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Over the past decade, many young people have become excited about agriculture and have looked into exploring it as a career.  Books like Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, have become national bestsellers, and it seems like there are new documentaries about farming and food every week.  However, farming can be a difficult occupation.  A few months ago the New York Times put out an article titled Don’t Let Your Children Grow Up to be Farmers  detailing the difficulty in making a living as an organic, or small scale, farmer.  The article has sparked a dialogue  among farmers, such as Drake Larsen, and farm advocates.

“There are few things that can be as frustrating as farming (too much rain, not enough rain, markets that won’t provide a fair return), particularly when you don’t know where to turn.  Frustrations are aggravated by feelings that we’re not doing a good enough job, or that our problems are from lack of fairness.”     Drake Larsen, Practical Farmers of Iowa

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Goals such as saving enough money to send your kids to college, or even getting and maintaining health insurance, can be a major challenge as a small farmer. This blog will look into ways for new or existing farmers to enhance their livelihoods.  The five of us will post about potential challenges, opportunities and  social movements pertaining to farmers in the coming months with the hope of starting a wider conversation on these issues.

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Jim, daunted by the prospect of making the financial and time commitment necessary to start a farm, has looked into different financial and education resources available to new farmers.  Grady, lacking the knowledge necessary for running the day to day operations on a small scale farm, has investigated opportunities available for individuals to acquire that knowledge. Kathleen, a farmer turned graduate student, has looked into Value Added Products as a way for farms to find financial stability through diversification. Concerned with the health of the farm worker population, Devin is exploring current migrant health issues and access to care. And then, in order to understand how far the voice of the people have come in shaping the food and agricultural systems and what opportunities there in, Eben writes on public concerns and social movements in the food and agricultural system of the United States.

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We’re kind of like these guys when it comes to talking about farming, but not really

The five authors of this blog are taking a class together and decided to express our shared interest in agriculture, and the path on which it will continue to develop, in this blog.  All of us are graduate students at Michigan State University.  Four of us (Devin, Jim, Eben, and Kathleen) focus on community sustainability.  Additionally, we are joined by a plant breeder, Grady, who will also share his insights.  We hope that you’ll share some of your own thoughts with us and we can start to have a constructive conversation on some of these issues.

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