Agriculture in the United States today offers countless choices, both for the farmer and the consumer. “There’s a lot of direction. It’s just a matter of which direction people want to go, and there are definitely choices,” says Rosella Mosby, co-owner of Mosby Farms in the beautiful Green River Valley of Auburn, Washington. Mosby’s responsibilities include managing the on-farm market, community supported agriculture (CSA), community outreach, education programs, social media, and marketing. She believes that investing in the future of agriculture is vital to ensure future generations of farmers.
Mosby recently visited Japan for a countrywide speaker program on agricultural entrepreneurship sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. In an interview with American View, she spoke about new trends in American agriculture. “I think agriculture is going in two directions,” she said. “You have more of the smaller, organic farms that are doing CSA, which is community supported agriculture. It’s basically a subscription where you prepay your money to the farmer, the farmer buys the seed, repairs equipment, and then when harvest comes, you pick up a box once a week of fresh vegetables. Then on the flip side, you have GPS and big tractors, which means you have more efficiency per acre.”
Community supported agriculture has been gaining momentum since its introduction to the United States from Europe in the mid-1980s. It is a way for members of the community to enjoy the bounty of local farms throughout the growing season and gain satisfaction from participating directly in food production. CSA programs also allow growers and consumers to share some of the risks of agriculture, including poor harvests due to unfavorable weather or pests. Many CSA farmers use organic or biodynamic farming methods to respond to their members’ demands for fresh, healthy, high-quality products.
According to Mosby, the growing market for organic food in the United States is a result of Americans becoming increasingly health conscious. “I think there’s the younger person who wants to know where their food is coming from,” she said. “They want to know how it was raised and they don’t want something that they feel has a lot of chemicals on it. I think that people are coming back to organic, simple, clean, whole foods prepared at home.”
Agritourism is another new marketing trend in American agriculture. Many farm owners are creating new income by inviting tourists to visit for the day or even stay overnight. They can learn to milk a cow, pick fresh strawberries, or even hold a wedding reception in a barn. “I think agritourism plays a role in getting people out of the city and connecting with the farm,” explained Mosby. “You come to the farm or a weekend, you do farm chores, feed the cows, weed. You are exposing people to that lifestyle so that you might interest more people” in rural communities and agriculture.
Mosby Farms has found another way to spark interest in agriculture among young people – literally putting them to work on the farm. “We decided to start a youth crew and they start at seven in the morning and work until noon for ten weeks during the summer,” said Mosby. “We think it’s a valuable piece of the future of farming. I think they have a new appreciation for farming by the end of the summer.” In addition to exposing young people to the satisfaction of hard work and watching things grow, the program also helps to alleviate the labor shortage during harvesting season. “We have a 350 acre farm which is all hand weeded and hand harvested, so it requires quite a few people,” said Mosby.
Nowadays, working on a farm doesn’t have to mean driving a tractor or harvesting crops in the field. According to Mosby, agriculture offers a wide range of career options. In addition to farm hands and equipment maintenance crews, many farms today hire people to handle food safety issues, web design, marketing, community outreach, and education. When asked about the merits of a career in agriculture, Mosby sid, “It’s a lot of hard work, but the benefit and the lifestyle, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s satisfying and you’re helping people.”