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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Yielding High Returns

Jim Leap gives two pieces of advice to fledgling farmers in their first year setting roots on their own: Double your anticipated expenses and cut your anticipated income by half.

It sounds like a tough dose of wisdom to swallow, but one that Leap, who is farm operations manager at the University of California at Santa Cruz’s Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, says his former students often tell him is spot on.

Leap’s advice highlights how challenging it is to make it as a beginning farmer. But by his estimation about 90 percent of the 1,200 graduates of the university’s six-month, full-time farm apprentice program are still engaged in the food system, from running gardening programs for former prison inmates to operating full-scale farms.

If those numbers speak to the ingenuity of small farmers and the organizations that support their interests, they also point to a need for both public and private support—including government policy to market infrastructure—to build a farming base strong enough to support a shift to more sustainable and localized food systems.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that half of all current farmers will retire in the coming decade. Meanwhile, food production must double by 2050 to meet future demand, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Those statistics plus rising oil costs, dwindling water supplies and an anticipated drop in crop yields caused by climate change equals a need for a bumper crop of new farmers.

Full story here.

posted by CASFS 2006 @ 11:46 AM

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