New Media for New Farmers

One zips around the Dutch countryside on a cherry-red Vespa, flashing past endless flat green fields. The other tours Greece in a pale-yellow Citroen 2CV, chugging through olive groves and occasionally coming to a stuttering halt, much like the Greek economy.

They are food activists Samuel Levie and Pavlos Georgiadis, and they both have video blogs on the website, in which they explore the agriculture of their respective countries, interviewing farmers, food producers and politicians along the way. Samuel wants to find out what the Common Agricultural Policy means in practice and how farmers would like to see it reformed, while Pavlos is fascinated by the massive ruralization currently taking place in Greece, as millions of young people move to the countryside in search of work: “You always hear about the Greece of predators and crooks, but there is another Greece, a Greece of young people, producers, solidarity, camaraderie.”

Both Samuel and Pavlos were speaking at a Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre conference, “Say, Do, Hoe: Practices and Policies for Youth Agriculture.” With just 7% of Europe’s farmers aged under 35, the conference looked at ways to attract more young people to farming and make it a valid, and valued, professional choice. “The current situation is clearly not sustainable,” said Janno Lanjouw, the coordinator of the Slow Food Youth Network. “Farmers produce our food and without food we will die.”

Samuel and Pavlos exemplified the use of new media to help youth explore, engage and expose the food world, and create a new political arena in which to search for common solutions to crucial problems. Another example of how young people are using virtual tools to take a new approach to agriculture came from Kiko Corsentino, who works with Contadini per Passione, a project that has sprung up around an inherited orange grove in Sicily and which focuses on social media, blogs, e-mail campaigns and direct interaction with consumers to keep the company successful. He had encouraging words for any young people looking to turn to agriculture: “If the idea is really strong, it’s worth taking a risk. Even if you don’t have much of a budget, you can still invest in ideas, in a project, and develop it.”

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