I had the opportunity to attend the biennial Rhode Island Women in Agriculture conference. At this event, I met an astounding young woman, Harley-Anne Rose, the Miss United States Agriculture for Massachusetts. I was immediately struck with the fact that she is the future of agriculture.
It’s no secret that the average farmer is aging out of the industry. There is an ever-increasing number of farms and farmers with no succession plan and no one to take over after they’re gone. These farms and these farmers represent a way of life that is in decline. They represent rural communities that are struggling to survive.
Worse yet, our demands to feed our ever increasing and aging population is more unstable with every farm that is lost. I overheard the saying more than once at these conferences that “once a housing development is planted on a farm, that is the last crop you will ever see.”
That’s why Harley-Anne and the Women in Agriculture are so important to our organization. We see an increasing number of young women like Harley-Anne entering agriculture. They come into the field after college with multiple degrees. Many are from areas not traditionally considered related to Ag - such as finance, marketing, and science - but bring a whole new way of doing business.
They have new ideas and a fresh outlook. They are eager to strike out and make a difference in an industry that many Americans have become disconnected from. They are on a mission to, as our own Secretary Sonny Perdue says, “Do good, and feed people”.
Harley-Anne is walking in the footsteps of some great women farmers that came before her. Caroline Pam of Kitchen Garden Farm was the keynote speaker for the event. Kitchen Garden Farm has benefited from multiple USDA programs, to produce and market their 2017 Good Food Award winning handcrafted sriracha.
Caroline with her husband and co-owner, Steve Wilcox, started with a single acre. They now have a thriving operation producing their line of sriracha, salsas and USDA certified organic peppers and produce. Through innovative thought and fresh eyes, they have made great strides into a thriving market of locally produced foods.
As we celebrate Women’s History Month, it is important to recognize today's Women in Agriculture who are making history. They are going into the fields with a fresh perspective and a new lease on the future of agriculture. We celebrate the success of Caroline Pam and support the ambition of Harley-Anne and all the other young women who are the future of agriculture.
I can see that the future of agriculture and rural communities in Southern New England are in the capable hands of Women in Agriculture.