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Farm-City Week: Navigating the relationship between rural and urban food sources

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“America’s farms have long been vital to our nation. They contribute to our public health, safeguard our environmental resources and stand at the forefront of our country’s path toward energy independence. We must continue supporting the vital relationship between American farms and families, and work to ensure that farming remains an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable way of life for future generations. During National-Farm City Week, we recognize the myriad contributions our nation’s farmers and ranchers make toward furthering the health and wellbeing of our country.

“The connection between rural industries and urban markets is stronger than ever, and Americans across the country are finding ways to participate in and celebrate the importance of agriculture and related industries. Rising interest in local and regional food highlights farmers’ contributions in connecting urban, suburban and rural areas. American children are learning about the origins of our food and healthy food options by visiting farms, learning from hardworking farmers and ranchers and trying their hand at agriculture through networks of school gardens and farm to school programs. Thanks to their constant enterprise and innovation, rural communities are building new domestic and international markets for their high-quality food, fuel and fiber products. As our agricultural industries continue to feed individuals at home and around the globe, we must help ensure robust and vibrant rural communities to support them… While we gather with family and friends during this time of Thanksgiving, let us celebrate farms of every size that produce the abundance that graces our tables. During National Farm-City Week, as the bounty of agriculture moves from America’s farms to our tables, we honor all who foster our healthier future.” So sayeth the Presidential Proclamation from Barack Obama in 2010.

Informally celebrated since 1955, the weeklong celebration is announced annually by the president every year. But what does Farm-City Week look like, realistically? There are a lot of ways to become involved.

This week is all about education – for both farmer and consumer. In an ever-commercialized and detached society, it’s become increasingly important for the consumer to know what goes into their food, where their food comes from and invest in the rural infrastructure and individuals that produce their food. Conversely, in an increasingly digitalized world (where they are already fighting a slew of negative messaging), it’s important for farmers to be involved in their communities, sharing the truth of what they do and setting the mark when it comes to the discourse on farming.

Outside of the direct retailers in urban centers, fostering opportunities like a community garden, farmers market or a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm share work to strengthen the relationship between rural growers and urban consumers.

What is CSA? “CSA, one type of direct marketing, consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community’s farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production,” according to the USDA.

Living in the city doesn’t mean you don’t have a connection to agriculture. And living in the country doesn’t mean you’re not connected to urban folks either. Photo by Enrico Villamaino

An article from the Biodynamic Association goes into further detail: “CSAs are frequently formed by farmers, but a number have been formed by consumers. CSAs offer opportunities for people to meet in a different way and address important community issues. Some CSAs make sure that the CSA initiative does not exclude low-income families through its pricing policies. For example, several CSAs are organized as part of regional food banks, and at least one CSA offers employment for homeless individuals. Another CSA, formed by a church group, links suburban and inner-city residents. Many CSAs take on the task of helping to re-educate us all in how to shift our diets to include more fresh produce when it is in season and how to store or preserve for winter months. Some CSAs also take on composting shareholders’ food scraps.” You can visit https://www.localharvest.org/ to find local farmers markets and CSAs in your area.

You can check out a farm tour – and farmers, this is a way to support transparency and communication about what you do daily and to connect with the community. While a variety of different groups sponsor and organize farm tours, you can easily locate some options by visiting your state’s tourism organization. This page at www.iloveny.com has some great New York farm tours to check out.

Youth programs can be key when it comes to educating the next generation of youth on what it takes to feed our great country. You can visit https://www.ffa.org or https://4-h.org to find resources and local chapters for you and your kids to get involved. There are also some great resources at https://youth.gov/funding-search/federal-funding-sources/us-department-agriculture.

Whether you’re in the thick of it or on the outside looking in, just getting started or a veteran in farming, it’s important for everyone to get involved in preserving American agriculture and the symbiotic relationship between rural and urban contexts as American farmers do their part to feed their country.

If you’re interested, here is some additional reading on supporting small farms and what you can do as a consumer to support agriculture:

https://portfarms.com/5-ways-to-support-small-farms/

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/01/how-consumers-and-farmers-can-transform-food-systems/

by Andrew Haman

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