According to a New York Times story this week, agriculture has hit the big time, with small farms thriving near the Big Apple. The article, Keeping Agriculture Alive Near New York City (Yes, Really) by Tom Applebome quotes Tom Sleight, once a New York farm boy, who took advice from his father, who advised against going into an uncertain future in farming.
Although his father's words in the 1970s were sage and solid, no one foresaw the renaissance in American agriculture that we are experiencing today with a renewed interest in farming and local foods. In the article he states:
“'I’ve never seen this kind of excitement about agriculture as a career since I’ve been alive,” he said. “It’s really a time when farmers with good ideas can reinvent themselves. It’s inspiring to see that people can do it. I half wish that I were doing it.'”
The words most likely uttered by Sleight's father are familiar to many Iowans as well.
While Iowa continues to struggle under the stranglehold of corporate agribusiness, we are indeed hopeful for the future of agriculture. The national renewed interest in local and sustainable foods is indeed finding its place among the endless row crops of corn and soybeans, though much work is yet to be done.
Though Iowa and New York seem like worlds apart to most Americans, farmers and consumers in both states face many of the same challenges. Despite successes, there are many setbacks to contend with, including affordable land for new and beginning farmers and the rising cost of inputs.
"There is plenty of buzz in the air about new farming models. That’s the easy part. Figuring out the land issues that translate to something on the ground and under it, that’s a lot harder."
As Americans' interest and enthusiasm for local and sustainable food grows, it's important that we continue to recognize that our legislative food policy is what offers opportunities to farmers and consumers alike, being mindful of the conservation of our soil and water. There is no better way to do this than to use your voice to tell your legislators what you want and expect - and midterm elections a good time to hold their feet to the fire, if they want your vote!
To read more on this story, go to the New York Times.
Photo: Triple Creek Farm, West Winfield, New York.