Brady Lowe has outgrown Cochon555. His latest project is a biggy.
Brady Lowe’s mind is swimming with ideas. There’s the Piggy Bank Farm in Missouri, where he will give away 600 heritage pigs to first-time farmers and those who want to expand their already existing gene pool. Then there’s this summer’s Mags for Ag symposium, where chefs and sustainability experts will gather to drink magnums of wine and brainstorm solutions to the problems that are driving farms out of business. Through the deluge of passion projects, which he speaks about with sprightly vigor, one detail stands out: He has a plan to convince American kids to take up farming.
The founder of Cochon555, a summer-long series of conferences and cooking competitions for heritage pig farmers, is building a new project called GrowA’Farmer. Though it’s still in the start-up stage, GrowA’Farmer will soon look like this: For $300, families will be able to purchase a large pallet for their kids that contains everything they need to build a customizable 4×4 garden plot: topsoil, seeds and shovels.
The idea sprouted from Lowe’s observations that the family farm seems to be in decline and there are few resources (activities, camps, classes) targeted at young kids to get them interested in and excited about farming. With a note of near-desperate sadness in his voice, Lowe reminds me that 90 percent of farmers are aged 62 and older. He worries that, as demand grows for farm-to-table food, the number of actual farmers will decrease. Where will that food come from if there’s no one to farm it? It’s clear, the situation is dire, but Lowe is convinced that today’s seven- to 11-year-olds are the future of farming — if only they had the right tools to pique their interest.
It won’t be enough to wait around for environmentally conscious parents to buy the GrowA’Farmer pallet for their kids, though. He hopes corporate sponsors like the Super Bowl, Masters, Home Depot and Final Four will eventually sign on to donate even a sliver of proceeds from ticket sales to GrowA’Farmer. The cash infusion will help him deliver hundreds of thousands of boxes to kids in underprivileged communities, food deserts, agricultural centers and even entire school districts.
“Athletes, celebrities and corporations might pledge $25,000 to places where they grew up — maybe their old elementary schools — to create an after-school program where they can grow food or teach gardening,” explains Lowe. “Or a school could have a donor and [the pallets] could be distributed to every student.”
If GrowA’Farmer eventually teaches even a few kids the pleasures of growing their own food, Lowe will consider it to be a success. The laundry list of events and organizations that he has dreamed up to help sustain and modernize farming have one thing in common: Each one strives to benefit real people in their everyday lives, from curious kids to farmers in search of community to those who aspire to run a farm but don’t know where to start. Some of his goals may sound lofty, but if anyone is equipped to help plan the future of farming, it’s Lowe.