(NewsUSA) - While often thought of as a tradition of the past, family farms are actually still a mainstay of the U.S. agricultural industry. In fact, under the Economic Research Service (ERS) definition, family farms represent 97.6 percent of all U.S. farms and are responsible for 85 percent of U.S. farm production.
At the same time, concern is growing over the graying of the farm population. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 66 percent of U.S. farmers are 55 years or older -- a statistic that has many experts concerned about the long-term health of family farms as an American institution.
With the goal of revitalizing interest in U.S. family farming, a new storytelling project shares the life and experiences of growers young and old through video and imagery. Called Sunkist Family Stories, this multimedia storytelling project created by Sunkist Growers -- a citrus growing cooperative founded in 1893, which is owned by and operated for thousands of family farmers -- is dedicated to sharing the rich heritage of today's modern citrus farmer -- farmers like Kyle Curtis of Yuma, Arizona, who after attending college and exploring career options chose to return to the farm to carry out a family tradition three generations strong.
"After going away for some time and coming back, I realized that this is where I belong, and this is what I want to do," says third-generation grower Kyle Curtis. "When I'm looking at a 20-year-old tree that was planted by my grandfather, I feel a bond and connection between the family and a living tree -- that's an incredible feeling."
Kyle is one of many young Millennials who have chosen to return to the farm, and to share his perspective through Sunkist Family Stories.
"The passing of the torch is what makes Sunkist's family farmers so unique," says Sunkist Advertising & Public Relations Manager, Joan Wickham. "Sunkist Family Stories gives people the opportunity to celebrate and appreciate the family values that have been passed on for generations to help build the cooperative's 120-year history."
Through this project, viewers can experience the rolling hills of California's San Joaquin Valley, the beautiful coasts of Ventura County, the dramatic backdrop of the Coachella Valley and Arizona's scenic Yuma desert. They can even learn how new technologies and techniques, such as solar power, irrigation systems, low-emission vehicles and stewardship of natural resources are being incorporated into traditional practices that have been proudly passed down through generations of Sunkist member family-owned farms -- year after year, crop after crop.
"It's about hard work, love of family, and passing these values on to next generations. This becomes your entire life," says Link Leavens, a fourth-generation farmer from Venura County, California.