As the average age of a California farmer creeps toward 60, the California State Board of Food and Agriculture will meet on Sept. 28, 2011 to discuss how to encourage younger generations to pursue farming and ranching. The meeting will be held from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Center for Land Based Learning, 5265 Putah Creek Road, Winters, Calif., 95694.

“Farming is critical to California and the nation,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “It is a career filled with a variety of challenges and rewards that provides a direct benefit to our families and communities.”

California has well over 80,000 farms and 130,000 farm operators. The average age of principal farm operators is 58 – nearly 20 percent of them are 70 and above.

“Encouraging new farmers and ranchers is not just about agriculture,” said Craig McNamara, president of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture. “It is about community leadership, revitalizing rural communities, and investing in our state’s future.”

Scheduled speakers include: Poppy Davis, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) New Farmer and Rancher Program; Val Dolcini, State Executive Director, USDA Farm Service Agency; Justin Green, Farm School graduate; Tom Tomich, Agriculture Sustainability Institute; Mary Kimball, Center for Land Based Learning; Michael O’Gorman, Farmer-Veteran Coalition; Gary Peterson, Agriculture and Land Based Training Association and Brett Melone, California FarmLink.

The California State Board of Food and Agriculture advises the governor and the CDFA secretary.  The state board conducts forums that bring together local, state and federal government officials, agricultural representatives, and citizens to discuss current issues of concern to California agriculture.