Children and the Modern Farming Movement | J Dreby, M Carr | Sociological Forum

In the twenty‐first century, a small percentage of U.S. children have ties to family‐based agriculture. Yet with the rise of the modern farming movement that emphasizes local and family‐based production, new spaces may exist for involving children and youth in farming. This article focuses on the social value of children to family‐based agriculture in the contemporary era. Drawing on a qualitative study of families that farm in the capital region of New York—an epicenter for the modern food movement—we consider why families farm, how they involve children in their farms, and how they understand children’s contributions. Interviews with 76 adult members of 50 families show children to be central to families’ goals; they often rationalize farming as a lifestyle choice undertaken for the benefit of their children. Families also actively involve their own children—and other people’s children—in their farms. By documenting the way families talk about children and farming, we shed light on the logic used to incorporate children into modern productive enterprises. The centrality of children, we argue, helps explain the success of the modern food movement and the persistence of family‐based agriculture despite conditions that make it economically difficult to accomplish.

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