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Hello. If the ethanol-crazed commodity markets have shown us anything, it’s that grain prices are way too important to be so subject to an ill-conceived, non-food federal policy. We need a market system that nudges farmers toward matching their sustainable cropping choices regionally, where possible, with what it takes to raise healthy livestock and healthy people. I mean, isn’t that what farming is supposed to be about?

Shifting public dollars toward more efficient and ecologically sound energy crops grown on more marginal lands will free up more acres for growing nutrient-dense varieties of organic feed, forage and food crops that buyers are desperate to have.

When states and counties include appropriate “seek local first” provisions in their institutional food contracts, they create a demand that enterprising farmers can grow into over time. These contracts can give market farms a choice to move into larger scale operations, and may help larger farms to see a high-value niche big enough to warrant diversifying their enterprise mix and management skills.

There’s some good to be done with policy, but the strength of well-run farmers’ markets and other buy-local routes testifies that eater-demand is driving farm innovation, as well. Just spreading the word about the logistics and human dynamics of locally adapted, direct-to-consumer markets is often enough to get another community talking about starting their own.

Sometimes the model mixes old and new ideas among young and older people, alike, to create a magnetic, evolving market that seems to create its own energy and excitement. Veteran agricultural writer Kelly Klober tells the story of a produce and breeding-stock farmers’ market in eastern Missouri’s River Hills that is bringing together generations and distant neighborhoods. It’s doing for rural farm families, small-town residents and yearning suburbanites what they all want—building an honest community around fresh food, hard-earned knowledge and locally adapted skills, freely shared where fair compensation feels like a bargain.

Now that’s the kind of food economy that I want to pay for.

If you want to support an interactive publication that helps to build that kind of community and economy, join in our Celebrate the Harvest fund drive. We come to you via the Web without charge, but we depend on donations large and small to keep all the stories and information flowing. Give here to keep strong at The Rodale Institute. We thank our donors from our initial fund-drive this spring and explain the great tools (including an online “Transition to Organic” course, and no-till roller planting system video) coming in 2008 here. You can help us meet our remaining goal of $14,000 with your financial gift, and now is the best time to give.

Greg Bowman
Managing Editor


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