Much of the below text is included in a May 2011 article by Steffen Schneider, Hawthorne Valley Farm Director of Farm Operations.
Modern, conventional agriculture, or rather agribusiness, is a highly consolidated industry focused on producing large quantities of cheap food. There are far fewer professional farmers today and, in fact, there are more people imprisoned in the United States than there are people engaged in farming as a vocation. Food scares around tainted food happen frequently, we experience the environmental degradation caused through the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and traditional and rural cultures, both in the United States and abroad, are being decimated, as local and regional food systems are “modernized”. Sadly the health of our children in particular is being compromised and the effects on the next generation extend beyond obesity to dramatically increased cases of allergic and nervous disorders.
These disturbing facts beg nuanced and serious consideration as to the correct course of action moving into the future. Who will steward the many beautiful and potentially productive acres of land? Who will provide nourishing food for us in ten, fifteen, or fifty years? How can we establish among young individuals a strong and fundamental trust in their environment and food? How can we provide for global food needs in a way that does not harm the environment or exploit communities?
In order to create a context in which to answer these questions, it is imperative for agriculture to reclaim its place as a foundational element of our culture, economic activity, and society. It is up to us, food producers and eaters alike, to make this happen.
In Columbia County, NY, where Hawthorne Valley Farm is located, we are fortunate to have a burgeoning group of aspiring and practicing young farmers. However, for this next generation to thrive, we must address questions of land ownership, land tenure, and succession. These discussions are already happening. But it is up to us, farmers and eaters alike, to come together to develop innovative solutions and to create a shared vision for agriculture and community — perhaps one based on deeper connections to the living land and to one another. Will you join the conversation?