Monday, July 16, 2007

"No Farms, No Food."

So says the new bumper sticker on my car. I picked it up this weekend at the annual 4-H fair held down at the Glen in Portsmouth. While the fair was so-so, I really want to tell you about the bumper sticker.

It’s a promotion for a great national non-profit organization called the American Farmland Trust (AFT). Founded in 1980, it aims to protect farmland and farmers through a variety of policy, community planning, and environmental stewardship advocacy and member education programs.

Here’s the kicker stat that got me: Each year, the U.S. loses around 1.2 million acres of farmland to development. To put that into perspective, the state of Rhode Island is around 775,000 acres in size. When you think about it in terms of food security, loss of community resources and prosperity, and the livelihood of thousands of farmers and their families, that kind of loss is huge.

There are a few features I’d recommend checking out:

  • The World as an Apple. This quick little Flash video puts it all into perspective and helps you realize why protecting our farmland is absolutely critical.

  • Farm Bill 101. Every five years, Congress debates and passes a new set of nationwide farm legislation. Think it doesn’t affect you? Think again. This year’s legislation is as critical as ever to the health and prosperity of small farmers from Sakonnet to Seattle. From farmers markets to CSAs to roadside stands, all those things that we love so much about summers in New England could be at stake.

  • Rhode Island Farming Overview. AFT’s overview of issues affecting Rhode Island farmers and an introduction to Rhode Island’s agricultural profile. According to the 2002 USDA Census of Agriculture, Rhode Island boasted over 850 farms occupying over 61,000 acres of total farmland worth a agriculture production market value of over $55M? That’s nothing to sneeze at, though I wonder what those numbers look like five years later.

Now, what happens when we protect all that farmland but don’t have enough farmers to work the land and provide for us? We need to seriously think about that. Given the bounty of farms and farmers here in Sakonnet, we should be giving thought to cultivating that next generation of farmers through new partnerships with our schools, summer work programs, and heck, even starting a Future Farmers of America chapter in these neck of the woods.

I volunteered one summer day a couple years back at one of our local organic farms. It was one of the hardest days I’ve ever worked, but I tell you, I walked away with such an appreciation for those men and women who put the food on my table. Call it crazy, but it was life-changing in a way.

We need to continue to do whatever we can to secure the future of our Sakonnet farms and farmers, to embrace and support the local food security they give us, and never lose sight of the fact that with no farms, there is no food.

1 comment:

Andrew MacRae said...

Thanks for mentioning American Farmland Trust and our efforts. We are spreading the message this summer by distributing thousands of free No Farms No Food bumper stickers to anyone who wants them!