“The chance to make a difference in quality of life for all depends on the soil and those who care for and nurture the earth. New young farmers are on the front lines in the struggle for survival, the future of our children and theirs.”
– Neil Young, Farm Aid, in praise of Letters to a Young Farmer
In 2017, Stone Barns Center published Letters to a Young Farmer, an anthology of essays by 38 leaders of the food, environmental, and sustainable agriculture movements that offers words of gratitude and guidance to young farmers. Barbara Kingsolver speaks to farmers with love, admiration, and regret. Bill McKibben reflects on what the history of agriculture can teach us about the modern challenge of farming in a rapidly changing climate. Dan Barber traces the rediscovery of lost grains and foodways. U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree probes the politics of being a young farmer today.
Looking back on a year of Letters, we continue to be humbled by the wise and beautiful words of the contributors and the ongoing need to raise awareness about the crisis we are facing in farming. 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.
But young farmers are in the spotlight more than ever, and their voices are being amplified in the discourse around the 2018 Farm Bill and other critical initiatives all over the country. Letters to a Young Farmer is part of that chorus.
Now in its third printing, the book has made its way to more than 12,000 readers and has been translated into Korean and Chinese. We’ve held discussions around the themes in the book at events across the country, reaching thousands of food citizens from the EcoFarm conference in California to the Food Book Fair in New York to the Prairie Festival in Kansas. Letters has also captured the attention of more than 100 journalists and writers. Here are a few highlights:
“Thankfully, the siren song of agriculture continues to call to young people and draw them to farm in cities, suburbs, and rural regions across the country. It is to these young farmers, and to the many who want to farm but haven’t yet taken the leap, that Letters to a Young Farmer speaks.“ Christina Cooke and Matthew Wheeland, Civil Eats, March 7 2017
“The book is a call to arms not only for young and would-be farmers, but also for anyone who cares about the food system in general.” Frances Kim, Martha Stewart Living, March 16 2017
“[Letters to a Young Farmer made] me want to be a better consumer and a better community member, and it bolstered in my mind just how important the presence of farmers and farms is for our country’s eating habits, health, culture, and economy.” Caroline Lange, Food52, April 28 2017
We hope you’ll help spread the word by sharing Letters to a Young Farmer with your community. We need young farmers, and they need us. Together, we can change food for good.