State’s first National Young Farmers Coalition chapter kicks off with potluck

Published 8:55 am Monday, February 15, 2016

With the national average age of farmers currently at 58, there’s a sense of urgency around the need to motivate a younger generation to embrace agriculture.
Local farmers Camille Cody and Melissa Rebholz are on the forefront of that initiative by organizing the first National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) chapter in Tennessee.
An invitation goes out to any and all young farmers from Knoxville all the way to Mountain City for the first meeting, Rebholz said.
“Now more than ever, we as young farmers need to collaborate and work together to share information, wisdom, and resources in order to continue the important job of growing food for our communities and surrounding regions,” Cody said.
The inaugural meeting will be held on Feb. 17 at Depot Street Brewery in Jonesborough from 6-8 p.m. Those interested in attending are asked to bring a snack or dish to share. Guests are also encouraged to bring a plate, cup and utensils in order to make the event as sustainable as possible. A variety of beers will be available on tap as well.
“It’s a mixer and potluck,” Rebholz said. “It’s very informal.”
Rebholz wants to see farmers, who have been active for 10 years or less, gain access to a support system through this NYFC endeavor.
“We will pinpoint the needs of young farmers in our area specifically,” she said. “We also want to embrace farmers who have just begun or are seeking more community support.”
Rebholz and Cody would like topics of discussion to include, but not be limited to: land access, buying clubs, distribution and peer-to-peer training.
“Communication and coming together is vital to our survival since so many forces — economic, social, practical, physical, and climatic — are against us,” Cody said. “It’s getting harder and harder to access affordable land on which to grow our nation’s food supply. We need each other, not only for moral support, but for team-building and shaping politics that will put farm land and food regulations in a more accessible arena for those of us working for the health and food security of our communities.”
The NYFC estimates that roughly two thirds of farmland in America will need a new farmer over the next 25 years.
“Tennessee, especially East Tennessee, is still fairly new to the local and sustainable food movements,” Cody said. “With many surrounding states already having active NYFC chapters — not to mention more established sustainable agricultural resources at both the community and university level — it’s about time we young farmers in Tennessee come together to discuss challenges and needs, to celebrate successes and accomplishments, and to further build and strengthen a network of resources that will benefit anyone who eats.”
NYFC was formed in 2009 to represent, mobilize and engage young farmers in order to ensure future success and a healthy, sustainable food system, according to Cody & Rebholz.
“I think at this first meeting we hope to swap howdies and get to know each other as farmers in this very diverse part of the state, which includes flat land, foothills, and mountains,” Cody said. “I hope we’ll share contacts and resources for things like organic mulches, bulk supply ordering, and animal feed. I think we could build an online presence and calendar of future meetings and events to bring us all together, or form action committees based on what we see the highest needs of our region’s young farmers are.”
For more information about NYFC, go online to

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