New farmers cultivate a greener future

While fewer Americans are farming, newbies are more likely to be minorities and women

Warren and Chris Ford in their soybean field.Warren Ford wakes up at 4 a.m. Not long after, he arrives at the fields filled with peas, members of his family in tow. They pick and weed until 2 p.m. When everyone else heads home, Ford gets on his tractor and works on his soybean fields until the sun sets.

He’s 26 years old and it’s his farm, his land, his dream.

“I don’t know why I love it, but I do. I just love it,” says Ford as he heads back home from the Clanton, Alabama, field at about 8 p.m on a recent weekday.

“I plan to do row cropping for the rest of my life. I’m going to retire here.”

Ford, who started the 200-acre farm (aptly named Ford Farms) in 2013, is part of a group of new farmers in the United States.

According to the most recent U.S. Agricultural Census, there are 2.1 million farmers in the country, and about 25 percent — 522,056 — are new farmers, people who have been on their land less than 10 years. About half of those newbies started within the past five years.

The Ag Census is taken every five years, and asks farmers about their crops, their income, Internet use and their use of alternative power, like solar panels.

Although fewer Americans are farming nowadays, more newbies are likely to be women or minorities than in previous years. The increase was particularly high among Hispanics (21 percent).

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