The extraction economics model is backward for a sustainable future, yet all of those young farmers believe they should somehow make a living selling artisanal bullshit to bullshitters.
The first thing to understand is the competition. The USDA’s purpose is to balance the trade deficits with commodity crops. The food processors who have been exploiting the romantic myths of farming for over a century have legislators in their pockets and set up the food systems and nutrition charts to favor the highly profitable commodity crops. The federal government demands trade goods in order to buy raw materials to make war on people who refuse to buy our junk. All of the best organic vegetables ever grown in this system are just icing on a petrodollar/war cake that feeds urban elites. Young people go to liberal colleges and get a taste of the organic movement and start buying up the books and videos and going to conferences where they sing organic songs and pray to the Flying Kale Spaghetti Solar monster, all while going in debt to learn about Proust and Spinoza and the Wendell Berry Food Web.
Meanwhile, the rest of the industrial complex gets rich selling crap nobody needs. They do so because food is cheap and people don’t have to spend half their life’s labors on the next meal anymore. Liberal policies of providing free or cheap industrial foods to ‘help’ the poor fail to understand that the poor would help themselves if they had access to all of the things that are zoned out of residential areas: butchering, canning factories, fish farms, small manufacturing and repair shops, farm animals and child labor: the things that built every city in America at some point or another (assuming we don’t want slavery brought back).
Nobody in their right mind is going to pay 5 bucks a pound for tomatoes when they can buy a can of already processed pizza sauce for a buck. It isn’t that there is anything at all wrong with the idea that fresh nutritious natural foods are important, but there is something wrong with you if you think it can compete with cheap food on anything other than a luxury scale of conspicuous consumption by hipsters.
Colleges and non-profits are deluding young potential farmers with dreams of some fantasy land where a city will pay its fair share to the countryside out of some moral obligation. Humans are not morally intentional creatures. If they were, they wouldn’t keep producing so many humans that have nothing to do with the land’s future, and Florida would be condemned as a septic superfund site.
Everyone takes benefit from the land, but only farmers care for it. Unless someone puts a food tax on non-food items (packaging, for example) to pay farmers a professional living wage and set quotas and population limits, then this will never change. The people who care for the land will be considered unimportant, exploitable peons in the eyes of capitalist masses until those masses are starving.
The ironic part is that farmers are the worst of it all. They compete with their best friends and neighbors for the bottom of the price barrel because they are too deluded about individualism and too stubborn to form workable support unions. They would rather sell their souls to barely bank-acceptable price supports and massive debts than give up cutting their own throats.