Today’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.