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A California Farmer Goes In Search Of A Successor

The average age of a California farmer is 59. Who will grow our food when today’s farmers retire?

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 The average age of California farmers has climbed to 59 that's according to the USDA is latest census as this generational wave of farmers age out of the fields. They face big decisions about whether to sell the farm, pass the business onto family members or find an alternate path. As part of our grain, California series capital public radio's Julia metric brings us the story of a farming couple who struck a balance between their desire to stay on the farm and the financial calculus of retirement. River Hill farm is nestled below a steep ridge in the Sierra Nevada foothills. I internalize this whole place. Alan hate knows his farm by heart, even with his eyes closed.

Speaker 2: 00:47 I know every change in the pitch of the ground. I know where the best soil is. I know where the outcroppings are. I know where the buried rocks are that are too big to move that I avoid hitting with the tractor.

Speaker 1: 01:01 Alan and his wife, Jo Mc, proud came to farming as a second career in their forties together they built up a business selling organic vegetables, lettuce, and fruit to folks in Nevada city. And the hard work was worth it to them. The watering, the constant weeding, the sweaty summer harvest. But Joe says it took its toll pushing through those hard times. Was it doable? Through our fifties and then as we got into our sixties just the lack of sleep, the physical stress on our joints, you're not as resilient physically. We're getting older. The couple wanted the farm to continue beyond them. They also needed to draw an income for retirement. So they started scoping out the regional farming scene for a younger successor. They found Antonio Garza. I was looking for a longterm opportunity. I had been farming for, I think it was seven years at that point.

Speaker 1: 02:01 Antonio and his partner Daylen, we'd Crouch in the field picking Broccoli Raab and it's lesser known cousin. What does it again, the Spigarello, you got Riello Spigarello. Rob Spigarello is, uh, as also a leaf Broccoli. And it's also starting to flower this big Ariello. We'll go on pizzas at a local restaurant. As Antonio took the reins as farmer, he inherited local customers and clients that took Alan and Joe years to cultivate as part of a two year lease. He has use of the land and equipment in return. He pays the retired couple rent each month. They all expect this to grow into a longer term relationship chip. It's our baby and our passion and our life and if we were here watching it wither and die, it would be really heartbreaking. It would be terrible. Instead, the farm successions along smoothly, Joe and Alan live on at their house overlooking fields in orchards.

Speaker 3: 03:07 I have to say, you know, it's an icy snowy morning and looking out and seeing Antonio and Daylan out doing the harvesting the Brussel sprouts this morning and I was pretty happy with my cup of coffee and they have,

Speaker 1: 03:23 there are other perks to retirement. Alan and Joe get to spend time with their first grandchild. Allen's planning five backpacking adventures this summer and the couple's going on a bunch of road trips. They'll cherish time spent together. Not talking about the farm in Nevada city. I'm Julia metric.

Speaker 4: 03:47 Okay.

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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.