It is an often quoted statistic in agriculture that the average age of the UK farmer is 59. What we can sometimes forget is that the UK picture is part of a wider social European landscape of older farmers. Only 7/10 per cent (conventional /organic) of all farmers in the European Union are below the age of 35 years.
This is particularly worrying as farming is an intergenerational activity. Whilst the product of farming is food, the aim of a sustainable farm can be described as stewardship of the land; to improve the quality of the soil and leave it to future generations in better shape than it was handed down from the previous generation.
Younger generations of farming families are now left unconvinced that agriculture is their path. Some are put off by the hard work yet corresponding lack of recognition their forefathers have experienced. In other cases there is enthusiasm to continue farming but the farm income will not support the older and younger generation simultaneously, leaving would-be farmers a late inheritance of the family land. The image of the farmer as an overworked older man perpetuates.
Future Farmers is offering an alternative narrative. The project, run by two young future farmers themselves, is in its second year of documenting the surge of vitality and enthusiasm of the next generation inspired to take up farming, either from farming backgrounds or new entrants in agriculture.
Juliane Haufe and Joris van der Kamp were searching for inspiration for their own journey into farming, confronted by issues such as land access, start-up capital and farm succession. Young farmers across Europe are leading the way and showing that diversified, sustainable, fair and local agriculture is possible. This is the vision that Juliane and Joris, supported by over 40 agricultural organisations, seek to share with other future farmers.
We may not make land anymore, but this project shows us that a new breed of farmer is emerging: one that is entrepreneurial, politically conscious and community-connected.
The project has been filming recently in Greece, Spain and France, with another 8 film shorts in the pipeline. I can’t help but notice that the project has not yet documented young farmers from the United Kingdom. Farmers and non-farmers, young and old, keep your eye on this one!
Future Farmers are on the look-out for future collaborators and young farmers. Their next documentary is about the German biodynamic farm community Hoggemeihschaft Heggelbach. Future Farmers in the Spotlight documentaries can be found here.
 Defra 2010
 DG Agri 2010