Thursday, February 7, 2008

Saving Family Farms (what we can do?)

There are many ways in which individuals, or groups of individuals, can make a difference.

Save Land

Recently I came across a story about a group of enlightened people in the town of Scrabble, in West Virginia, and their efforts to save their vanishing farmlands. As the town is only a one-and-a-half-hour drive from Washington, D.C., the farmland is prime real estate—perfect for developers.

The group began its efforts when a local 300-acre farm was offered for sale. It would be purchased by a developer and turned into two-acre plots, without respect or appreciation for the community and environmental assets around which they were developing. As a result, town residents banded together and cashed their stocks and retirement accounts, and mortgaged their homes in an effort to buy the farm themselves.

Diet Start

In a few weeks they had raised $700,000 but, although this was a remarkable feat, it was still less than the amount offered by the developer. However, although they did not secure that particular farm for their town, they are not giving up. They are now prepared and, with a financial network in place, are ready to fight to save other local farms as they are put on the market. And then, with the kind of options for farmers described in this chapter, the farms may actually be revitalized and help feed the residents of the town with locally grown, healthy food.

Buy from Local Farmers

Somewhere near you there are family farmers who are trying to do right by the earth—who are trying to feed their families as well as their community with integrity and respect. Aside from eating less meat, buying your food from a local farmer who is a good steward of the earth is one of the most effective contributions you can make to the health of the planet. The more we invest in these farms the more we build the world we want to live in. And the more likely we are to pass on the kind of world our children and grandchildren deserve to inherit.

Shop at Farmers Markets

Farmers markets are one of the most ideal sources of local, sustainable foods. You'll discover that almost all freshly picked vegetables from local farms taste phenomenally better than produce that's traveled thousands of miles before reaching your local supermarket. Be sure to ask stall operators what's the best and freshest produce. Farmers markets can be found in cities all across the U.S. The USDA has a complete listing of markets in all fifty states at their Web site (see Resources).

Become a Shareholder in a Farm

A share in a CSA costs about $300 to $500 for a twenty-four- to twenty-six-week growing season. In return, you receive weekly boxes of fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables. Many CSA programs accept monthly payments, and you may be able to buy a half-share rather than a whole share. (See the Resources section for a Web site that can help you locate a CSA near you.)

Join a Food Co-op

A food cooperative is a member-owned business that provides groceries and other products to its members, usually at a discount. Many of the products lining the shelves of coops are organic and much of the produce comes from local family farms. To find a co-op near you, check out Web sites such as Cooperative Grocer ( and Local Harvest ( Joining a co-op is usually easy, typically requiring you to pay some dues.

Farmers markets, CSAs, and co-ops are probably the purest expression of the original vision of the organic movement because they offer direct contact with local growers and also offer direct support of their efforts: Detractors say that the commitment to eating local, sustainable foods is nothing more than a pie-in-the-sky utopian dream. But Joan Gussow, author of This Organic Life and one of the people who helped write the USDA organic certification standards, puts it this way: "I've often been told my vision for a food supply that is mostly based on local farmers markets and CSAs is completely unrealistic. But I believe that the current practice of food distribution is even more unrealistic, considering that we're running out of petroleum, and we will eventually be unable to ship our food all over the place."

... andjoyohoxing