Changing Face of the American Farmer

    05 May, 2014


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Agriculture Report.

    Have you ever wondered what the average American farmer looks like? A new report says he is a 58-year-old white man. That information comes from the United States Census Bureau, a government agency that collects and studies information about the nation's population and economy.

    The report also says farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing population group. As these farmers retire, American agriculture will experience big changes. The report suggests what some of those changes might look like and why they might not be so bad.

    Adrienne Gibson works a small piece of land in the rolling north of Knoxville, Tennessee. She is something of a new face in American agriculture. First of all, she is a woman. And secondly, she is a minority, and she is succeeding in an industry controlled mostly by white men.

    Changing Face of the American Farmer
    Adrienne Gibson

    But the Census Bureau report suggests that may be changing. The number of minority farmers working American soil is growing, and fast. The report also suggests that U.S. farms are getting smaller.

    Adrienne Gibson earns money by using a Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, model of farming. As a CSA farmer, she raises food for a handful of buyers who agree to pay her before her crops are ready.

    "We have 23 CSA customers. They subscribe to supporting the farm, and in return they get a weekly basket of vegetables from May through October," said Gibson.

    Nate Phillips teaches farming at Middle Tennessee State University. He says smaller farms are partly a reaction to changes in the way Americans think about their food.

    "There's growing interest in where our food is coming from, what is the food quality, things like that. I think we'll continue to see that increase," said Phillips.

    This movement is often called farm to table, it means that more Americans are starting to buy food that is grown locally. And they want to know exactly where their food is coming from. Nate Phillips adds that more younger people are entering farming because of this trend.

    "I'm seeing a lot more students from Nashville, or the cities, that are coming in that didn't grow up around agriculture, weren't from an agricultural background, but had that interest," Phillips said.

    Nate Phillips thinks it is good that the people who grow food are beginning to look more like the people who eat it.

    "It reflects our general society. It reflects what our communities are like around us, and I think that's a great thing for agriculture," Phillips said.

    And that's the Agriculture Report, I'm Anna Matteo.