NPR/Harvest Media: To Diversify The Farming Landscape, Diversify Who Works It

March 2, 2017
Amy Mayer

Farmers in the U.S. like to point out that their products feed people all over the world. And while this is a diverse country, the people working on farms and elsewhere in agriculture often don’t reflect the nation’s demographics. Changing that is becoming a priority, in hopes that new people will bring fresh ideas to meet some of our food system’s greatest challenges.

Take monoculture, the long-standing practice of planting only corn or soybeans on millions of Midwest acres. While it has resulted in massive crops and billions of dollars in revenue for decades, the strategy can also contribute to problems.

“A fair bit of our environmental issues with agriculture across the country, not just Iowa, relate to the lack of diversity on the landscape. There’s no doubt about that,” says Kendall Lamkey, chair of the agronomy department at Iowa State University.

Agronomists understand soil, plants and farming practices and advise farmers on how to improve what they do. And Lamkey says the field needs new ideas.

“The way to re-diversify the landscape is to re-diversify the people in agriculture,” he says.

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