State of the Farm Summit 2013, celebrating and supporting local farming and the farmers of the Hudson Valley was held at SUNY Ulster on Oct. 21. The event was sponsored by Rondout Valley Growers Association, the Town of Marbletown and SUNY Ulster; organized by Deborah DeWan, Executive Director of RVGA and Kathy Puffer, Hudson Valley Vertical Farms and moderated by Reverend Alison Quin of Christ the King Church.
October is National Farm to School Month so it is only appropriate that the State of the Farm Summit will be held Oct. 21 at SUNY Ulster beginning at 6:30 p.m.
The public is encouraged to attend. This is a forum where neighbors and area farmers will come together and the evening is designed to be a learning experience for all.
“The State of the Farm Summit is truly a cooperative effort of several organizations including Rondout Valley Growers Association, the Town of Marbletown, SUNY Ulster, the office of Congressman Chris Gibson, and ideas shared by farmers and the people who support them,” said RVGA Executive Director Deborah DeWan.
The events’ panel includes farmers from the Rondout Valley as well as a representative from Tivoli. Jack Schoonmaker, Saudenrskill Farm; Oleh Maczal, Ruby Plough Farm; Elizabeth Ryan, Stone Ridge Orchard, and Miriam Latzer , Good Flavor Farm will be the panel. They with along with Gibson will offer their experience and perspective and engage in conversation through a Q&A forum. Submit your questions prior to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Event planners are hoping to reach out to the Rondout Valley and surrounding area. Gibson sits on the House Agriculture Committee and will be engaging on farm policy, Farm Bill and other key issues of concerns to agriculture and advocates of local food.
DeWan said that a recent report from Our Hudson provides information that Hudson Valley farms contribute $800 million to the local economy yet could contribute many times that if the 19 million people in this area and adjoining areas ate more locally grown foods. Among the topics that will be discussed at Monday’s summit will be the barriers that seem to exist that keep local foods from expanding in school district’s lunch menus. DeWan said this is such a huge topic that it could make for its own summit in the future.
“I think our local farmers are better able to answer this question than I, but simply stated there are cost issues, procurement issues and supply issues,” said DeWan. “There is a great deal of interest throughout New York State and across the country, however to overcome these barriers is an ongoing effort. Work is being done at all levels to increase opportunities for schools to purchase locally.”
When asked about the increase in area markets providing space in their produce and meat areas for local products, DeWan said that the local food movement is not merely a trend but more a return to something basic rooted in history. Not only are there signs designating certain items as local, but the family names are often attached.
“The public is the key – asking for local produce and buying it when it’s offered. Supporting our local farm stands and farmers markets. Making choices that include locally grown food,” said DeWan.” We need to be developing stronger relationships – social and economic between those who grow the food and those who purchase and consume it.”
Area parents Kathy and Edward Puffer are invested in the future of the food system and the environment and therefore have a strong connection to the people who grown the food that the family uses. One of their goals in this area is to see that the Hudson Valley becomes the breadbasket for its people so that the land and river is viable and small farmers can sustain their business.
“We feel we must all work together- family gardener, homesteaders, and commercial farmers, because we get what we ask for,” said the Puffers. “For example following boycotts of Walmart, the company increased its selection of organic and non-GMO products. They had to change because people voted with their grocery dollars.”
Ed and Kathy Puffer say that the next step here in the Hudson Valley is to create a micro-farm of our own that would feature a greenhouse and several vertical aeroponic towers to grow our own organic food on our property. Feeding themselves, their children as well as their minds as they learn how everything works together in the Circle of Life is their goal they have set to achieve.