The United States Department of Agriculture has awarded 36 grants totaling $18 million to organizations that will provide training and assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers to help them run sustainable farms.

With the average age of farmers rising and the number of rural populations declining U.S.D.A. Secretary Kathleen Merrigan says now is the time to motivate the next generation.

With the average age climbing to almost 60 years old, Merrigan says the country needs more young farmers to continue what those before them have started.

“We are facing a major challenge in transitioning the work force on a working land across this country, so in the 2008 farm bill congress have us a number of tools to help bring on the next generation of farmers and ranchers.