September 24, 2010

Small Farmers and the Farm Bill

Here is a great article about the struggles of small, organic farmers and some farm bill insights. Finding out that even the "successful" farms are just getting by makes me thankful that there is anyone out there growing veg without the big machines and chemicals AND hauling it into the city.
The First Family’s Fallow Gardens
by Heather Rogers, from The American Prospect

Morse Pitts has been cultivating the same land in New York’s Hudson Valley for 30 years. His operation, Windfall Farms, is the very picture of sustainable agriculture. From early spring to late fall, the farm’s 15 acres are luxuriant with snap peas, squash, mint, kale, and Swiss chard. Its greenhouses burst with sun gold tomatoes and baby greens. Pitts, who is in his 50s, doesn’t use chemical fertilizers or pesticides or any genetically modified seeds. He cultivates biodiversity, not just vegetables.

Twice a week, he hauls his produce 65 miles south to Manhattan in a biodiesel school bus to sell at the lucrative Union Square farmers market. Pitts does a brisk trade; demand for his produce is high. Since the mid-1990s the number of farmers markets has shot up 300 percent, and the organic sector has seen annual double-digit expansion.

But despite having no mortgage debt (he inherited the place), a ready market, and loyal customers, Pitts wants to leave his farm. His town recently rezoned, and the area is now industrial; if he wants to cultivate soil that isn’t surrounded by industry and its attendant potential for pollution, he has to move. The problem is, he can’t afford to.
Read more at utne.com