Planting the Seed: Cultivating the Next Generation of Farmers

From foodtank.com, by Emma Tozer
Planting the Seed: Cultivating the Next Generation of Farmers

California-based, Center for Land-Based Learning, strives to cultivate appreciation and respect for the environment and agriculture, especially among youth. In response to the declining and aging farmer workforce, the Center is encouraging youth to enter the food and agriculture field.

Food Tank had the opportunity to speak with Christine McMorrow, Director of Development, at the Center for Land-Based Learning.

Food Tank (FT): How do you contribute to creating a better food system?

Christine McMorrow (CM): The Center for Land-Based Learning contributes to a better food system by cultivating opportunities for youth and adults to engage with and learn about the complex issues that factor into how our food is produced, harvested, stored, distributed, and sold.

Our youth programs develop leadership skills that help young people to navigate the complex issues that factor into food system decisions. Students get out of the classroom and onto farms and ranches, into processing facilities, and post-secondary institutions to learn about college and career pathways in agriculture and natural resources management. They enhance native habitat on farms through restoration work and learn best practices for agricultural and natural resources conservation.

Our beginning farmer training program, the California Farm Academy, provides training and support to increase the number of farmers in California. We are reducing the barriers to entering into a farming profession with an associated business incubator program that provides access to land, infrastructure, peer-to-peer and marketing support for small-scale farmers ready to begin farming.

FT: What is a project, program, or result you are most proud of?

CM: In May 2014, we partnered with the City of West Sacramento to start one small 2/3 acre urban farm. Within one year, six acres of new vacant lots have been secured and made ready for beginning farmers to lease land and start farming. In 2015, we have helped six new farmers get their farm businesses up and running. To ensure success, we are working with these farmers to help them develop the relationships needed to sell their produce to local restaurants, large retailers, and directly to the consumer. At our mobile farm stand, EBT cards are accepted, and farmers work cooperatively to keep the stand staffed and stocked with a variety of fresh, locally grown vegetables.

FT: What are your goals for 2015 and beyond?

CM: Create more ‘farm-to-fork’ communities where food is grown, purchased, and consumed where people live. We will do this by working with The New Home Company and their new development in Davis, CA, called The Cannery. Together, we are working to incorporate an urban farm into this new community, and place beginning farmers into a fully-supported system to grow food for the people who live there.

Introduce more youth to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) jobs that play an increasingly large role in agriculture.

Grow new partnerships to create more opportunities for beginning farmers to find land to farm and markets to sell their produce.

Assist farmers in finding larger plots of land as their businesses grow.

FT: In one sentence, what is the most important thing eaters and consumers can do today to support a more sustainable food system?

CM: Educate themselves about the science, technology, engineering, and math applications being applied to the food system that allow the world’s agriculturalists to grow food for billions while taking into account the environmental and social needs of our planet.

FT: How can individuals become more involved in your organization?

CM: Sign up for our newsletter to stay posted on our activities and programs.

Volunteer form link HERE.

Volunteer page HERE.

Download the 2015 Good Food Org Guide HERE.

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