food security jobs all around the world- something like this can allow you to be directly involved with production and provide a needed service to people that don’t have an adequate local food source. Unfortunately many of these jobs don’t pay all that well, with student loans being so high for many college grads finding a job that pays the bills can be difficult- this is true for all grads not just SFF. Culturally less emphasis needs to be placed on material things that one can buy- there is a difference between what a person NEEDS and what a person WANTS. Since higher paying jobs can allow people luxurious things- they can be more appealing for that reason- but do they fulfill what is really important. Break free from the social/group norm that leads people to believe that- the more you make the happier you will be or the higher the pay the better the job- we have been falsely taught that money=happiness. Find a satisfying job, one that gives back, something that gives inner satisfaction-
As a Sustainable Food and Farming major who transferred from the Pre-Veterinary program a year ago now, I couldn’t be happier to tell you that I would like to be a farmer when I graduate, but if that doesn’t work out I have no idea what I want to do. I used to think your career was the most important part of who you were as an adult. I forced myself into studying something I didn’t love because it came with status and financial security. Sustainable Food and Farming, however, has taught that what I decide to do when I graduate does not define who I am when I graduate. This major has taught me to follow my dreams that make me happy. Even if they don’t work out and I end up getting a 9-5, I will not be sucked into the work 24/7 until you die, go-go-go culture that we live in. I will know about the perils of our culture and stay out of it. I will have learned how to cope with and improve a culture that I do not agree with. I will grow much of my own food, I will join a groups planting trees and riparian buffers, I will teach others about sustainability, or something else entirely!
On a more pragmatic note, I do want to be a farmer. One way I think new farmers could get into farming is through aging farmers. I have teamed up with an aging farmer who I will work with for a few years. Then, hopefully someday (I think he will want to be buried with his pitchfork!) he will retire, and I will take over the farm. With so few children of farmers wanting to continue being farmers, this is one way new farmers could gain land, equipment, and infrastructure. Although it requires a lot of searching and a lot of luck, there are opportunities for young farmers.
There is a high demand for local “sustainable” food which works in favor of those starting small farms. On the other hand all things political are working against the small farmer. There are economic efficiencies that favor industrial farming. Subsidies for commodity crops like corn, wheat, and sugar have made calories cheaper than ever. Tractors make large scale operations more labor efficient, that along with the fact that the average hourly wage for a farmworker in the United States must be somewhere between that the minimum wage and zero dollars an hour, makes food incredibly cheap. The only people who want to buy more expensive produce from small farms are people who do it because they believe it is the right thing to do, and chefs, and wealthy people who do it because it is the highest quality product available. These 3 groups do not make up a large percentage of the population.
Well those are some really good reasons to get an engineering degree. But if you prefer earthworms to electrical circuits, and don’t mind working 10 hours a day 365 days a year to make $30,000 dollars a year, then why not farm. If you’re going to work your ass off to succeed in your career, and not have than why not work a job that your pride of and that you can eat for dinner. In the upstart age there is a niche for everyone, and a living can be made, so long as that’s the kind of living one really wants.
As someone who believes that you can find a well-paying job without a degree (I’m in my 30’s and I’ve done it…they were jobs that had no heart, and that’s how I ended up studying Sustainable Food and Farming.), I’ve struggled with the idea of going into debt to get a degree in SFF. Let’s be honest, going into debt for a degree (or anything, for that matter) just doesn’t seem sustainable! Think of what we could do for the world with the total amount of money that SFF students (and other majors as well) are spending, grants and scholarships included. I firmly believe that you can apprentice at farms and gain just as much farming experience, if not more, than you will gain getting a degree-and you won’t go into debt doing it. I’ve worked with many farmers over the past few years and when I tell them what I’m studying they just look at me like I’m insane, even more so when I can’t tell them what I plan to do with the degree. This has been a lesson in the importance of figuring out what it is that you want to do. On the other hand, I’ve met a ton of farmers who are eager and excited that a program like this exists because it means that we are headed in the right direction! I’ve met plenty of people with degrees in things like Marketing and Communications who couldn’t find work in their areas of study so end up waiting tables…or even working on farms because they decided that working in an office for a corporation was a terrible, terrible thing and that they wanted to do something bigger! I would honestly be happy going back to the tv/film work that I was doing before I decided to further my education, taking with me all of the SFF knowledge that I’ve gained, because it’s not just about Food and Farming! It’s such a diverse program and we are all lucky that we are able to tailor it to our own interests. I also believe that opportunities in life come along when it’s time for them to come along and we shouldn’t worry too far into the future and that it’s so much more important to be present. Yes, it’s important to have a plan, but how frustrating it is when your plan doesn’t work out! All this being said, I do believe that it’s important to have a degree in something-if only to further your education, it’s just a shame that we live in a country that doesn’t offer low-cost/no-cost higher education. There is much, much more that we are learning about in this program than just the farming side of things. Throughout this program, I have learned that I am interested in holistic health, urban homesteading, urban agriculture, food justice and policy, and regenerative design. I continue to learn the skills and gain the confidence that it takes to be an entrepreneur, and I have come up with several business ideas that I wouldn’t have had I not decided to further my education. I think it’s a great time to be studying Sustainable Farming and Food. I don’t think the goal should be to get a job just to pay off student debt for years to come, and sadly I’ve known many, many people whom this has been the case for.
Thanks for all of the comments. This article just appeared in the national press which offers some guidance and much hope for our graduates! Check out Jobs in Food Sustainability here: http://www.gracelinks.org/blog/4562/get-to-work-jobs-in-food-sustainability
Sustainable Food and Farming is so unlike any program out there, that it is a blessing and a challenge. This major is so flexible and full of opportunity to create our own career path. It is not the traditional area of study so the possibility to be creative with your educational and job options is fantastic. This is freeing but also feels intimidating to me. Is it possible for me to be able to have some financial stability and support while doing something meaningful? I fully believe this is possible! Like the article says-so many new positions are being created to adapt our society to changing times. I love the idea of the value chain coordinator and that my future career may be one that is a new idea. It gets awkward sometimes when I tell people that I am studying Sustainable Food and Farming, and then have to explain that I’m not going to be a farmer. Often times I will get a look of confusion, especially when I’m not able to tell them exactly where I will be working after I graduate. For a long time this made me uncomfortable to talk with people about my area of study-but now I think it is a good place to engage people in a conversation about local food systems and the idea of sustainability. While I can’t tell them exactly what I will be doing, at least they know that it will be work well worth doing. So many complex issues are entangled with the structures of our political, economic, and food systems. In order to begin to solve any of that, a new way of thinking and seeing has to be learned by the masses. The opportunities are truly endless with this major.
Nearing the end of my junior year as a Sustainable Food and Farming major, I have many worries about what the future brings. Learning about the current food systems and their flaws has made me realize that I want to have a positive impact on them. Whether that means working for a local farmer or starting up my own farm, both are working towards supplying the community with healthy, fresh food, and that is so important. Every now and then members of my family ask me what I am going to school for, and when I tell them, they wonder aloud whether I should be doing something else, something more “useful.” This used to bother me immensely, but now I simply reply “how many times a day do you eat?” That usually puts the importance of farming into perspective. It’s tough because even though a growing proportion of people know how vital farming is, there are so many more that think that McDonald’s is “real” food. As nerve-racking as the future seems, I am excited to find my place in this field.
As a senior in the UMass Amherst Sustainable Food and Farming major and a veteran of the U.S. Army I have put myself in an interesting place. Without any debt from school and with assistance from the VA I am able to discover and experiment with what I want to do for work. I believe more farmers and smaller farms would benefit a lot of people. When I look at someone’s small farm that they carefully tend it inspires me to have my own. I hope to spread that inspiration to others with my own.
I am currently a Senior in The sustainable Food and Farming Major who is graduating in the Spring 2015. I have agree that being in my senior year I have had the reality of what am I going to do after graduation. It is a scary moment when reality hits you. After reading the article I feel hopeful as well as anxious with the current job market. I feel there is a chance for improvement with the agriculture job market. I believe there is lot of jobs out there that is related to my major but getting ahold them is going to be a major problem. I am worried looking at the mind map of 10 company that have total control over consume pocket. It is extremely scary and make me wonder is possible to break into this market and make living for myself?
It has been a pleasure reading this article and all of the comments in response. As a SFF major, and one who does not want to solely be a farmer, I would like to emphasize how being in this program has, for me, been more of a lesson on understanding the food system as a whole. It has opened my mind to all of the different aspects of it and thus, “career” opportunities. Something that I appreciate about this article, and have been thinking about for a while, is the idea of a shift from fewer, large, corporate agribusinesses, to multiple, smaller, local farms. I think this idea fits in with the “Food Hub” graphic, and thinking about how we can make it happen is the next step. Personally, I can see myself operating in a smaller-scale version of the Food Commons and doing work in multiple sectors; restaurants, greenhouses, etc. Thanks for this article!
Maybe we will need 50 million farmers! Who knows? However, it is important to concentrate on how popular the movement has become in the recent years. The size of the major has increased exponentially and a sustainable undertone is sweeping over the country. This degree is not only desired by the market, but by the students themselves. Never have I ever until now been in a class that I am upset is cancelled during a snow day. The passion that students in SFF have for their studies is inspirational and deserves special recognition. These strong feelings will be translated into hard work and make a huge impact on society once we all graduate. Additionally, many times I have told other students what I study and a common response is “oh wow, I wish I majored in that!” Students within the major are not the only ones conscious about its importance, which is awesome because it indicates that other sects of workers in society are in support of the movement as well. I am not concerned for SFF students to find work after graduation, and even if they can’t, at least they have learned about one of the coolest, most integral topics to our lives today. Instead of spending hours slaving over one complex homework assignment, they have learned the skills needed to live an independent and sustainable life. And hopefully they were able to become at least a little bit dirty in the process.
As a Junior in the B.S. Sustainable Food and Farming program I have put much thought into the prospects of my future. Understanding how and where I will make ends meet in the future is the largest debate on my mind as a 20 year old male college student. However, I believe the reason I joined this program is to be able to shape my own career path. This curriculum provides me with extremely applicable, hands-on life skills and I fully believe that is the way I have to look at my career. I have to understand exactly what I want and be very aggressive about it or else I will have a rude awakening one day. Therefore, have a long term goal in mind so you can establish and achieve the short term goals necessary to get there. Furthermore, setting the bar high and obtaining the education and knowledge so society needs you is the best way (in my opinion) to live a fulfilling, influential life. Otherwise one will always be searching for help from others (looking to society for help). The former is much “smarter” considering your day to day life will most likely consist of making a significant impact on the people around you, facilitating their development and evolving together. In conclusion, be a scientific entrepreneur! Think outside the box but also use the incredible logic every human is gifted with. Dream big. Keep your head in the clouds and feet on the ground.
ok, I feel the need to put in my 2 cents. (By the way, it seems relevant that my computer keyboard does not have a cents symbol!) Yes, it is about money. I have been farming now for 18 years, a mid life career change. I have seen a lot of fellow farmer flame outs along the way. Yes, it is about money. My high water mark was $30,000. I have a BA, but not in sustainable farming. I am probably the lowest paid graduate of my institution. I have no debt, which is key. At the age of 54, I live like a student in shared housing. I have health insurance only through my wife’s job. (we currently live apart, another sacrifice in our highly urbanized area) And I work as a manager on one of the largest organic farms around (although I got paid better at a smaller farm.) I am planning to keep farming as long as I can. For me the pride, health, and sheer interest I take in the work is compensation. Accepting this path is accepting the view that our society/economy/world is completely f*d up and on the road to destruction. It is getting clearer and clearer that we must make sacrifices to make change. But also, and most importantly, farming is the most satisfying work there is. That’s not a sacrifice; that’s a reward.
I like the idea that we have to create our own careers and get creative to reach the outcomes that we want. I have had ideas about how to make farming more accessible to people that may not fully understand how important it is to take advantage of your local system. Sometimes I worry that I am thinking to big or that I won’t be able to achieve these goals. This entry made me nervous and excited to think big and put those ideas out there. I want to work to achieve something and help make a positive impact, and I think this is a great time to do that. I think more people should be trying to make a positive change in whatever field they choose to pursue.
Making our own jobs is going to be key for the next generation because the last system is currently failing us. We can’t expect to find jobs targeting our focus in the old system, we need to begin to build our own. I believe women becoming a main part of the workforce will change the field. Diversifying from using fossil fuels on the farm will create a variety of new ideas, techniques, and jobs. Truly using social media to spread awareness about the food we are all eating will be key in next generation farming. Farming should be seen as an interdisciplinary subject the same way that environmental science is so that students are getting an array of skills during their studies that will set them up to create their own jobs.
It’s hard to put so much faith into a market that is systematically designed for people of money and power. I think back to some of my friends who are some of the most brilliant people I have ever met. I know that they are going to be the innovators that we need moving forward to find creative “GREEN” technologies to our ever evolving food system. But it is disheartening to realize that those are also the people who are at the most disadvantage in society because by the time they graduate from college with $100,000+ in loans, they will be forced to work for the system until they can pay back those loans. And by that time you are so embedded in the system it’s hard to get yourself out. Sometimes I wonder how far we can get in changing small parts of the system without just hitting more and more road blocks because the system is flawed to begin with. We can tend to each branch of a tree but if the roots are rotten–how far will that really get us?
Lately I have been considering the role that social change contributes to the larger picture. Yes, maybe we need to start with the youngest of our society and educate them in creating a more sustainable food system, but you can teach children all day about healthy eating; what’s that going to be worth when they leave the confines of school and are too poor to afford healthy food? Then you have to look at the root of poverty and it all falls down to capitalism and corporate greed (amongst other things, but for the sake of the argument). I am (we are) only one person and we can’t change the whole world, which is a completely valid argument, but I am tired of making small changes only to be taking two steps back because the system is flawed to begin with.
Based on what I’ve seen I feel like there’s a growing market for local and high quality foods. There is a market at the Haymarket train station with all kinds of specific and artisan foods such as a honey kiosk, a smoked fish booth, an Italian shop, a liquor store that sells exclusively craft IPAs and many more. The demand for locally crafted and sourced food like this is exciting and definitely gives me some inspiration as a Sustainable Food student.
When I tell people (mostly family members) that I am studying Sustainable Agriculture at UMass Amherst, their first reaction is, “Wow! That’s great. What an awesome field.” But then they ask, “So what kind of jobs are there in sustainable agriculture?” Or I get the subtle message of, “Well it’s nice that you’re studying something different, but what kind of job are you going to find that will actually provide a comfortable living wage?”
It’s an easy question for me to answer because I’ve known for years that my B.S. in sustainable agriculture will be use to supplement my future career as a chef, but I usually can’t think of much else that would suffice as an answer. Of course, there is owning/running a farm and working with food systems in agricultural production and transportation to consumers, but otherwise, I’ve generally been stumped.
It is settling to know that there is the possibility of creating a new job and that people are doing well in their self-created jobs. I feel that that usually isn’t communicated as an option for potential grads, and that unless we can come up with something before be graduate, we’re doomed to be stuck with degree that is interesting but useless in practicality.
This post is assuring for a freshman in the SFF program at Umass. I am very excited by the concept of creating and developing food and farming businesses. I think given the various social media people have access to and the new technologies, the future of farming may reach the vision of Farming commons. However, it is still risky and scary. Despite this fear of what I have ahead of me after graduation, I hope I can find a way to make my majors work for me.
This article is both reassuring and thought provoking with questions for the future. Being in the SFF major I constantly think about where I might end up and what options I have for a career. It’s interesting to read about all the inventive jobs others have thought of. It’s good to see a growing interest in the major and the new openings in the field.
I have thought a lot about the job market and how society tells us that we must have a certain degree to be successful. While I do think that an education is very valuable, I think that there is too much pressure put on trying to be a doctor or a lawyer, when in reality as long as you work hard and are passionate about what you do, then you can be successful in any field. For me personally rather than working for someone, I hopefully will have the needed tools to create my own business, and successfully run my own small farm or organic food store. I am only a first semester freshman, so I have just started at Umass, but I am hoping that a bachelor’s degree in Sustainable Agriculture will help give me those tools needed for running a profitable farm or organic food store.
This definitely resonates with my thinking about life after school. It seems that there are lots of people doing well on traditional farms however if all people interested in farming tried to in the traditional sense there would be far too many farmers for the available markets. For this reason and a lack of interest in traditional agriculture I have been pondering alternatives to supporting local and regional food systems and I am more excited than ever about the future. Concepts like urban food forest designer and homesteading consultant seem far more exciting and profitable than a large commercial farm.
I’m currently taking SFF 118. I find this article to be inspiring yet somewhat concerning. It seems to me that the functioning of the food system must be altered from the workings of big business to localized business in order to make healthy foods more attainable to all of the nation’s citizens. It seems jobs and the application of the concept of the Food Commons are directly proportional. Today’s market is not necessarily conducive of agricultural entrepreneurs yet at the same time they are the ones capable of real change and inducing a shift from big business to small, local businesses.
This article embodies everything I am excited about as well as everything that terrifies me about being an SFF major. On one hand when I think about life after college it is exhilarating because the SFF major has so many avenues and options and I am excited by so many of them. It also is overwhelming to think that most of the successful SFF graduates were those that created their own network or business. I would like to be apart of a change but the thought of starting my own change and building my own program/business/ect is overwhelming. I have had a lot of thoughts surrounding creating my own farm that will mirror my values and goals and give me the most rewarding feeling of change but, there is also so much risk involved especially when the economy is based around large, global food systems, cash cropping, bigger, cheaper, and faster means of agriculture.
I remember an older woman telling me how her family did not suffer from the Great Depression in the same way it had affected other families across the nation, and that was because her family was growing much of the food they ate in a home garden; not even a small farm, just a large garden. My grandbother also grew most of the food for her family according to my mother. I think it’s so important to pass these relatively simple but vitally important skills on to each generation so they do not become lost. Gardening continues to be one of the most popular leisure activities, in place of the central roll it held in the dailiy routine for most people just a few generations ago. There is much important fun to be had passing the info on to the bright faces and eager minds of the children. I think childcare centers with nature as curriculum would have a well received following, as Waldorf schools and the like have proven.