Thursday, August 17, 2017

Local Foods Changing Views on Farming

nys veggiesToday’s explosion of an appreciation of and demand for local foods is a positive affirmation of farming. There is a new gratefulness for farmers as caretakers of the working landscape and purveyors of quality foods raised nearby. A better understanding of the need for open spaces, preserving soil, safeguarding water and practicing safe animal care has increased markedly. It is an invigorating time, especially for those of us who have been embroiled in agriculture most of our lives.

I think back to when I enrolled in a two-year agriculture program there were only 12 students in the major and only 1 female. The four-year baccalaureate was struggling and certainly not overenrolled. Fast forward to today and most Colleges of Agriculture are busting at the seams with students.

According to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, any high school senior looking for a career with good job prospects would do well to consider going to college to study agriculture. The report, which was conducted by Purdue University with a grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), found that the job market has thousands of high-skilled job openings every year in food, agriculture, renewable natural resources, and environmental fields.

Today’s buzz word, transformational change, is occurring in agriculture in a big way. People want to know who grows the food, how it’s grown and they want to support local farmers. Last weekend I went to the Farmers’ Market in Saranac Lake where local farmers had meats, cheese, veggies, flowers, breads, wine and were busy selling to hundreds of customers.

Spending dollars on local food keeps increasing and this keeps the dollars circulating in the community, which improves the local economy, which in turn supports growth and sustainability. As a long time colleague, who, like me, devoted his adult career to working with agriculture, stated recently, “It’s nice everyone finally gets it.”

So jump right into the local foods explosion. Shop at a farmers’ market, join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm and pick up “weekly shares” or simply stop and buy at a roadside stand. Ask your grocery store manager to buy “local” where possible.

Grow local. Buy local. Eat local. It all helps to keep agriculture sustainable here.


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Rick LeVitre is Executive Director, Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Essex and Franklin Counties. Since moving to the North Country, he has focused on building the brand of CCE. With the staff, he has increased programming in Agriculture, 4-H Youth Development, Family & Nutrition and Rural and Economic Development. LeVitre, Professor Emeritus, University of Vermont Extension, has over 40 years of Cooperative Extension outreach engagement serving as 4-H Agent, County Ag Agent, Agricultural Specialist, an Extension Legislative Liaison and Extension Associate Dean.

One Response

  1. William Quinlivan says:

    I live in Indian Lake and if it were not for our farmer’s market making great locally and organically grown fruit and vegetables, we would be at a huge loss. We lost a supermarket some 4-5 years ago and despite the expansion of a local convenience store and an online “co-op” market, we are virtually a food desert. This is predominantly true in winter after the farmers’ market shuts down. As such, I would love to see someone or some organization get involved in hydroponic farming in or around Indian Lake. I believe that it is a success waiting to happen. If the old market building not been “gifted” to Indian Lake Fire Commissioners for a “new” firehall (a project voted down by voters a year ago) that building would have made an ideal location for such a hydroponic farming project. I am sure that the town would welcome the food and the jobs from such a forward looking and much needed project. Any takers??

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