The average farmer in the United States is nearly 58 years old, and that number continues to climb, according to the 2017 Census of Agriculture. In support of fostering a new generation of young farmers to steward the land in Western North Carolina, Hickory Nut Gap Farm will join forces with the National Young Farmers Coalition to host a free dinner and networking event for new and future farmers on Thursday, Sept. 26.
Part of the mission of the NYFC, which bills itself as an “advocacy network of young farmers fighting for the future of agriculture,” is to work for state and federal policy change. But HNGF co-owner and co-founder Jamie Ager makes it clear that the upcoming gathering is not really about politics. “This is more about young folks in agriculture supporting each other and seeing agriculture as an opportunity to build community,” he says. “Our mission [at HNGF] is to build community through agriculture, and what we really mean is that we want to connect the dots between soil health and animal health and human health and how all that stuff matters.”
The event has a strong focus on fun and fellowship — there will be drinks and a free buffet of farm-raised barbecue and other dishes prepared by the HNGF culinary team along with guided square dancing and live music by Bull Moose Party. But in addition, a representative of the NYFC will talk about the organization’s lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C., on behalf of young farmers. Other groups, including the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, N.C. Extension/FarmLink, Organic Growers School and the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, will also be there with guest speakers and information booths.
Ager points out that the get-together is not just open to those who are actively engaged in farming. “This is for folks who are wanting to pay attention to agriculture, see what opportunities are out there, explore new marketing options and creatively think about how we can solve those big-picture problems and get back on the land, because, at the end of the day, that’s the most important thing, I think,” he says. “We’re in a whole paradigm shift, rethinking the whole way that people relate to food. We need all the help we can get, and young people have a lot of energy.”
WHAT: National Young Farmers Coalition dinner
WHERE: Hickory Nut Gap Farm, 57 Sugar Hollow Road, Fairview, RSVP at avl.mx/6ia.
WHEN: 5-9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26. Free