|Photo by Thomas J. Story for Sunset magazine's "One Block Contest"|
There's a great article in the new issue of Organic Gardening about local programs meant to "incubate" a new generation of farmers. (Read the full article here.) Since most American farmers are 75 years and older (according to the last farm census, in 2007), and farmland is becoming more scarce, these programs are designed to help beginning farmers get access to land, funding, education and equipment. There is TONS more information on these programs nationwide if you're interested (check out ALBA and the USDA's program, for starters).
Portland's "15-year Food Action Plan", which launched last year, also encourages urban farming, which is what caught my eye. (Although it's a total dream of mine to live and work on a farm for a season, it's also impossible with a young family!) You can volunteer or intern at a farm to get hands-on experience on a larger scale than your backyard veggie patch. They teach you everything from organic weed control, rotating crops, starting seeds and more. Two great resources I found for Oregonians interested in this kind of thing: Friends of Family Farmers' iFarm program and Oregon Tilth.
And for those who already have the hang of urban farming and want to give back, two other great options: the Oregon Food Bank's Plant a Row program for donating produce, and Growing Gardens, where volunteers help people build their own gardens to combat hunger.
Oh, and last thing I'll mention as a source of inspiration: Sunset magazine's One-Block Contest, where neighbors created a menu for a block-party and had to grow every ingredient themselves. This is the future!