This holiday, thank a farmer

Posted: Saturday, November 21, 2015 12:30 am
By Tessa Edick
For Columbia-Greene Media

 

FarmOn! is the future of food. It’s time to come together and celebrate. Let’s put the land to rest and reflect on a year of good news and collective hard work in our agricultural community.

 

As Thanksgiving approaches, gratitude lends us an energetic boost reflecting on the incredible achievements delivered this year. Join friends and family at the table and support the work of farmers at your own table and be thankful they work hard to feed you well.

 

Do you FarmOn!? FarmOn! is a movement shifting a paradigm to change the way we eat and live, foster economic development and tie it to health and wellness, filling the succession gap at family farms.

 

It starts with kids at school lunch and a connection to garden-based learning producing viable livelihoods in our communities. Everything we ever needed to know is learned on a farm. We must rebuild these connections from the ground up with good food for all from these family farms. But it doesn’t happen without your participation — three times a day when you eat.

 

2015 was a banner year at our own farm! We opened our historic barn doors at Empire Farm to the Hudson Valley region teaching the next generation to feed us while bringing you, your children and theirs back to the farm.

 

Outcomes this significant happened with a tiny but powerful team. Five women and six apprentices worked in acres, not hours, custom growing in an accredited curriculum for celebrated chefs. These celebrity chefs in turn offered delicious events that engaged sponsors, partners and donors like you who believe and invest in our philanthropic work. This expands our collective consciousness to secure food for tomorrow responsibly and raises our replacements at the family farm.

 

Resilient agriculture is at the core of our philanthropic values — worthy of a collective consciousness, collaboration and contribution. We are driven to create and fund educational programming. By providing food education and farm preservation through a new lens based in an edible education as an experience, we are a catalyst that impacts change with measurable outcomes and excitement galore.

 

We are building Empire Farm with tireless energy and commitment to change food systems through epic events and influential partners to lift up local agriculture. Together we created, funded and expanded educational programming for New York state farms, schools and families.

 

Local food is our future. We can no longer afford to truck food from thousands of miles away — sacrificing nutrition, wasting energy and undermining local farming economies in the process. Only by reconnecting consumers with the importance of their local farmers can we reverse this dangerous and unsustainable trend.

 

With the average age of the farmer at 58 and growing, we need to cultivate and prepare our youth to fill this succession gap.

 

“In 2006, John Crabtree of the Center for Rural Affairs in Nebraska told The New York Times that twenty-five years ago there were 350,000 farmers and ranchers under the age of 35, now there are only 70,000. We’re not creating opportunities for the next generation of farmers and ranchers to get into the business.” (www.cropinsuranceinamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/NY-State-Fact-Sheet-2015.pdf)

 

And with the New York state ag economy at $5.7 billion, 99 percent family owned and only 25 percent of the state land used for ag production, it is time to FarmOn! With 350,000 farmers in 1990 and 70,000 farmers in 2015, what are you planning to eat in 2020 with that rate of decline? Who is going to feed you?

 

The oldest honorable profession, farming needs to be re-established for our health, for our children and for economic development of our local communities. Filling the succession gap in agriculture and building pathways for youth as the next generation to feed us is at the heart of our mission.

 

With the accreditation of the State University of New York and Cornell College of Ag & Life Sciences (a partnership that is a first of its kind in New York state) on a 220-acre working farm, community center and Ag-Academy, the FarmOn! Foundation is making this opportunity possible for students, offering career bound pathways that are vocational, academic and entrepreneurial for youth ages 17-20. Funds from the community make this work possible as a nonprofit organization and public charity.

 

Yes, the FarmOn! Foundation is teaching youth the business of food on a working farm based in a curriculum using the field as a classroom. We welcome the public to visit historic Empire Farm as students custom-grow for New York City chefs and culinary businesses. There is plenty to share with us locals too! To date, the FarmOn! Foundation has created partnerships with professional farmers, educators, influencers, supporters, nutritionists, students and community leaders invested in the future of local agriculture to rebuild local economies and feed us.

 

In March, a greenhouse was erected on the property, two wells were installed and 12 acres were cultivated, fenced, tilled, amended, seeded and harvested to bring fresh local organic food to market from an academic setting. The build out and planting of FarmOn! Victory Garden (farm matriarch Alice Waters opened last year) is a field-as-classroom and Ag-Academy that is being farmed organically.

 

This summer, the Ag-Academy curriculum was based in a pilot concept, whereby six students (nominated by Hudson Valley school educators or local residents) developed entrepreneurial thinking to learn about revenue, how it is budgeted, projected and leveraged, how it is earned, handled, collected, allocated and accounted for over a four-month time frame. Youth similarly had to construct a chicken coop — budget and project earnings to know what was invested and timing with X yield based on sales.

 

The impact was astounding. Youth were engaged in the project in addition to adopting 21st century skill sets through applied learning. Students learned how to earn and do business with confidence by networking, problem-solving, team building, effectively communicating for result-driven projects with conflict-resolution practices and successfully achieve getting product from the farm to a dedicated market in New York City in a specified time frame with the abCSA and TasteNY farm shares. In addition, students earned cash scholarships and the excess fresh local food from the field was donated to public schools and families in need to address food insecurity.

 

We all want to re-build the future of food, keep farmers farming and preserve the tradition of family farming in America. You can do this just by eating fresh local food from people you can trust. Imagine that — and make it so. Best wishes for a delicious holiday! FarmOn!

 

To contact Tessa Edick, email tessa@farmonfoundation.org. Follow her on Twitter/Instagram @FarmOnFarmOn.

 

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