local food systems
‘Start Farming,’ a program that seeks to develop new farmers, was developed by Penn State Extension in 2009 to address the the rising average age of farmers in Pennsylvania as well as the increasing demand for local and sustainably produced food.
The program offers a variety of courses throughout the year to beginning farmers interested in learning organic farming techniques, pasture management, financial management, land acquisition and marketing. The Penn State Extension program, ‘Start Farming’, is run in collaboration with Pennsylvania Farm Link, a nonprofit dedicated to the mission of “creating farming opportunities for the next generation,” and The Seed Farm, an agricultural business incubator in Lehigh County, PA.
Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture is a small start-up with big ideas. Begun just under a year ago, Arcadia has already dived into the sustainable agriculture world headfirst with a 4-acre demonstration farm, school fieldtrips and a mobile farmers’ market. And soon they’ll be tackling the issues of aging farmers and the disconnect between farmers and consumers. As Farm Director Maureen Moodie puts it, “It’s been a crazy first year.” We can’t wait to see what the next brings.
Arcadia was launched in November 2010 by restaurateur Michael Babin. Babin is president and co-owner of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group (NRG), a consortium of restaurants dedicated to using high-quality, locally-sourced ingredients. Babin’s desire to be more involved in the local food system became the seed (and seed money) for Arcadia, a nonprofit in Alexandria, Va. whose mission is to “improve the health of our community, the viability of local farmers, and preserve our environment for future generations by combining education about healthy food and its sources with better logistical connections between local farmers and the urban and suburban core of the region.”
In New York’s Albany region, FarmieMarket customers are filling virtual shopping baskets with locally grown goods. The online market offers a variety of in season products, from heirloom tomatoes to certified organic pork, to honey and maple syrup, and delivers them to homes once weekly. It’s a model that founder Sarah Avery Gordon hopes will rid consumers of the excuse that shopping locally is too hard.
“If we’re going to sustain the real food economy for future generations, then we need systems in place to provide local food,” said Gordon. “If we can inform customers about the benefits of eating locally, and bring food to their door, we can really provide an alternative to factory farms.”
Congressional subcommittees are now working on the legislation which will set agricultural policy for the next half decade – and they are doing so under unprecedented public scrutiny of federal spending. Sustainable agriculture advocates and policy experts hope that lawmakers will seize the opportunity to push the long-term local farming and food security agendas, but in the current fiscal climate they remain realistic.
More local farmers were able to get their wares directly to consumers this year, according to a study released in early August from the United States Department of Agriculture’s 2011 National Farmers Market Directory.
Since 2010, the number of farmers markets across the country has grown by more than 1,000, allowing the largest number of farmers ever the ability to sell their products directly to their local community. A total of 7,175 markets currently operate in the U.S. compared to 6,132 in 2010.