Farmers are aging across the globe, and fewer young folks are willing to take over farms due to stigmas surrounding agricultural work, barriers to entry, and limited access to markets.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that the average age of a farmer is 57.5 years, close to the retirement age, in the United States. According to a recent report by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the average age of paid farmers across the Global South is 43 years. And in Japan, where the country is already facing an aging population, the average age of a farmer is 67 years old.
As the world’s farming population grows older, the future of farming and food security is increasingly at risk. “The biggest fear is that, with time, as the more productive senior members of the community diminish in number, agriculture production will suffer in the long run and so will food security and the health of the population around the world,” Sande Olocho, program coordinator of the Future Young Farmers, tells Food Tank.
A recent study in the scientific journal Sustainability demonstrates the importance of providing agricultural opportunities for young people, which can address youth unemployment and poverty. Youth also play a critical role in shaping innovative and inclusive agri-food systems by promoting the adoption of new technologies and helping to elevate marginalized voices.
Organizations around the world are working tirelessly to provide these opportunities, encourage youth in food production, and help make food systems more sustainable. Many are providing education as well as financial and technical resources for youth to enter and thrive in the agricultural sector. And all of them are working to dismantle negative perceptions of farm work and develop the next generation of leaders.
Food Tank is highlighting 29 organizations around the world who are supporting young farmers and rural youth.
1. 4-H, United States
First established over 100 years ago, 4-H is now the largest youth development organization in the U.S. The organization works with over six million participants and with a community of more than 100 public universities to address key societal issues such as health inequalities and advocating for equity for all. They host a variety of hands-on programs in agriculture, civic engagement, and healthy living to help youth and their families develop the skills to become proactive members of their communities.
2. Agricultural Students Association of the Philippines, Philippines
The youth-led association serves as a platform for students from 11 universities and colleges across the Philippines. It supports youth in modernizing and developing the agricultural sector, while breaking stigmas surrounding agriculture. Through educational programs, the association empowers and engages Filipino youth in the agricultural sector to ensure a food secure Philippines where farming, fishing, and livestock production are also secure livelihoods.
3. Anera, Middle East
Anera is an international NGO helping people in conflict-affected zones in Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan. They provide emergency relief as well as long-term programs geared towards sustainable health, education, and economic development. In Akkar, Lebanon, Anera established an accelerated vocational agriculture course to teach unemployed youth the basics of agriculture, and how to develop their own agri-business. The produce grown from the program is delivered locally to vulnerable families affected by rising food prices.
4. Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Land Development, Asia
The association is an alliance of national farmers across Asia, consisting mostly of small-scale family farmers and marginalized communities. They envision a socially just, economically viable, environmentally sustainable, and resilient farming system in Asian communities. The association prioritizes youth engagement in agriculture and builds their capacities towards sustainable farming and related activities.
5. Bund der Deutschen Landjugend, Germany
Founded in 1949, The Federation of Germany Rural Youth is the largest rural youth association in Germany. The goal of ensuring a sustainable future for youth in rural environments drives the federation’s involvement in politics surrounding youth, education, agriculture, and viticulture at the local and national level.
6. Canadian Young Farmers’ Forum, Canada
Through a variety of educational programs, the forum provides leadership training, capacity building, and workshops to increase young farmers and producers knowledge about the agricultural sector in Canada. They also regularly hold conferences and events to encourage networking.
7. European Council of Young Farmers (CEJA), Europe
CEJA is a platform for communication between young European farmers and policymakers. The platform aims to promote a younger and more innovative agricultural sector across all European countries. They also support young farmers by advancing good working and living conditions, access to land and funds, and strengthening educational and training facilities in rural areas.
8. Farm Africa, Kenya
Farm Africa works in several countries across Africa to develop the agricultural sector, protect the environment, and support businesses in rural areas. Their project, Youth Empowerment in Sustainable Agriculture in Kenya provides seed funding for youth to start their own agri-businesses, as well as relevant training courses on agronomic practices, technology, business planning, and credit management. They also improve youth access to financial support and national and international markets.
9. Future Young Farmers, Kenya
Future Young Farmers was developed by the Beverly School of Kenya (BSK). Future Young Farmers focuses on agriculture and financial literacy. They equip students with financial, agribusiness, and social skills that they can take back to their own communities, use to develop their own agri-business pursuits or move to higher level education in the agricultural sector.
10. Greenhorns, United States
Greenhorns promotes, recruits, and supports the next generation of farmers in local, regional, and international settings. They produce a variety of media productions including books, films, podcasts, online curriculum, and workshops focused on providing resources for young farmers.
11. Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture Barbados Youth Farm Program, Barbados
The program focuses on empowering youth in the agricultural sector by helping them gain skills to start their own agri-business including using relevant agro-technologies, aquaculture, livestock, and crop production. They also host an eight-week intensive program during summer months to train youth interested in farming.
12. Jeunes Agriculteurs, France
Jeunes Agriculteurs, meaning “young farmers” in French, is the only agricultural union in France dedicated entirely to young farmers under the age of 35. They envision a sustainable family farming system and work to support the next generation of farmers. Created in 1957, the union regularly organizes a variety of activities including education and training for youth, supporting young farmers’ interests and needs, and developing innovative solutions in the agricultural sector as well as rural areas.
13. Junior Farmers’ Association of Ontario (JFAO), Canada
JFAO consists of young farmers and rural youth. They host a variety of activities including cultural events, fundraisers, and training for the next generation of leaders in the rural and agricultural sector.
14. Kaima, Israel
Kaima, meaning “sustainability” in Aramaic, is an organic farm in Israel that serves as an educational work environment for Israeli dropout youth. They combine hands-on organic farming, leadership development, business learning, and community development to help improve the lives of at-risk youth, provide them with a career in the agricultural sector, and improve local food security. The Kaima model inspired several sister farms across Israel and in Tanzania.
15. Kenarva, Kenya
As a Kenyan, youth-owned agribusiness, the company offers solutions to food and environmental challenges from a social impact perspective. The team consists of youth trained in agricultural technology who offer services including project planning, setting up, management and technical support for others who hope to enter the agricultural sector. They also promote food safety and combat food waste and loss.
16. Midori Farm, Japan
Midori Farm is a volunteer-based non-profit organization in Kyoto and Kutsuki, Japan. They revive farmland and rural areas with organic farming projects and host educational events for the public. The farm provides opportunities for young people to learn about organic farming, and work regularly on the farm.
17. National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (NFYFC), United Kingdom
NFYFC is led by young people, for young people interested in agriculture and rural life. As one of the largest rural youth organizations, NFYFC provides over 19,000 members between the ages of 10 to 28 with the opportunity to develop relevant skills, work with local communities, and take part in national programs related to food, farming, and rural life.
18. National Young Farmers Coalition, United States
The coalition is a community of young farmers, ranchers, and supporters across the U.S. who aim to transform food and farm systems to one that is more just, equitable, and environmentally sustainable. They advocate for policies that support young farmers and work with social justice movements to ensure a future which respects people, land, and the relationships between them. The coalition also offers services to assist young farmers in business challenges, land access and conservation, and other educational and training opportunities.
19. Next Generation Foundation, United States
The Niman Ranch Next Generation Foundation supports the next generation of leaders in the agricultural sector. Working with a number of companies and individuals, the foundation offers scholarships to young farmers and rural youth who are committed to advancing a sustainable future and reviving rural communities.
20. Nigerian Young Farmers’ Network, Nigeria
Amahah founded the network in 2014 to unite youth, combat rising rates of youth unemployment, address population growth, and ensure food security. The network aims to address the knowledge gap driving youth apathy towards agriculture in Nigeria by offering technical and financial resources as well as training, education, and networking opportunities for youth interested in the agricultural sector.
21. NZ Young Farmers (NZYF), New Zealand
NZYF is a non-profit organization in New Zealand connecting rural communities and helping develop future leaders in the agricultural sector. They host educational and networking opportunities, skills training, and entry into Young Farmer competitions and awards. Their work also expands to urban environments where they host a series of activities to teach students and teachers about careers in the agricultural sector.
22. PAMANAKA, Philippines
PAMANAKA is the youth branch of the larger PAKISAMA, the 33-year old national movement and confederation of small farmers, fishermen, indigenous people, and rural women. The organization consists of people dedicated to building a socially just, economically viable, and environmentally sustainable future for rural communities. They advocate for enhanced market power, participation in policy spaces, and asset ownership. PAMANAKA allocates funds for projects to improve youth’s skillsets, access markets, and help spearhead their agri-business activities.
23. Rikolto, Global
Rikolto is an international NGO working with farmer organizations across Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. They invest in youth through several programs including supporting sustainable cacao production among next generation farmers in Central America and youth horticulturalists in Tanzania.
24. Shared Harvest, Beijing
Ski Yan founded Shared Harvest in 2012 in an effort to address her concerns about the extensive environmental damage caused by industrial farming practices. Shared Harvest is a completely organic farm and one of the first farms to follow the Community Support Agriculture (CSA) model in China. The farm educates and supports youth who are turning away from the city-life to work in sustainable farming.
25. Syndicat des Organizations Agricoles (SOA)-Mitsinjo, Madagascar
SOA-Mitsinjo is an organization training young farmers in the Analamanaga region of Central Madagascar to improve their entrepreneurial skills and seize market opportunities. With the support of Madagascar’s National Union of Producers, members of the organization also receive training on resilient agriculture, water and soil fertility management to help them become involved in agroecological practices and reforestation.
26. The Future Farmers’ Network (FFN), Australia
Since 2002, the youth-led organization has focused on supporting youth in agriculture addressing the lack of communication about opportunities in the agricultural sector. FFN provides young farmers with access to educational tools, online mentoring, and scholarships to assist members in furthering their careers in the agricultural sector. The organization also hosts monthly networking events and conferences for young farmers, such as the “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” project which aims to improve young people’s connection to rural industries.
27. World Farmers’ Organization (WFO), Global
The WFO is an organization for farmers created by farmers around the world. They represent farmers’ voices and advocate on their behalf in public and private spaces. The 30 month long program, WFO Gymnasium, trains young farmers to become leaders in the agricultural sector with the support of international leaders across the sector.
28. WHYFarm, Trinidad and Tobago
Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Alpha Sennon created WHYFARM (We Help Youth Farm) to address food insecurity in Trinidad and Tobago and promote sustainable agriculture among youth and children. WHYFARM aims to refocus the regional agricultural sector to prioritize youth engagement. The organization creates spaces for youth to be involved in agriculture relation decision-making, provides capacity building opportunities, and hosts programs to empower young agripreneurs, such as the Agripreneur Mastermind Program Summit.
29. Youth Farm Network, Southeast Asia
The Youth Farm Network (Y-Farm) works with youth across several countries: Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Burma. The farm, which recently won a grant from the U.S. Department of State, works to support youth and farming activities in these countries by engaging young people in the agricultural sector. Several programs have focused on building several educational farms, school gardens, training in organic agriculture activities, and community farming. The program covers issues related to climate change and conservation.
30. Young Agrarians, Canada
The success of US-based organizations, Greenhorns and the National Young Farmers Coalition, inspired volunteers to create Young Agrarians in 2012. The organization serves as a resource network for new and young ecological, organic, and regenerative farmers in Canada. They are committed to offering inclusive programs and services for farmers of diverse backgrounds. Built on the principles of agroecology, participation, food sovereignty, and inclusion, Young Agrarians stand by the belief that the environment must be cared for and respected.
Morgane Batkai is a French-American Research and Writing Fellow at Food Tank who has lived in the US and across Europe.
She earned her B.A. in Cultural Studies at the University of Kent in the U.K. and her M.A. in Food Politics at the European School of Political and Social Sciences in Lille, France. She is currently a PhD candidate at the Open Universiteit where she studies how social learning can promote resilience in small-scale agriculture. Her research interests include food sovereignty, environmental and social justice, and sustainable agriculture.
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