Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture


Youth and Urban Agriculture

Written by Ken Hargesheimer
February, 1998
Gardens/Mini-Farms Network
Teaching organic, biointensive, raised-bed mini-farming, mini-ranching worldwide.
Phone 806-744-8517
Fax 806-747-0500
Box 1901 Lubbock TX 79408-1901 USA

In the Dec 19 issue of Texas Agriculture, the president of the Texas Farm Bureau discussed "Who Will Farm the Land?". I would like to present the reason for the problem. Solutions are obvious. I grew up on a farm and had three years of vocational agriculture and FFA. I have a BS in agriculture from TTU [1957]. This year I have begun farming [9 acres] again.

That young people are not interested in farming and ranching is a fact. Why? I blame the people working in farming and ranching today. Everything that young people hear is negative. You can make a list. The problem is not money. I do not see farmers and ranchers living in shantytowns or driving a jalopy pickup.

While substitute teaching in vo-ag [vocational agriculture] in a high school, I decided to survey my seven classes as to how many students were interested in production agriculture. In the first class I asked to see a show of hands. A hand went up and came the question, "What is production agriculture?" Only two students in those seven classes were interested. Many subjects covered are not related to production of food and fiber. They are told that to farm they must have over a 1000 acres of land, a $100,000 tractor and funds to operate. That is not true but is it any wonder the students are are turned off? What program is in place to help young people with the financial cost of entering farming/ranching? Stop replacing management skills with money and high tech.

The worst thing to happen to agriculture in the last two decades is vocational agriculture and FFA [Future Farmers of America]. No one encourages young people to enter agriculture. Right now at the Mall in Lubbock, TX, is an advertisement by math teachers encouraging students to study and enter the math field. Most groups do this in some way but not farmers and ranchers. FFA is no longer Future Farmers of America. FFA and vocational agriculture were changed to get greater number of students even if they are not interested in farming and ranching. Someone forgot why VA and FFA existed. The goal is more bodies; not more farmers and ranchers. They have had great success.

Young people today are aware of our water, soil and air problems and believe, correctly, that no one has a right to poison them. Agriculture poisons our soil and water and therefore our food. Yet, there is proof that there is just as great a loss of food to pests as before their use. The chemicals are the same ones used in WWII to kill people. There is a grassroots movement back to organic, profitable farming and ranching as before the chemical companies got farmers to buy into their propaganda. Healthy soil produces healthy crops; sick soil produces sick crops.

The number of family farms, producing chemical-free food for local consumers, is exploding across the country. Young people will buy this but they have to be told of the opportunities . Who will inform them? I have prepared a two page paper to help plus a paper by George Kuepper [Kerr Center/ATTRA]. Request by email or send a SASE to the address above. Every seminar/workshop/camp on entrepreneurship/employment for young people should have someone there to present farming and ranching as an opportunity for financial success, quality of life and happiness.

Mini-Agriculture - Youth Edition

Market gardening, Mini-farming, Mini-ranching There is unlimited opportunity in mini-farming and mini-ranching. People can have a comfortable income, a high quality lifestyle, provide a great service to their community and it is a great way to raise kids. A woman took a one week course, went to Alaska, prepared the land and sold $20,000 worth of vegetables [then had a six months vacation]. Bouake, Cote d'Ivoire, is an example of urban agriculture. Every vacant piece of land is planted. Even the land between the street and the property line is growing corn and yams. Vacant lots and land are everywhere in this country.

Urban Agriculture: The Untapped Potential. Urban Ag has the potential to provide many benefits to cities - in nutritional improvement, hunger reduction, income generation, enterprise development and environmental enhancement. The poor and unemployed can grow their own food. Farming converts degraded and unkept vacant lots into healthy, green areas. Waste [grass, leaves, trees, sawdust, manure, food waste] can be composted and used on the farms. City governments must recognize the potential of urban agriculture and accord it the status given to other industries and economic activities in the city.
Urban Ag Network. Read: Urban Agriculture: Food, Jobs and Sustainable Cities;
A Patch of Eden, H P Hynes, 1996.

Land: Every city has vacant land: churches, factories, city/county/federal governments, land developers, individuals, schools, universities, offices. The tax office has land that has been repossessed for unpaid taxes. Lubbock, TX allows those lots/land to be farmed by individuals, community gardens, etc. Check with the local tax office.

Free Enterprise/Micro-entrepreneurship: Free enterprise was the foundation of the founding of this nation. People should take risks based on their abilities and hard work. It offers personal freedom and unlimited opportunity. Micro-loan programs are spreading across the country so financing is available to help one get started in mini-agriculture. Mini-Farm Incubators provide low-cost land, irrigation, some tools, etc for mini-farmers and mini-ranchers. This is without high start-up cost for the individuals. A farmer's market can be on site. These are very successful. Contact: The Intervale Foundation, 802-660-3508 fax 3501

Youth: Students are being told by counselors, parents and teachers to go to college but what they are not being told is that 57% of those who enter will not graduate. And of those who do graduate, it is estimated that 30% will not be able to find employment over the next five years. Students must be informed that there is unlimited opportunity in mini-agriculture. The Baccalaureate Game: Is It Right For All Teens? K Gray, Kappan, April, 1996. Contact: Intervale Foundation

Youth Training: Classes should be conducted to teach leaders and youth. They can be anywhere at anytime. Boy Scout Explorer Posts can be organized in urban agriculture. Urban-ag groups can be organized in schools, churches, synagogues, boys and girls clubs, community centers and neighborhoods. Summer camps should offer gardening, mini-farming and mini-ranching or new camps could be established. Retired gardeners can be mentors for young garderners.

Youth At Risk: The solution to youth problems is W O R K. They acquire self- esteem, stay busy, feel useful, learn self-discipline and earn money. Gardening has been found by San Antonio, TX to be the most effective solution to the youth problem. It is much more effective than sports. Records show that after students are involved in gardening that their school attendance, morale and grades improve. Gang activity decreases sharply in neighborhoods where the youth are engaged in gardening. Mini-ranching will be even more effective with some youth and it can be done in the city. "Intervention and prevention before the kids are caught up in the justice system is much less costly in human lives and dollars." Dr. R Wampler. "I have never had a kid involved in 4-H in juvenile court." Judge Whiteaker. Read: "No Matter How Loud I shout-A year in Judge Dorn's Juvenile Court", Ed Humes.

Gangs: Their first priority is unconditional love from someone. The second priority is a decent, regular job. This is true among those selling drugs. "I feel so terrible when I sell drugs but I have to support my lady and baby. I feel so good inside when I work, sweat and take home a paycheck." Gang member. Many gangs have more students in the gifted range of IQ than the average suburban high school. They are not satisfied with labor jobs. Father Greg and the Homeboys, 1995, C Freman. Use their abilities as urban mini-farmers/ranchers on intercity vacant land.

Crime Prevention: A Philadelphia police officer noted that crime decreased from 40 to 4 incidents per month after she started a gardening program. On Dearborn Street, San Francisco, CA, the crime rate dropped 26% after one year of gardening.

These pages are taken from a six page [how-to] USA/Canada Edtion. Send a SASE for a copy. P. S. I am available to teach workshops anywhere at anytime.

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Revised February 8, 1998

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture