Next-generation Florida farmers take on food challenges facing globe

Ask 20-year-old Arie Fry about the future of farming, and he’ll tell you it will involve feeding an ever-growing population and doing so in innovative ways.

The University of Florida student has his head in the books now studying food and resource economics, including a recent program in England, and he’s already racked up plenty of miles traveling to places such as South Africa, Washington, D.C., and Iowa as a former vice president of Future Farmers of America (FFA) (2017-18).

A multi-talented young man who has several acting credits to his name for bit parts in TV shows and movies, Fry grew up in Plant City where he helped his grandmother raise cows, hens, and strawberries.

“I think my interest in agriculture started off helping her on the ranch, fixing the fence, feeding hay, and picking strawberries,” he recalls. “In high school, I got involved with the FFA and saw there’s so much more to agriculture, such as the research side and science aspect.”

Arie Fry is studying food and resource economics at the University of Florida.After being elected vice president of the FFA, Fry logged countless miles speaking at high schools, presenting miniature conferences, and talking with farmers and legislators about a variety of agricultural and economic issues.

“I think the biggest issue with young farmers is they don’t have the capital to start the land,” he says. “Land is so expensive, and prices continue to go up, and you need at least 50 acres to make a living in agriculture. The solutions to that would be starting grants or getting more support from organizations that encourage farmers.”

He says another solution comes in the form of hydroponics and vertical farming.

“You can grow a lot on a little land.”

Some farming operations are even growing produce in abandoned warehouses and large shipping containers, he adds. Fry believes that thinking beyond conventional farming techniques may help get more people involved in agriculture before food shortages come with the inevitable aging of the current crop of farmers.

“The average farmer is in the range of 60 to 70 years old, and eventually as time goes on, we will need younger people to step in,” Fry says. “By the year 2050, the world is projected to have 10 billion people, so how do you feed everybody? We need more farmers, and that demand for farmers is already here.”

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Read more articles by Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez.

Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez is a freelance writer who was born and raised in Tampa. He earned his BA in English from the University of South Florida and spent more than three years as a full-time copywriter for a local internet marketing firm before striking out on his own to write for various blogs and periodicals, including TheFunTimesGuide, CoinValue and COINage magazine. He has also authored local history books, including Images of America: Tampa's Carrollwood and Images of Modern America: Tampa Bay Landmarks and Destinations, which are two titles produced by Arcadia Publishing.