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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.

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