From the Executive Director

Farming for the Future

by jill isenbarger

Two of the most defining challenges of our time are how we choose to feed ourselves and how we choose to deal with climate change—something that we have been punting down the road for quite a while. Both are profoundly linked, and both have fundamental consequences for our collective future.

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.

That’s why Stone Barns Center exists: to be a laboratory for learning about and demonstrating agroecological farming, and for catalyzing a culture of eating based on ecosystem health.

Central to this work is helping more young farmers succeed here on the brink of what will be the largest retirement of farmers in U.S. history; their average age is 58 and climbing, and only 6 percent are under the age of 35. We offer technical training, apprenticeships, business planning, the annual Young Farmers Conference and many other ways of growing farmers.

In our quest to support them, Stone Barns Center has organized and edited Letters to a Young Farmer, to be released in March 2017, with contributions from some of the most influential farmers, chefs, writers and leaders of our time. At the core of what they write is a deep respect for the people who choose to farm—the young people today who have many choices but choose to farm because they want to. They want to grow healthy, nutritious food for our communities and to take care of a piece of the earth.

In the book, Bill McKibben, the author and environmental activist, writes:

“It’s a nasty trick we’ve played on you. For a hundred generations, if you could grow corn in a certain field, it was a safe bet your granddaughter would be able to do the same. That’s now a sucker’s bet.”

At Stone Barns Center, we know that our future hinges on the investments we make today in the next generation of farmers growing nutritious food in ways that respect the earth, animals and people; in ways that are resilient, diverse and adaptable.

Please join with us to help forge that future, creating a healthy and sustainable food system, for us all.

Originally published on November 10, 2016

CEO, Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture

Jill Isenbarger

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