A surprising trend is emerging in one of America’s oldest industries: there is a growing number of millennials who are leaving their corporate jobs to become farmers. For only the second time in the last century, the number of farmers under 35 years old is increasing, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest Census of Agriculture. Sixty-nine percent of the surveyed young farmers had college degrees — significantly higher than the general population.
Driven by booming consumer demand for local and sustainable food and inspired by a desire to enact change in our food system, these millennial farmers are redefining the future of agriculture. From organic and vegan food production to cutting-edge agriculture technology, Salinas finds itself at the heart of this trend.
Salinas, long known as the “Salad Bowl of the World” for being the world’s lettuce production capital, is now being recognized for its abundance of millennial-owned startups in farming and agtech, including Lazy Millennial Farms. Founded in Salinas in 2016, Lazy Millennial is the region’s first veganic, community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm, and delivers their sustainably-grown food throughout the Bay Area. Popular Science recently featured Lazy Millennial Farms for their unique use of both old and new farming technologies, and their efforts to expand veganic farming to the Salinas community. Next week, Lazy Millennial Farms owner and operator Leo Sanchez will be speaking at the 2018 Forbes AgTech Summit, along with other young food industry mavens like Katie Forrest, Co-Founder of Epic Provisions.
The Salinas Valley’s young farming culture is thriving, thanks to local resources such as ALBA Organics, an organic farming incubator in Salinas where Lazy Millennial Farms got its start. ALBA provides land to help low-income workers and aspiring farmers get their start in organic farming. The program has produced more than 100 new organic farming businesses from its graduates. In addition to Lazy Millennial Farms, other success stories include Javier Zamora, who started as an ALBA farmer at 20 and is now a member of the company’s board.
Salinas also benefits from having one of the nation’s top agriculture technology incubators located in the heart of its downtown. The Western Growers Center for Innovation and Technology (WGCIT) houses 52 agtech startups and counting, many of which are led by young entrepreneurs who are working to change the future of farming. The startups at WGCIT are working to address some of the most pressing issues facing global food production, through collaborative efforts with the 2,400 agricultural companies represented by Western Growers.