Recognition of farming and farmers

It can be too easy for even Northwest Corner residents, who are as a group highly aware of their natural surroundings, to take for granted access to a varied supply of produce of all kinds. Farm markets and stands now abound in the region, and supermarkets generally have a good, rotating supply of fruits and vegetables, in and out of season.

But for farmers, maintaining a sustainable relationship with the land has only become more challenging over recent years due to climate change, rising costs and, this year, a drought the intensity of which hasn’t been seen in years. For any who were unaware of this, the meeting of more than 40 farmers Aug. 24 (see story by Editor John Coston in Sept. 1 Lakeville Journal, www.tricornernews.com), hosted by Freund’s Farm in East Canaan, brought all these issues to light. Also bringing much-deserved attention was the presence of U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-5), U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Jewel Bronaugh, and state Rep. Maria Horn (D-64), all of whom have some power to take action to support farmers in their critical work.

The farmers at the roundtable discussion came from urban as well as rural parts of the state, which is only encouraging from the point of view of those many of us who wish to support local food production. With distribution becoming more challenging after the worst onslaught of the pandemic, the more local products we can find the better. And what is more important to the health and vibrancy of a community than food?

It was also good to see ag students at the roundtable. Housatonic Valley Regional High School in Falls Village has one of the strongest agriculture education and FFA programs in the state, giving those students who have a family history or simply their own interest in farming the chance to make it their life’s work. Having local farms for all kinds of crops makes a region stronger in many ways. Still, it’s a hard path no matter the passion and love of the land of the farmer. The crops and the livelihoods of the farmers, as pointed out at the meeting by Falls Village farmer Dan Carr, are always vulnerable to the effects of climate change and extreme weather. Preparing for the future with the help of the government would mean less anxiety for those farmers, and better outcomes for consumers who depend on the farmers’ success for their food.

The more programs there are that connect schools to locally produced food, the more students will understand where the food they eat originates and how it arrives on their tables. These same students may then be more willing to consider growing their own food where possible, or supporting those local farmers who grow it.

Now is the time to support those local farmers, so take full advantage of the harvest that is coming in despite the drought and appreciate what went into growing that food. It will taste better and have higher nutrition than what will soon be available once winter sets in.

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