It’s Hip to Be Dirty

The longstanding joke about the New York Times Sunday Style section is that when a trend piece hits its pages, you know the trend is dead. Please, God, let that not be the case with yesterday’s piece about young Brooklyn urbanites leaving to become organic farmers. The article, with the painful headline “Leaving Behind the Trucker Hat,” does not begin promisingly. “Their Carhartts are no longer ironic,” it minces. “Now they have real dirt on them.” Once you get past the Sunday Style packaging, however, there’s a sweet, if not exactly news-breaking, story being told:

Steeped in years of talk around college campuses and in stylish urban enclaves about the evils of factory farms (see the E. coli spinach outbreaks), the perils of relying on petroleum to deliver food over long distances (see global warming) and the beauty of greenmarkets (see the four-times-weekly locavore cornucopia in Union Square), some young urbanites are starting to put their muscles where their pro-environment, antiglobalization mouths are. They are creating small-scale farms near urban areas hungry for quality produce and willing to pay a premium.

But what’s the difference between this crop of back-to-the-landers and the last generation, asks Emily Matchar at Slashfood. Well, the article tries to anticipate that question by throwing out a news hook, and here it is: “[T]he growing market for organic and locally grown produce is making it possible for well-run small farms to thrive.” New York had more than twice as many certified organic farms, 735, in 2007 as it did in 2004. And organic farmers are on average 46 years old, compared to an average age of … um, six years older (52) for all farmers.

Mostly, though, the article seems like an excuse to feature fresh-faced hipsters with dirt on their hands. Thankfully, the earnestness of people like Benjamin Shute and Miriam Latzer of Hearty Roots Community Farm manages to shine through the references to trucker hats and Pabst beer.

And, psst, here’s a tip for next week’s Sunday Style: You don’t have to leave Brooklyn to be an organic farmer.

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