Growing farmers around the globe

The average farmer is around 60 years of age. Recruiting new and young farmers and helping them get the training they need to sustainably feed the world is essential to long-term food security. Here are 10 training programs cultivating a new generation of farmers.

Channi Anand/AP/File
Indian farmer Jasveer Singh walks back home from his paddy field near the India Pakistan international border fencing at Ranbir Singh Pura 36 kilometers (23 miles) from Jammu, India.

Worldwide, the average farmer is around 60 years of age. Recruiting new and young farmers and helping them get the training they need to sustainably feed the world is essential to long-term food security. Here are 10 training programs cultivating a new generation of farmers.

A project of the Cargill Sustainable Cocoa initiative, Cargill’s Farmer Field Schools reach 25,000 farmers annually at 300 locations around the world, including Côte d’Ivoire, Vietnam, Brazil, and Indonesia. The Field School is a 10-month intensive course on agricultural techniques, bookkeeping, personal health, and environmental and social issues. Upon completing the course, farmers are eligible for sustainability certification through Fair Trade or Rainforest Alliance.

Apprenticeships in Ecological Horticulture at the University of California Santa Cruz’sCenter for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems provide training in organic and small-scale farming. The six-month course, held at the Center’s 30-acre farm and 3-acre garden, teaches a variety of organic and sustainable farming techniques through hands-on experience with greenhouses, gardens, orchards, and fields.

The University of Vermont’s (UVM) Farmer Training Program combines classroom learning and field experience on the university’s 10-acre Catamount Educational Farm. Students learn sustainable farming from expert farmers and educators, and graduate with a Certificate in Sustainable Farming from UVM.

In Zanzibar, the International Fund for Agricultural Development has established over 700 farmer field schools in nine rural districts. Each field school is led by smallholder farmers and has 15 to 20 members, 62 percent of whom are women. The groups get together throughout the growing season to learn new skills and techniques from each other, a method which has shown tangible results for reducing poverty, improving food security, and increasing incomes for farmers.

The Japanese Agricultural Training Program, initiated in 1966, brings Japanese students to the United States for an agricultural training program jointly sponsored by the Japan Agricultural Exchange Council and the Big Bend Community College Foundation. Over 4,500 students have attended the program, which combines academic and on-the-farm training in an effort to improve agriculture in Japan while promoting greater understanding between Japan and the United States.

At the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools (JFFLS), youth learn agricultural, life, and entrepreneurship skills. The JFFLS promote gender equality and teach gender-sensitive skills as a key to long-term community food security.

The program focuses on vulnerable youth such as refugees, demobilized child soldiers, orphans, and HIV-positive children. By the end of 2009, more than 20,000 children had graduated from the FAO’s more than 500 field schools.

At Michigan State University, the Organic Farmer Training Program trains farmers during a nine-month intensive on a 15-acre certified organic farm. The program gives participants agricultural production skills as well as management and business skills. During the nine months, students get hands-on business experience through the farm’s 48-week CSA, 7-month campus farm stand, and sales to campus dining services.

In British Columbia, the Organic Farming Institute immerses students in the rich organic farming landscape of the region, with hands-on training on 50 organic farms. The curriculum consists of two components: an online science and technology course and a field training course, all of which is designed by farmers for farmers.

The Tennessee New Farmer Academy offers a six-month certificate program operated by Tennessee State University. The curriculum includes agriculture production practices, hands-on experience in a variety of farming techniques, and farm business and marketing basics.

In Nepal, the Women’s Foundation runs a Training Center of Agriculture for women farmers. Operating since 2012, the Center offers three months of basic training and six months of advanced training, teaching women to cultivate organic crops and raise animals. The Training Center has created a model for modern farming methods in the area and helps farmers increase their income through agriculture.

By educating the next generation of farmers, each of these training programs is shaping the future of food around the globe.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.