In New Hampshire, when you walk into a large meeting or conference, there is always a chance that you will be one of the only young people there. When it’s a meeting of farmers, you’d think the chances of that happening would go up dramatically, as national data shows the average age of U.S farmers increasing over the past 30 years to a recent high of 55. That is why I was so excited when I walked through the doors of the recent Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Hampshire (NOFA-NH) winter conference in Concord and saw so many young farmers and gardeners.
In a state with an aging population, in an industry (agriculture) that is aging rapidly, what makes the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Hampshire conference different? I firmly believe it’s the “Organic” part. In recent years there has been a shift in agriculture running counter to the depressing trend of aging farmers and disappearing farms. There is a growing movement of new young farmers, particularly here in Northern New England, committed to organic, sustainable, and regenerative farming methods. Our generation is leading demand for organic and sustainable food, with Millennial parents representing the largest group of consumers of organic food.
The NOFA Winter conference this year had lots to offer, with great breakout sessions on everything from a beginner session on seed starting, to beekeeping, orcharding, and new ideas on community supported land tenure. Lunch featured delicious organic and locally sourced food from The Crust and Crumb Baking Company in Concord, and a great band playing Americana. A panel discussion on Saving Real Organic, and the keynote “Our Soils, Ourselves: The Connections Between Soil Health and Human Health” by Dr. Daphne Miller, M.D made for an even more interesting day.
Even as a (currently) city dwelling amateur gardener, I got so much out of the NOFA Conference. From beginning to end I met so many people doing great work in food and farming. I met young people involved in Farm-to-School programs, running urban gardening programs, a young lawyer interested in learning more about the intersection of farming and environmental and land use law, and an 18 year old farmer about to start her new job managing a large dairy herd. If you are passionate about food that is local, healthy, and sustainable, it is well worth coming to one of NOFA’s conferences. I walked away inspired, educated, and hopeful, with the knowledge that there is a growing movement of people of all ages committed to sustainable food and farming in New Hampshire.