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New Generation Of Farmers Finds Purpose, Satisfaction Going Back To The Land

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Ann-Notarangelo_BIO-HEAD Ann Notarangelo
Ann Notarangelo is an award-winning journalist and is KPIX 5's...
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SUNOL (KPIX 5) — Helena Tuman always thought one day she’d have a glamorous job. But she found her calling after college, cultivating Happy Acre Farm.

“It’s the connection with the food and the seasonality and how it changes,” she explains when asked what attracted her to this life. “And I also get to work with my hands, which I enjoy, and get really dirty and tan at the same time,” she adds.

Helen is planting vegetables on a farm in the Sunol Ag Park — 20 acres owned by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission in the East Bay’s Sunol Valley.

Farmers here rent space to grow crops without having to invest much capital. More and more Helen’s fellow farmers are also twenty-somethings, the first in their families to work the land.

“We are kind of like the generation that is turning things around, becoming aware of what is going on in our food industry, of what we are eating,” said Matthew Sylvester.

It seems every couple of generations we see a back-to-the-land movement. The last one was in the 70s to 80s.

“I call myself an ‘accidental farmer’ because, after graduating with a liberal arts degree, I couldn’t get employed other than [in] a coffee shop,” Lindsey Parker told us.

Lindsey shuns the idea she’s part of a lost generation but admits her journey led her down an unlikely path. Her boss says young people need to step up because older farmers are quickly retiring.

“I can employ local, young people who are all excited about this … revival of knowledge of farming,” said Shawn Seufert, of Terra Bella Family Farm.

People drawn to farming are, by nature, optimists. These millennials are no exception.

Helena thinks success is “…if you are really happy with what you are doing and you are able to make a living out of it.”

In this case, living that philosophy means back-breaking work and few, if any, days off during growing season. Still, these young farmers are finding satisfaction on the urban edge.

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