(NaturalNews) Formerly in a state of decline, the farming profession is surging back to life in Massachusetts.
"Last year, we broke the record for attendance [at farmer training courses],'' said Rick Chandler, director of the program, "and this year, we broke the record again.''
Between 1997 and 2001, the number of farms in the state dropped 20 percent. Between 2002 and 2007, however, it increased 27 percent to 7,691. Unlike earlier generations of farmers, however, many of the new farmers were not raised in rural Massachusetts.
"It used to be that young farmers grew up on farms, and learned from their parents and relatives,'' Chandler said. "That's not the case now.''
New farmers include recent college graduates, people starting second careers, and immigrants who were farmers in their native countries. Because farmland is sparse in the state, most of them lease land from the state, nonprofits, private landowners or other farmers, rather than purchasing it for themselves.
The newer farms are smaller than the farms of old, averaging 67 acres in 2007 in contrast to 85 acres in 2002. They are supported, in large part, by a growing demand for local, organic food and sell their produce to farmers markets, local restaurants and community-supported-agriculture (CSA) programs.
In a CSA program, members purchase "shares" of a farmer's harvest, thus guaranteeing the farmer a certain income and sharing in the risks and benefits of the farmer's business. The brand new Langwater Farm CSA in Easton has 60 subscribers who pay $525 a year, with 60 more people on the waiting list.
"We weren't prepared for how busy it's been,'' said cofounding farmer Alida Cantor.
"Buying local food straight from the farmer puts you in closer touch with the origin of the food, cuts a significant portion of the time and money spent transporting and "selling" the food, saves you money, and places more dollars in the pocket of those who produce your food," writes Gabriel Cousens in his book There Is a Cure for Diabetes.