-by Kelly Sanderbeck, Annual Fund Manager & Story Catcher
On the surface, it could appear as though some young college graduates are farming for lack of other work. Although the unemployment rate for recent 4-year college graduates is lower than the national average (at 6.8 percent), there is a growing number of 20 and 30-somethings moving away from the cubicle and into the field. Perhaps, in a world that feels out of control, the tangible and durable nature of working the soil may resonate more than stock options in companies with uncertain futures.
The “Millennials” influence is increasing in the marketplace, according to a new study on buying habits which shows this generation moving away from large-scale, brand-dependent grocery chains, to smaller, local and organic. Even the USDA recognizes that the old system is broken and that we need local foods to go directly to local markets. Says Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, “Business models like food hubs and cooperatives, and infrastructure like regional storage facilities, processing plants, and distribution networks, can help these producers reach new markets that are demanding locally grown products.” This next generation of consumers – parents, farmers and just plain eaters – may be studying Consumer Reports about why organic IS better or Grist for details of how arsenic got into rice. In fact, they are front and center in the debate on organic food and its value to their bodies and the planet.
In other news:
- The first science-based, peer-reviewed report on organic farming, Organic Farming for Health and Prosperity, was recently released by the Organic Farming Research Foundation. It summarizes how, “the scientific literature shows that organic farming practices build soil quality, maintain water quality, support biodiversity, and have potential to mitigate global climate change while supporting an economic bright spot. Organic farming is comprised of an integrated suite of practices that provide these benefits in addition to producing food, fiber and feed.”
- GMOs and their effect on health continue to be debated, while California’s November referendum for GMO labeling heightens the imperfect balance within large corporate brands. Companies such as Kellogg, General Mills and Coca Cola and are spending millions to fight the measure, while their organic divisions are dodging complaints.
- The musicians of Farm Aid continue to lead the way in support of small farms and farmers, contributing over $40 million since 1985!
Finally, an action item: 320,000 signatures are needed by the end of 2012 for the WA initiative to label GMOs! Learn where to sign at the link.