In the United States today, there are currently more people in jail than working on farms.  But in the next couple of months Van Jones the White House Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and former CEO of Green For All, a national organization working to build a green economy, has plans to lift people out of poverty and teach them skills they will need in the green 21st Century.  Both Jones and Green for All are looking for ways to connect the green collar economy with the burgeoning food movement.  And, a great example of how Jones and Green for All might accomplish this goal is already being implemented in Japan to stimulate the economy and encourage farming, giving tangible skills to formerly urban Japanese kids who need work.

The 2400 strong Japanese Rural Labor Squad is made up of urban trainees in a pilot program to put underemployed youth to work on farms.  The program is meant to address both the poor state of farms and young people who can’t find enough high wage work in cities.  Many young Japanese workers have shown an interest in farming as they have been laid off from city jobs.

The agricultural ministry is coordinating this $13 million program, which awards workers $70 a day and free food and board.  One young woman, a management major said, “My friends think I am crazy for coming here but I think people are becoming more aware of where their food comes from and I want to get more involved with that.”

Even though the program’s impact will be limited for now, the government is going ahead with a year-long farm placement internship.  One leek farmer wonders if this is just a fad, ” You can’t learn farming in just a year… I am worried that when the economy picks up, they’ll all flock back to the city.”  Only time will tell.