In an age of industrial agriculture on a global scale, the business of growing and selling food locally seems an unlikely second career. But a confluence of market forces and social trends is luring boomers anxious to connect with the soil later in life.Not only are small farms on the rise, but, as we've mentioned here, farmers markets and community-supported agriculture (CSAs) have surged in popularity as the Boomers move towards their golden years. These fifty and sixty-somethings retained some of that idealism from their formative years, and now have assets to put behind their dreams. Most of these farms aren't making huge profits, but as one new Boomer farmer notes "If you can see where your food comes from, you can live in beauty. I decided to live in beauty rather than to make a lot of money." Now that's what we call retirement! :: AARP Bulletin
"This is the generation that read Rachel Carson [Silent Spring, 1962] and began looking for alternatives to pesticides," says Elaine Marie Lipson, author of The Organic Foods Sourcebook (McGraw-Hill Contemporary Books). "They wanted to change the world, and they did. They're economically powerful, and they're interested in having healthy, energetic lives. And they always will be."
Celebrity chef Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., and other professional foodies tapped into the trend in the 1970s and helped accelerate it. They hooked a segment of boomers on the taste and health advantages of fresh-from-the-farm food over products packaged and then shipped across continents before they reach supermarket aisles.
Demand spurred supply, creating opportunities for new approaches to old ideas about community agriculture. Instead of having to ramp up production to achieve economies of scale to compete in a global commodities market, even relatively small-scale farmers can make a go of it by thinking local.
That's reflected by an uptick in small farms—10 to 49 acres—according to the federal government's latest Census of Agriculture. And among farmers in their jobs four years or less, 27 percent are age 55 or older.
Ah, the sixties. Peace, love, understanding, and lots of organic gardening. While the Baby Boomer generation drifted away from its hippy roots in subsequent decades, a number of them are returning to the land after conquering the business world and suburbia in the 80s and 90s. According to the AARP Bulletin, small, local and mostly organic farms are providing a second career for many that came of age during the Vietnam era, and now want to return to a least some of the ideals that drove them when they were younger: