“FarmCorps”: A National Service Program in Agricultural Labor for Youth?

By Brent Ranalli

The United States agriculture sector faces a looming labor shortfall. Today’s farm workforce is demographically aging, and as fossil fuel inputs decline the need for human inputs will only increase. The problem is particularly stark for seasonal farm labor, which is poorly compensated, operates on an erratic schedule, uproots one from community, and offers little or no opportunity for advancement. Who will bring in the harvest? In this essay, Brent Ranalli argues for the creation of a voluntary national service program to engage youth in seasonal agricultural work. Such a program would bridge the labor gap with a segment of the workforce that is fit for the task. It would also provide educational opportunities and a stepping stone to careers in farming and allied fields, and restore dignity to an indispensable form of labor.

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