National attention to concerns about food security, access to locally grown foods, and public health issues has never been higher and this focus is bringing together a diverse group of supporters with a shared energy to protect our farms and food. Farmers, ranchers, chefs, soup kitchen volunteers, environmentalists, urban gardeners, town officials, and local food advocates are agreeing on one thing: we must have local farms if we want to have local food.
Farms also remain critical to our economy. In New York, the state’s 30,000 farms sell more than $4.5 billion annually –milk, fruits, vegetables, meat, flowers, plants and so much more. Also, farms buy much of the goods and services they need to survive from other local businesses. Frequently overlooked is the network of connections between farms and thousands of New Yorkers employed at hardware stores, banks, farm equipment dealers and other enterprises that support local farms and food.
When you add together the businesses that sell goods and services to farmers, farm jobs and food processing companies, these enterprises generate a combined $30 billion a year in economic activity in just New York. With New York City residents alone spending more than $30 billion a year on food, the potential remains for growth in businesses involved in and connected to agriculture in the state.
This economic growth, however, is dependent on the viability of our working lands. Tragically, the United States continues to lose its valuable farmland to subdivisions, strip malls and other scattered development. Between 1982 and 2007 the nation lost more than 23,000,000 acres of farmland, an area the size of Indiana.
In New York, we have decided to channel the energy surrounding farm and food and work collectively to bring these issues to our state legislators. People from across the state will be converging at the Capitol in Albany for our annual No Farms No Food® Rally and Lobby Day on March 30. Together, we will tell our elected officials that they must take action to stem the loss of farms that threatens our economy and food security.
The No Farms No Food® Rally and Lobby Day is in response to the urgent situation we face. New York’s remaining farmland is capable of feeding only 6 million of the state’s population of 19 million—that’s just 30 percent. What’s more, nationally, 91 percent of our fruits, nuts and berries, and 78 percent of our vegetables and melons are produced on land immediately outside of our cities—the very regions in the most danger of being consumed by urban sprawl. We simply can’t afford to lose another acre of farmland in this country.
Get involved and make a difference! If you live in New York, attend our No Farms No Food® Rally and Lobby Day. In any state, share your concern about farmland loss by contacting your federal, state and local officials and make sure they know you support local agriculture and want farmland protected.
About the Author: David Haight is New York Director of American Farmland Trust and aids state and federal legislators as they work on agricultural and land conservation legislation. He has helped coordinate projects that have permanently protected more than 4,000 acres of New York farmland.