Food

Meet Four Young Farmers Who Are Rising to the Challenge of Water Scarcity in the Western U.S.

A new short film highlights the joys and challenges of being a young farmer in the arid West.

film still from "Conservation Generation" - National Young Farmers Coalition
Photo Credit: National Young Farmers Coalition

A new short film, Conservation Generation, offers a look into the lives of four young farmers and ranchers in Colorado and New Mexico who are following their passion for agriculture amidst historic drought, climate change, development, and heightened competition for water. 

Fifteen percent of all U.S. crops are grown with irrigation water that originates in the Colorado River Basin, making Western agriculture an issue that is crucial to the lives and dinner plates of all Americans. Many of the holiday meals consumed in the coming weeks will include produce grown by farmers in the arid West. 

Despite the importance of Western agriculture, farmers are in increasingly short supply. The average age of the American farmer is 58, and farmers over 65 outnumber farmers under 35 by a ratio of six-to-one. According to the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC), the nonprofit organization that produced Conservation Generation as well as a report by the same name, lack of access to affordable land and water are two of the biggest issues preventing more young people from succeeding in agriculture.

“There are a number of challenges faced by young farmers, but in the West, all of those issues are compounded by the increasing demands on water,” says Kate Greenberg, western water program director for NYFC. “As the film shows, young farmers face these challenges with a spirit of innovation and a deep commitment to conservation and place. A good sense of humor helps, too.”

According to the report produced by NYFC, 97 percent of young farmers surveyed considered water conservation important and 94 percent reported using some form of conservation on their farms.

Conservation Generation features four young farmers in Colorado and New Mexico: 

Each of the farmers has also been blogging about the joys and challenges of farming in the arid West; view the film and read their stories at youngfarmers.org/conservationgeneration.

Watch the film here:

Chelsey Simpson is the Communications Director at National Young Farmers Coalition. She previously served as executive editor of Oklahoma Living magazine and communications manager for the National Farm to School Network. She is also a longtime member and past-president of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative. Now a resident of Brooklyn, Chelsey grew up on a fifth-generation dairy farm.

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