Small sustainable farmers are all over the media lately. A few years back, Hearty Roots might have been in an occasional story in our local paper or a food related magazine. These days, we have literally been inundated with requests from filmmakers, TV and radio producers, and editors of books, newspapers and magazines. In fact, this week in Brooklyn we will have a crew from Japanese Public Television (NHK) filming distribution of the vegetables; this past weekend Stoneledge Farm, which is in a neighboring county to ours, had a film crew from ABC News documenting their Garlic Harvest for a national TV feature; and last week, I was invited to speak on the radio about the economics of small farming, on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show.
In the past few months alone, the New York Times has featured stories on young urbanites becoming farmers; corporate executives switching to the farm lifestyle; CSA in general; and people hiring gardeners to create their own organic CSA’s in their back yards.
Is this just a fad, or Is there something going on to merit all this attention? Judging by our experience at Hearty Roots, this is more than just media hype– we’re in the midst of a local food and farming movement whose growth is momentous. Hearty Roots has seen unprecedented demand for our CSA shares this season, selling out far earlier than we ever have before. We are seeing new farms pop up and hearing from many people who are excited about learning to farm. We’ve been forced to turn down many neighborhoods, restaurants and specialty stores interested in getting our produce, since even though we have grown our farm by nearly 100% each season, we are still unable to keep up with demand.
So what’s next? In order for this local food movement to keep up with the media attention, and demand from a locavore-savvy public, we need more farmers! Even in our area, which faces development pressure due to its proximity to NYC, there is lots of land that is currently growing low value crops like hay– land that could be used to grow higher value crops to meet NYC’s demand for fresh, local produce. It will be no easy task to achieve this: we need changes in local, state and federal policy; we need young people who are working for farmers now to have the tools they need to launch their own farms; we need to protect our existing farmland from development; and we need existing commodity farmers to diversify into direct-marketing. It won’t happen overnight, but now is the time to build our capacity for a strong, local, sustainable agricultural sector in the future.