Next generation of farmers face challenges

  • Posted: Monday, March 25, 2013 12:27 a.m.
People  enjoy a tasting of local foods by Bread Riot before a screening of the documentary ‘GROW!’ at Catawba College.
People enjoy a tasting of local foods by Bread Riot before a screening of the documentary ‘GROW!’ at Catawba College.

The Center for the Environment at Catawba College collaborated March 21 with Bread Riot to host a screening of the film “GROW!” on campus.

Bread Riot provided locally grown foods for a tasting before the film.


Set against the backdrop of rural Georgia, the film explores sustainable farming and the new face of agriculture.

“GROW!” features the next generation of farmers, who deviate from common stereotypes. Many are college graduates: would-be lawyers, doctors and accountants who have a passion for nature and sustainable, organic farming.

Raised on Lunchables and cafeteria food, they have a deep desire to re-connect with food sources.

Non-traditional in more than one way, most don’t own the land they operate. Instead, they are hired by the older generation to work as interns, apprentices or farm managers.

In the eyes of this innovative generation, providing the land is just as important as cultivating it.

After the screening, those who attended the event had the opportunity to hear from Amie Baudoin and Jeff Rieves, who are involved in local food production.

Baudoin, the owner and operator of Morgan Ridge Vineyards, shared some of the obstacles she overcame on her journey to live her dream.

From a long line of farmers, Baudoin didn’t initially intend to go into the family business. Instead, she went to college, traveled and worked in restaurants.

After her father died, her mother sold all but 33 acres of the farmland Baudoin grew up on. When Baudoin wearied of traveling and decided to come home, her mother gave the remaining land to her.

Her decision to start a vineyard was the result of several road trips she took with her husband.

“We’d get on the Harley and go,” she said. “We didn’t plan anything, not even where we were going.”

One day they stumbled across a vineyard and fell in love with wine making. When they decided to start their own, they had to build from the ground up.

It took them nearly a decade of hard work, but they did it, and now their award-winning wines are for sale locally.

“Basically, I went out and cultivated myself a dream,” Baudoin said.

Rieves, an N.C. Cooperative Extension Service agent who organized Carolina HomeGrown, spoke as well.

He laid out the two main challenges that younger farmers face: access to land and access to capital. Not everyone who wants to farm is born into a farming family or has the resources to accomplish his or her dreams.

He encouraged attendees to “put your money where your mouth is” and support their local growers.

One way individuals can help is through loans or renting of land. Organizations like Slow Money NC are set up as peer-to-peer lending groups, so that multiple people can loan money to a single farmer.

In turn, this will help the farmer to purchase the land or equipment they need to produce food that will ultimately make its way back to the community.

Rieves also encouraged attendees to buy food from local farms and to eat at restaurants that buy local produce.

“The choices you make will help keep these folks on the land, every time you take a bite of food,” Rieves said.

What’s local? The HomeGrown group defines it as within a 100-mile radius. Most often, he said, people will buy the cheapest food that will fill them up fastest, instead of food that provides the nutrients they need.

He challenged attendees to buy more carefully and to think critically about where their food comes from. A good place to start, he said, is the Salisbury Rowan Farmers Market, which now has a permanent home in the Wrenn House parking lot on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.

The evening ended with a question-and-answer session, which proved that audience members were interested in the impacts of chain stores on local farmers and what they could do to help impact food quality in their communities.

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