In U.S. agriculture, there is a long history of discrimination against minority populations and women. For many years, these groups were purposefully excluded from Farm Service Agency (FSA) programs in their own communities. A series of class action lawsuits, most notably Pigford v. Glickman, brought these practices to an end. (more…)
SOIL: What do we know about healing from roundup?
SERVITUDE: Political economies across time
OPPORTUNITY: The Commons; Entrepreneurship.
QUALITY OF LIFE: Duty. Joy.
URBANIZATION: Geo-constraints; Digital culture’s expectations; Ag-literacy; Rooftops, Brownfields.
LOGIC & CONTEXT: Thinking in terms of the system.
STARTUP & STEADYSTATE: Cooperative dynamics.
TECHNOLOGY: Criticism & Evaluation; Increasing mechanical literacy among female farmers.
DEMOCRACY: Microcosms & Macrocosms.
SPIRIT & DOMINATION: Sir Francis Bacon, where’s the eggs?
INDIGENOUS: Pre-agricultural and agro-ecological kinds of knowing. Are there any young shaman voices?
SHIFTING: Deliberate strategies for straddling and transitioning the systems we live inside of.
Last week 500 ranchers, farmers, scientists and advocates convened in Albuquerque, NM for the 12th annual Quivira Conference “Inspiring Adaptation.” The theme was apt following yet another year of extreme drought in the West and unprecedented floods in Colorado’s Front Range. It would be easy, given all this, to be all doom-and-gloom. But one of the many ways in which the Quivira Coalition excels is in its ability to offer tangible solutions to seemingly-unsolvable problems.
Our dear friends at Wilder Quarterly are launching a project, Wilder Field Art: An Art subscription service for those enthralled with the natural world.
Wilder is a beautiful print magazine where you’ll find rooftop gardeners, scientists and artists, hobby farmers, horticulturists, nature’s innovators, amateurs, experts and outdoor enthusiasts. The Field Art project goes beyond print to deliver subscribers 4 art works a year in tandem with the seasons.
Wilder will be visiting one city a season in which they will select 3 artists who are working across various media – from photography to print to sound. Each artist will create a work based on their season and their interpretation of the environment that surrounds them. In each city, they’ll partner with a gallery to host the opening event. At the end of the year will culminate with a group show featuring all the Field Artworks in New York City.
Click here to help Wilder to kickstart the project! Just 8 more days to go!
And don’t forget: Wilder offers 40% off magazine subscriptions to NYFC members!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 18th, 2013
PRESS ADVISORY: National Day of Action to Save Local Farms will bring together farmers, consumers to change proposed FDA food safety rules that threaten farm viability
HUDSON, NY – On Sunday, October 20th farmers and consumers from across the country will take action to change the FDA’s draft food safety rules. Activists will gather at farms, schools and grange halls to educate each other on the impact of the proposed rules and write comments to the agency. Dozens of events are happening in 28 states between now and early November. The Day of Action is sponsored by the National Young Farmers Coalition and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
Select Events and Organizer Quotes:
Action in Eyota, Minnesota at private home (10/21/13)
“We’re always looking to make sure our food is healthy and safe, and we believe that small farms are part of the solution to healthy, safe food–not part of the problem!” – Hannah Breckbill, Organizer and Farmer at Humble Hands Harvest
Action in Paonia, Colorado at Downtown Public Library (10/20/13)
“Because food safety issues are uniquely different for small farms, FSMA’s current one size fits all approach poses a threat to small-scale agriculture,” says Kacey Kropp, Farmer at First Fruits Organic Farms and Organizer. “The goal of writing these letters to the FDA is to illuminate the worth of sustainable, already safe and locally sourced foods from small farms.”
Action in Albuquerque, NM at the Rio Grande Community Farm (10/24/13)
“As an economically challenged state, with a number of exceptional challenges to farmers like erratic and limited water supplies, writing to the FDA to comment on FSMA is particularly important to the Rio Grande Farmers Coalition. What may seem like a financial drop in the bucket for large, industrial farm and food operations can sink a small family farm, an artisan food producer, or a food hub.” - Sarah Wentzel-Fisher, Organizer
Action in Lansing, Michigan at private home (10/25/13)
“I’m utilizing my birthday to entice friends with food and drink to have them write comment letters to the FDA on how it will affect their farming operations or farms that they patron regularly,” says Alex Bryan, Farmer at Food Field and Organizer.
“FSMA has the potential, as written, to derail most everything I’ve spent the last 5 years of my life working for…Not only will this impact my livelihood and way of life, but it threatens the very nature of regional food sovereignty. I care about my community’s future and cannot sit idly by while these rules are put in place. I just hope that the FDA will continue listening, adapting and changing to the needs of smaller, younger, beginning farmers.”
Action in East Berlin, Pennsylvania at Everblossom Farm (10/26/13)
“These proposed rules stand to change how we farm and run our businesses, so it is imperative that we make time to tell our stories to the FDA. I hope this Day of Action will rally together farmers and consumers to make change with our collective voices!” –Emily Best, Farmer at New Morning Farm and Organizer
Action in Sonoma, California at the Sonoma Valley Grange Hall (10/27/13)
“The issues facing young farmers today are too daunting to grapple with alone, so we’re uniting our communities to inform and empower them to take a stance with us on these rules that could gravely effect their future success doing what most needs done: feeding us.” –Evan Wiig, Farmer at True Grass Farms and Organizer
Action in Peterborough, New Hampshire at Wells School (11/9/13)
“By submitting comments to the FDA we take a proactive stance toward shaping the landscape that we will have to work within down the road,” says Ray Connor of Evandale Farm and Organizer. “If we miss this opportunity to take action now, we will spend the rest of our careers reacting to whatever rules are imposed on us.”
In 2011, President Obama signed into law the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) — mandating the first overhaul to U.S. food safety laws since 1938. The USDA Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released 3,500 page of rules in the spring, covering all aspects of a produce farm operation – everything from water testing to soil amendments and worker training. In the words of former U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, the new rules have the potential to “destroy some operations.” In fact, for many diversified farms, the average annual cost to comply with the proposed rules is about half or more of what many farmers might, in a good year, expect in profits.
For more information, map with actions nationwide and details: youngfarmers.org/fsma
Lindsey Lusher Shute, lindsey[at]youngfarmers[dot]org
“Essentially if we didn’t have this river and this water, we wouldn’t have agriculture in this state [of Colorado],” says Brad Webb, a local farmer and business owner of Mesa Park Vineyards in western Colorado. Brad spoke on behalf of beginning farmers for Colorado River Day in Grand Junction, one of five events held yesterday across the west.
July 25th marked the 2nd annual Colorado River Day, the day 92 years ago the Colorado River was renamed from the “Grand”. National Young Farmers Coalition teamed up with Nuestro Rio and Save the Colorado to host events in Denver, Grand Junction, Santa Fe, Phoenix, and Las Vegas. Urban and rural elected officials joined local farmers in support of urban and agricultural conservation as the first and best option to reducing the growing gap between water supply and demand in the west.
Catch NYFC on KKCO here.
In addition, we launched a month-long campaign to recruit elected officials west-wide to sign a support letter encouraging state and federal leaders to develop and implement actionable proposals through conservation to help reduce dwindling water supply. The pledge comes on the heels of the Bureau of Reclamation Colorado River Basin study which shows that we can generate 3 million acre feet of water through urban and agricultural conservation and reuse alone. That’s enough to supply 3 million households for a year.
Signing onto this support letter so far are Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Paonia Mayor Neal Schwieterman, Santa Fe Mayor David Cross, Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, and San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria, among others.
“If we work together we can solve a lot of these problems,” said Mayor Neal Schwieterman of Paonia at the Grand Junction event. Mayor Schwieterman represents one of the most diverse and thriving agricultural valleys in Colorado and knows the importance of agriculture to the state’s economy and way of life. The Mayor also represents recreational interests on the Gunnison Basin Roundtable, a group of leaders who meet regularly to tackle regional water issues.
In addition Councilmembers Boeschenstien and Doody of Grand Junction spoke on the importance of riparian health and water quality to the overall health of the river.
“Conservation is the lowest hanging fruit,” said Mayor Schwieterman. As young and beginning farmers, we are working to ensure we do everything possible with conservation first. If we do nothing, we will surely see our farms and our rivers continue to run dry.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Water and Power Subcommittee held a hearing to review findings from the Colorado River Basin Study, which NYFC has been tracking closely. Speakers representing the Bureau of Reclamation, Basin states, and municipal, agricultural, and healthy flows interests presented important Study follow-up items to the Subcommittee, moderated by CO Senator Mark Udall. (See a recording of the meeting here).
4 million irrigated acres of farmland in the Colorado River Basin are at risk as pressures on western waters rise. At the same time, agriculture is the single largest water user in the west, which means as urban demand continues to grow more interests will be turning to rural water users. But no one wants to return to the days of western water wars. Instead, farmers are proactively engaging across borders to develop win-win solutions to a tenuous water future.
Dr. Reagan Waskom, Director of the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University, spoke on behalf of western farmers as the co-chair of the Agricultural Conservation and Transfers work-group, one of three work groups created to carry out next steps from the Basin Study. In Waskom’s written testimony to the Subcommittee, he writes, “Local food and fiber production, protecting open space and wildlife habitat, maintaining agricultural jobs and businesses, and preserving western heritage are among the reasons for ensuring there are adequate land and water resources for agriculture production.”
We want to see the future of western agriculture thrive and we know that we need healthy resources to do that. Farmers are willing to do our part to ensure healthy farms and healthy rivers. (Want to show your support? Sign the Colorado River Farmers Pledge today!) According to Waskom, 77% of farmers surveyed by the Colorado Water Institute and its research partners prefer conservation and efficiency as the first and best options to address future water shortages. While barriers to conservation exist, it is in all of our best interest to work on behalf of farmers as stewards of our precious resources. As Senator Udall remarked, “We need to make every drop count.”
Though the Farm Bill has been front-and-center as of late, the farmers of NYFC are not forgetting to have a good time! April was full of young farmer mixers, from Fort Collins to Albuquerque, Texas to Rhode Island.
In Fort Collins, farmers from Colorado’s Front Range celebrated their second mixer potluck-style, packing the Empire Grange and dancing to the banjo-picking tunes of Blue Grama Bluegrass. Seasonal brews from New Belgium and Odell Brewing were enjoyed the night-long.
The Texas Young Farmers’ Coalition hosted a Texas BBQ fundraiser at Green Gate Farms complete with a pig roast, cornbread, and gallons of ales and cider—these farmers sure know how to eat! Not to mention raise money for a great cause: all proceeds went Cardo’s Farm Project, a community farm and education center serving the community of Denton, TX.
Young Farmer Night hosted the New Urban Farmers/Urban Food Lab event in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. YFN began as an informal gathering of farmers to share food and company. It continues the tradition of potlucks, farm tours and fun activities (music, cards, bonfire anyone?) and now includes educational workshops and farmer advocacy events as YFN continues to grow.
Later in the month, over 200 farmers and farm-supporters joined NYFC and the Rio Grande Farmers’ Coalition to kick-off the start of the new Albuquerque-based chapter. Local food was prepared by volunteer farmers and beer brought in from Marble Brewery. We were honored to have NM Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham share a few words in support of beginning farmers. The day couldn’t have been more beautiful beneath the old cottonwoods of Old Town Farm.
This is just a small taste of the many awesome farmer gatherings taking place this spring. Is there something going on in your neck of the woods? Let us know what you’re up to!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 25, 2013Contact: lindsey(at)youngfarmers(dot)org
Republicans and Democrats Introduce New Bill To Aid Beginning Farmers
“Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2013” addresses major barriers to starting a farming career
TIVOLI, NY – Today, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa and Representative Tim Walz of Minnesota announced the introduction of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2013 in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The two identical bills expand opportunities and remove barriers for beginning farmers and those who wish to pursue a career in agriculture.
In addition to the bill’s lead sponsors, the following members have signed on as original co-sponsors: Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE-1), Chris Gibson (R-NY-19), and House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN-7) in the House, and Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Al Franken (D-MN) in the Senate.
“Short of jumping on a tractor, the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2013 is the best way that members of Congress can help the nation’s young growers,” says Lindsey Lusher Shute, Executive Director at the National Young Farmers Coalition. “The bill tackles the significant barriers to starting a farm in the US, including access to credit, land and training opportunities. NYFC urges Congress to include all of its provisions in the Farm Bill, and to pass a Farm Bill this year.”
The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act is a comprehensive legislative package that invests in critical federal conservation, credit, research, and rural development programs that support opportunities for new farmers and ranchers. The bill reduces barriers, such as credit and land access issues, that new agriculture entrepreneurs face, and invests in successful new-farmer training programs and grants to help farmers capture more of the retail food dollar through value-added enterprises.
“With the average age of the U.S. farmer at 57, ensuring that the next generation of American farmers is able to provide the world with a safe, abundant supply of food should be a top priority,” said Congressman Walz, Ranking Member of the U.S. House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry. “To accomplish this goal, we must provide our youth with the training and tools they need to seize opportunity and take up farms of their own. By easing access to lines of credit and land, and creating training programs for new producers, the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act works to do just that.”
“As the House considers a five year Farm Bill this year, it is important we include provisions to encourage a new generation of New Yorkers to take up farming. This is both critical to maintaining the rural nature of our communities and ultimately is a national security issue as we need to have a robust domestic food supply. This bipartisan legislation will expand opportunities for those looking to take up farming and facilitate their entrance into the field. I applaud the National Young Farmers Coalition for bringing this issue to my attention originally, and look forward to continuing to work with my constituents to ensure we can get these initiatives included in the Farm Bill,” said Congressman Chris Gibson.
Some of the specific proposals in the bill include:
Expanded Credit Options
The bill would create a new microloan program that would make loans of up to $35,000 to young, beginning, and veteran farmers seeking capital to help cover start-up costs, such as purchasing seeds or building a greenhouse. The bill would also give new farmers increased flexibility in meeting loan eligibility requirements for FSA loans to purchase farmland. Finally, the bill would provide funding to jump start an Individual Development Account pilot program aimed at helping beginning farmers with limited financial resources to establish savings accounts that could later be used to cover capital expenditures for a farm or ranch operation, including purchases of land, buildings, equipment, or livestock.
Access to Farmland
The legislation would help new and aspiring farmers access land to start or expand their farming operations by continuing and improving the successful Down Payment Loan Program, which provides much needed capital to new farmers seeking to purchase property. The bill would also modify the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program to give priority to preserving farmland that is accessible and affordable to new farmers.
New Farmer Training Programs
The bill would renew funding for the successful Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which provides grants to organizations and institutions to establish new farmer training programs. This program is the only federal initiative that is exclusively dedicated to training the next generation of farmers and ranchers.
This legislation invests in critical economic development programs, including the popular Value-Added Producer Grants program, which provides grants to farmers to scale up their businesses and add value to their products in order to meet surging consumer demand for high quality, farm-based, value-added food products such as farmstead cheese, salsa, and grass-fed beef.
Agricultural Opportunities for Veterans
The bill would also expand resources and create economic opportunities for military veterans interested in pursuing a career in agriculture by establishing a funding priority for new farmer training and agricultural rehabilitation programs specifically geared at returning veterans, and creating a new Veterans Agricultural Liaison within the USDA to help connect returning veterans with beginning farmer resources and assist them with program eligibility requirements for participation in farm bill programs.
National Young Farmers’ Coalition (NYFC) is national network of young and sustainable farmers organizing for our collective success: we’re defining the issues that beginning farmers face, fighting for the policy change that we need, and bringing farmers together in person and online to learn, share and build a stronger community. NYFC is a farmer-led partnership between young farmers and innovative beginning farmer service providers and is fiscally sponsored by the Open Space Institute, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.