By Elizabeth Henderson
“Agricultural choices must be made by these inescapable standards: the ecological health of the farm and the economic health of the farmer.’ Wendell Berry, Right Kind of Farming
For almost 5 decades (50th anniversary coming up in 2021!), the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) has been dedicated to supporting and expanding the community of farmers, homesteaders and conscious eaters who build their lives and livelihoods through agroecology – growing and consuming food, forage and other crops in as much harmony with natural processes and rhythms as we can muster. We have been leaders in promoting buy local organic and alternatives to globalized industrialized chemical agriculture. To enable shoppers to identify organically grown food, NOFA has put a lot of resources – time and energy -into developing and maintaining organic certification and the integrity of the organic label. Increasing public recognition of that label has helped save many generational farms and enabled the creation of new farms. But that label is not enough to keep family-scale farms viable.
For as long as I can remember (and I started farming in 1980), most of the farmers I know have supported their farms by someone’s off farm job – either the farmer or someone in the family. Under relentless and steadily increasing financial pressures, dairy farmers sell their cows and turn to field crops, raising cattle for beef or selling hay. Anything to keep the farm alive. Talented young farmers give it their all for five, even ten years – and then quit. Experienced farmers, including organic farmers, go out of business – the farmers give up the struggle, sell what they can and find “real” jobs. Development gobbles up farmland which has grown too expensive for a farmer to buy with farm earnings. The price farmers receive for crops does not cover all the costs of keeping farms viable, not to mention the extra costs of ecological or regenerative farming systems. The farm crisis is not over.
Can we find solutions? Continue reading “Root Solutions to Crisis for Family-Scale Farms”