WHAT does it mean to be a farmer in the 21st century and how does one sustain such a vital aspect of Clarence Valley's economy?

These were some of the questions raised at the first Clarence Valley Food Forum held at the Grafton Agricultural Research Station on Monday.

Led by Councillor Debrah Novak, it was clear that youth engagement was the main priority to sustain Clarence Valley's farming future.

"It's great to see different people from all aspects of the agricultural industry, from farmers to chefs, coming together under one roof to start a conversation about how we can move forward and bring the future with us on this journey," Cr Novak said.

"It was obvious from our discussions today that youth is a key to Clarence Valley's farming future."

Food systems activist and founder of the Northern Rivers Young Farmers Alliance, Joel Orchard, said that in order to entice youth into the industry, it was about showing them that farming has taken on a new meaning.

"In this day and age, you really have to look at farming as a business, so anyone wishing to get into this industry needs to do their business research; if you can't sell it, don't grow it," he said.

"I don't think we're even scratching the surface for potential for the local food industry in terms of food economy, tourism, and preserving what we love about this place regarding natural resources," Mr Orchard said.

However, Mr Orchard added that links between new and old generations needed to be made first.

"We're looking to partner with older-generation farmers who can pass their knowledge onto the next generation in a form of peer support," he said.



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