Subsistence farmers say they’re living paycheck to paycheck
FARMERS, Utah — The biggest challenge to a growing population is simply finding enough to eat, said David Gardner, a Utah farmer.
A recent report from the University of Utah found the U.S. was expected to reach 2 billion by 2050, with the majority of those growing food at home.
The report estimated that by 2050 more than 7 million people, or nearly 10% of the country’s population, will be living at home, up from 4 million people in the mid-1990s.
While the USDA says it expects a growing number of Americans to work from home in 2026, it still has a lot of work to do to meet the demand.
For example, a growing percentage of households in Utah have more than one income earner, with more than half of the households with a household income of $30,000 or more reporting income from the family farm.
“We’re not getting the jobs,” Gardner said.
Gardner and other farmers have become increasingly vocal about their struggles as a result of climate change.
With temperatures warming and droughts increasingly common, they say the world’s supply of food is growing less and less available, with farmers struggling to keep up.
In Utah, the problem is especially acute because of the drought and the increasing number of people living at homes, said Greg Mather, a U.N. climate expert who helped write the report.
“We have an unprecedented drought situation,” Mather said.
“It’s really bad, and we’re facing some of the worst weather conditions we’ve ever seen in our state.”
While Gardner said the drought is making farming more difficult, he said the biggest challenge is simply keeping food flowing to people.
He said that in order to provide enough to feed the population, the food supply needs to be able to last.
It’s not like the food is going to run out anytime soon, he added.
Food has always been in short supply, but the current situation is so bad, it’s a real challenge,” he said.
The USDA estimated that in 2020, the United States’ supply of fresh produce and fresh meat and dairy products, including milk, eggs and meat products, was less than 1 percent of the global market.
But the USDA expects to reach 1.2 percent in 2025.
Agriculture accounts for one-third of all the food consumed worldwide.
To meet that need, Gardner said, it makes more sense to rely on food banks.
Farmers are also trying to provide the basics of life.
If they don’t have enough money to purchase food, they rely on the Salvation Army or other community-based organizations.
The Utah Department of Agriculture said in a recent blog post that farmers can be contacted by phone or email for assistance.
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