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
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,
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and information flowing. Give
here to keep NewFarm.org 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
You can help us meet our remaining goal of $14,000 with your financial
gift, and now is the best time to give.