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  • My guess is that a lot of you in this room can think of someone in your family who farmed

  • way back. The last person before I came along to farm in my family was this guy. My great-grandfather

  • Henry Clarkis Sheets. Henry farmed in the foothills of southeast Ohio where he produced

  • dairy, pork, tobacco, chickens and every fall he used his team of horses to haul apples

  • for a guy named old man Burdet over Brothers Hill to Gallipolis, where those apples were

  • floated down the Ohio River to Cincinnati. This is Henry at the age of 90 running a track

  • with suspenders. Henry worked hard. And he earned enough to own land, build a farm, build

  • a house and get three of his kids to college, my grandmother included. Those kids became

  • a teacher, a principal, a gas station owner, a welder. But none of them farmed. That career

  • path that Henry put his kids on so many years ago is the same one that 99 percent of us

  • are still on today. For generations, farm families have been sending their children

  • away from the farm. And for some good reasons. A dairy crisis, discrimination by the USDA

  • against farmers of color, consolidation, vertical integration, skyrocketing land prices and

  • plummeting incomes. Life has been really tough for a lot of farm families. And opportunity

  • outside of the farm has only grown. That's why today there are 28 million fewer farmers

  • in the United States than in 1920 when Henry was farming. And this is in a country with

  • 200 million more people to feed. And because so many young people have left farming, farmers

  • over the age of 65 now outnumber farmers under the age of 35 by a margin of 6 to 1. My husband

  • and I are farmers. I'm 34. So I'm one of those ones. We along with thousands of young people

  • across this country are bucking the trend by starting a farm operation of our own. These

  • young farmers and ranchers represent an incredible opportunity for the future of food and farming

  • in the United States. They are cultivating their crops by hand and with tractors, this

  • is an Alllis-Chalmers G, tractors that haven't seen the outside of a barn for 50 years. They

  • are putting their chickens, pigs, cows, goats back on grass where they belong and they are

  • providing jobs and opportunity in parts of the United States that have not seen new industry

  • in decades. They are also growing some amazing food. These young farmers are demonstrating

  • as have many generations before them that the more a farmer can care for the land the

  • more that land gives back. And not just to a farmer and her family but to an entire community.

  • This is our farm, Hearty Roots Community Farm. It's about 100 miles north of this spot. We

  • grow 25 acres of vegetables and produce eggs for a community-supported agriculture program.

  • This CSA program feeds 900 households in the Hudson Valley and here in New York City. Each

  • year our farm grosses about 425,000 dollars. Most of which goes to local job creation.

  • We hire about 9 employees, some seasonally some year-round and they in turn take their

  • paychecks and spend them on local goods and services. We source most of the inputs for

  • our farm locally or regionally and we use a very small percentage of our budget to pay

  • for fossil fuels. Now compare that with commodity corn, which actually makes sense as a comparison

  • because it's what our farm was growing before we transitioned it to vegetables. Twenty-five

  • acres of corn is going to gross about 25,000 dollars. Half of that is going to be spent

  • on fossil fuels, GMO seed, inputs and only about 750 dollars is going to be spent on

  • labor. So if Ben and I wanted to create the same benefits growing corn that we do growing

  • vegetables just in terms of jobs we would need to grow 5,000 acres of corn. Which happens

  • to be half of the size of our town of Clermont, New York. And that would be a terrible thing

  • for Clermont, New York because the more farmers you have maximizing the value of the land

  • the more benefits a community and a region can experience. As I said before the more

  • a farmer cares for the land, the more they're able to care for the land, the more that land

  • gives back. What would our rural areas look like if we had one million more farms in this

  • country? Like the Salad Garden in Missouri. Like the West Georgia Cooperative. Like Three

  • Springs Farm in Oaks, Oklahoma. Like Kilpatrick Farm in Albany, New York. Like Bucio Farm

  • in Salinas, California. Or like Sauvie Island Organics outside of Portland. Just think of

  • the health, economic and environmental benefits that these farms would bring to our communities.

  • We need more farmers. We need a million more farmers. But a million more farmers are not

  • just going to come along. It is not 1920 when Grandpa Henry was farming. Land is crazy expensive.

  • It took 10 years for my husband and I to figure out how to buy land in the Hudson Valley.

  • Banks forgot how to loan to us. There is now something called the student loan, which takes

  • hundreds of dollars from your bank account every month for decades. Supply chains are

  • in shambles and the federal government is writing policy to basically perpetuate what

  • we already have. The structural environment that we as farmers are working in today is

  • essentially the same that has been driving farmers out of business for decades. In response

  • to the challenges that we as farmers were facing I helped to co-found the National Young

  • Farmers Coalition. We're a team of farmers and consumers that want to see at least a

  • million more farmers in the United States. And we know that big change is necessary to

  • make that happen. We're pushing for innovation in conservation easements to include affordability.

  • We're reforming policy. And we are doing what we can to create a permanent home for independent,

  • sustainable, diversified and organic farmers in the United States. Last year we did a survey

  • of 1,000 farmers across the country. We asked them, what do you need. And they told us that

  • their number one need is capital. Getting the money to start a farm is really tough.

  • And of course banks and private interests, they have a role. Investors have a role to

  • play in all of this. But history teaches us that getting money to farmers is way too important

  • to leave to private interests alone. That's why the federal government through the Farm

  • Service Agency makes very low interest loans to farmers and Republican President Theodore

  • Roosevelt helped start the Farm Credit Cooperative in 1908. These institutions can do so much

  • more to help the next generation of farmers get started. Take the Farm Service Agency.

  • They're really stepping up. We've worked with them to change their rules to make modern

  • training programs such as apprenticeships help to qualify young people for one of their

  • loans. We also advocated for micro-lending by the federal government to farmers. And

  • guess what? They listened. They launched a new micro-lending program just this January.

  • Super exciting, right? But these are administrative changes. These are things that the Agency

  • has been doing while Congress has been forgetting to pass a farm bill. They can only do so much.

  • Actually in the farm bill, Congress, brilliantly, wrote in there that this Farm Service Agency

  • can only lend up to 300,00 dollars to a farmer who wants to buy a farm. When many of us in

  • this room probably realize that in a lot of regions 300,000 dollars is going to hardly

  • buy you a house. And to top it all off this Agency, this is unbelievable to me, this Agency

  • has no permanent funding the farm bill. So every year they are at the mercy of the Appropriations

  • Committee and farmers are left to wait on loan decisions. If you want to buy a farm

  • and no one's going to lend to you except the Farm Service Agency, which is the case a lot

  • of times because traditional lenders think farmers, very risky, which you know can be

  • true, you have to go out and hope that you can find a farm for 300,000 dollars. Say you

  • do. Then you have to go to the owner of that farm and you have to beg them to wade with

  • you through months of bureaucracy while you apply for this loan and just hope that there

  • is going to be a check on the other end. This is no way for our most important farm lender

  • to have to operate. And it is no way for us to get this next generation of farmers started

  • on land when we expect that 70 percent of all farmland is going to be changing hands

  • in the next 20 years. They are more important than ever. And we have got to help them do

  • their jobs and serve the next generation more effectively. Speaking of farmland, farmland

  • as you have probably heard in the newspaper is selling for many more times what a working

  • farmer can afford. We need the land trust community to step up and work with government

  • partners to create affordable farmland. So here in Manhattan on this island, you know

  • you have affordable housing so regular people can continue to live here. Well in our rural

  • communities we need affordable farms so farmers can continue to farm and own land. And in

  • the Midwest we've got to trade some of those subsidies that are growing megafarms for incentives

  • to help young and beginning farmers get ground. They need that land. But the National Young

  • Farmers Coalition we are not waiting on Congress. As I said before they forgot to pass the farm

  • bill in October and the extension that they passed in January they actually decided I

  • don't know if Vice President Biden was aware of this but he and his colleagues cut all

  • training funding for beginning farmers. The beginning farmer and rancher development program

  • now has zero funding. We are rebuilding local farmer to farmer networks on the ground. We

  • have coalitions of young farmers that are forming all over the country. Our Hudson Valley

  • group that I am a part of, we get together to share a meal, put plastic on a greenhouse

  • and we are now using our combined purchasing power to bring down the cost of animal feed.

  • So more of the farmers in our group can offer chickens, eggs, pigs. It's great. We can work

  • together and solve a lot of these problems. We are now taking this farmer to farmer model

  • and we are applying it to technology. We helped to launch a project called Farm Hack, which

  • is farmers, programmers, engineers coming together to develop open source tools ot help

  • independent farmers stay competitive. You know the National Young Farmers Coalition,

  • we are getting a lot done. But there is so much more to do and we cannot do it alone.

  • You know if every single farmer in the United States joined the National Young Farmers Coalition,

  • which by the way we hope they do, they are all invited, we would still have less than

  • one half of one percent of the population behind us. Which is very far from a super

  • majority, right? If we are going to rebuild American agriculture, provide a path of opportunity

  • for people of modest means to become farmers in the United States and for us all to feel

  • the benefits and experience the benefits that all those farmers caring for the land will

  • bring then we need your help. We need you to figure out how we can get everyone in this

  • country to buy local. To buy locally grown food and have the opportunity to do that.

  • We need some of you to become farmers. Don't know if you're prepared for that. And we need

  • all of you to put your kids on a career path that includes farming. And lastly we need

  • you to join with us to tell Congress that if we invest in the next generation of farmers

  • in the United States we will all win. I hope that you will join us. We need you to join

  • us. Thank you.

My guess is that a lot of you in this room can think of someone in your family who farmed

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【TEDx】Building a Future with Farmers: Lindsey Lusher Shute at TEDxManhattan 2013

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    阿多賓 posted on 2014/04/24
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