California-based farmer Mai Nguyen is one of a few young farmers ensuring the future of high quality, sustainably grown grains in the US.
Sustainably grown and organic food is on the rise in the US, yet the country is facing a shortage of young farmers to secure the future of farming.
Farmers over 65 in the US outnumber farmers under 35 by a margin of 6-to-1.
Having studied climate research in college, Mai Nguyen grew tired of documenting the ways people are harming the planet and decided to actively help make a difference. And so she determined that farming was the best possible way in which she could do that.
The founder and owner of Farmer Mai specialises in growing heirloom ethnic crops using organic, drought-tolerant, and soil-enriching methods.
Aside from growing organic heritage grains and Southeast Asian crops on the California North Coast, Mai Nguyen assists other small-scale grain farmers across California to create regional grain hubs.
Mai Nguyen said: “I got interested in the two big issues we face as a global society; climate change and social inequality. I started to ask myself ‘what could I do in my life that would address both?'”
“Farming made sense because it’s the main way that we transform the landscape in terms of production and I wanted to grow food that is healthy for people. I wanted to have these whole grains and crops that are culturally desirable and a diversity of crops that reflects the diversity of California.
“Being in this agriculture world, talking to other farmers and finding ways to collaborate and discuss different farming practices, those are huge parts of what drew me into the profession and keep me here.”
Farmer Mai relies on human and animal power as much as possible rather than fossil fuel-powered implements while farming, and does not use synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or GMO seeds.
Mai Nguyen added: “When I first started farming, I wanted to create a diversified farming system that incorporated grains. I sought out landrace and heritage wheats like Sonora because they are remarkably suited for conditions in California, where I farm.
“In our working lifetimes, each of us have perhaps 40 tries at growing our grain crops. But if we collaborate, we can replenish local seed supplies, share promising practices, increase biodiversity and food security, and contribute to the 10,000-year-old practice that has sustained civilisations.”
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea