Farmers are ageing fast. In the United States, for example, the average age of the person primarily responsible for the day-to-day running of a farm (principal operator) increased from 50 in 1982 to 58 in 2012.
Data compiled by the United States Department of Agriculture also shows the number of principal operators aged 55-64 increased from around 596,000 in 2007 to just over 608,000 in 2012.
Among those aged 25-34, roughly 109,000 were categorized as principal operators in 2012, the USDA finds. For those under the age of 25, this figure drops to just 10,714, which is down from 11,878 in 2007.
According to Kimbal Musk, brother of tech billionaire Elon Musk, farming isn’t a career path many millennials have ever considered.
Speaking to the World Economic Forum about this issue last year, Musk vowed to get more young people interested in farming through Square Roots, a project he launched in 2016 alongside business partner Tobias Peggs.
Square Roots, which is located in Brooklyn, New York, provides space inside refurbished shipping containers for the next generation of farmers to grow produce.
Each container has the capacity to yield more than more 22kg of leafy greens each week and only needs about 30 litres of water per day, Square Roots says.
The company offers 10 young farmers at a time the chance to take part in a 13-month curriculum, which includes skills-based education, professional development plans, and experiential learning across four pillars: farming, business, community, and leadership.
The aim, according to a blog on the company’s website, is to empower people through the growth of “real food”.
The blog says: “People want real, local food – food you can trust to nourish your body, the community, and the planet. And they want it all year round, grown in the cities where they live.”
Growing food in this way – known as urban farming – is fast becoming a global phenomenon, and is common in many developing countries.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 800 million people grow food in and amongst high-rises and on rooftops.
This revolutionary practice was also listed among the World Economic Forum’s Top 10 Urban Innovations in 2015, with the report arguing that a simple way to reduce food waste was to move the farm to the consumer’s doorstep.