Letters to a Young Farmer

“We need farmers every single day of our lives, beginning to end, no exceptions. We forgot about that for a while, and the price was immense. Slowly, we’re coming back to our senses. Be patient with us. We need you.” 

—Barbara Kingsolver, Letters to a Young Farmer          


We are about to witness the largest retirement of farmers in U.S. history; there are now more farmers over the age of 75 than between the ages of 35 and 44.

Meanwhile, 400 million acres of farmland are slated to change hands in the next two decades—an area roughly four times the size of California. The future of our food, our farms and our environment hinges on the investments we make today in the next generation of farmers. In our quest to support them, we have organized and edited our first book, an anthology of 36 essays and letters from some of the most influential farmers, writers and leaders of our time.

In Letters to a Young Farmer, published by Princeton Architectural Press, Barbara Kingsolver speaks to the tribe of farmers—some born to it, many self-selected—with love, admiration, and regret. Dan Barber traces the rediscovery of lost grains and foodways. Michael Pollan bridges the chasm between agriculture and nature. Bill McKibben connects the early human quest for beer to the very modern challenge of farming in a rapidly changing climate. US Representative Chellie Pingree probes the politics of being a young farmer today. Farmer Mas Masumoto passes on family secrets to his daughter—and not-soon-forgotten stories to us all.

The way we grow our food affects so much of the world around us: our health, the health of our lands and waters, birds and wildlife, our atmosphere, the ability of people to make a living wage and communities to thrive. And a rapidly changing climate is making the very act of farming riskier than ever before: drought, plagues of insects and pathogens, one “freak” storm after another.

But the choices we make now can also lead to an extraordinary future. If we invest in farming that is adaptable and regenerative; that respects the limits of season; that builds soil and economies—we can grow a vibrant way of farming that delivers fresh, healthy, affordable food to more Americans while being resilient in the face of a shifting, highly variable climate.

We hope this book will not only advise and encourage young farmers, but inspire and uplift all of us who care deeply about our food, our land and our communities. Letters to a Young Farmer is both a compelling history and a vital road map—a reckoning of how we eat and farm; how the two can come together to build a more sustainable future; and why now, more than ever before, we need farmers.

LEARN MORE about the book and about young farmers.


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