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The latest trend among millennials is agriculture, as young people leave desk jobs for better life

USDA reports increase in young farmers under 35
Posted at 9:57 PM, Jun 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-08 00:43:51-04

DENVER -- The newest trend among millennials: farming. It’s a movement of highly-educated urbanites trading desk jobs for field work. And it’s especially popular right now in Colorado.

"In this little blend here, we've got cabbage, broccoli and kale," said Harlan Blynn. Blynn is possibly in the best mood of his life, in a place where you might least expect him at this point of his life.

"Absolutely,” said Blynn. “I used to be a finance consultant."

The 30-something finds himself in a brand new career – farming.

“I keep getting emails from my MBA classmates, like, 'Are you ok?'" Blynn said.

His warehouse farm in Denver is called Topping Out Farms and focuses on micro greens.

"A micro-green is no different than a fully grown vegetable,” Blynn said. “Except that we harvest it at two-weeks-old."

Blynn is part of a new breed. For only the second time in the last century, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has recorded an increase in farmers under the age of 35.

Millennials appear to be capitalizing on the consumer of today who wants fresh, locally-grown produce.

"People want fresh,” Blynn said. “They want variety. They want nutrients."

The same career-change is true for 20-somethings Sarah Tamura and Andy Nye. The couple started growing vegetables in their backyard in Wheat Ridge.

"It just gets bigger every year,” Nye said. “So, we decided - let's try to make a little extra money on the side."

"Being able to watch things go from a seed to produce on your plate, that's pretty cool," Tamura said.

Despite bad press about their work-ethic, millennials do have the traits to be great farmers, according to a new survey from the National Young Farmer Coalition.

For starters, they're well-connected. They own an average 7.7 internet-connected devices, making them adept at using new agri-technology like GPS planting systems, hyper-local weather apps and new app-based irrigation techniques.

Just ask Blynn where he learned all the farming techniques he’s using today. “The internet,” he replies.

Also, millennials are in it for the long haul. Nearly 48 percent say they plan to or expect to work at least part-time well into retirement.

And finally, millennials value experiences over material goods. Most farmers say they do it because the love it, not for the money.

"There's something very satisfying about being able to see the work that you put into your daily life," said Tamura.

"Honestly, it's also nice not to have to put on a long-sleeve button down shirt every day," Blynn said.

“I think more farmers is a good thing," said Nye.

While young people aren't replacing the exact number of farmers we're losing on an annual basis, there's been a significant growth. In fact, the USDA puts the growth among those 24-35 at a 2.2 percent increase from 2007-2012.

“It's really encouraging that the younger generation is getting out there and wanting to pursue ag,” Tamura said. “And Coloradans, in particular, are passionate about where their food comes from.”