The Rural Coalition letter has been signed and sent off, the House Farm Bill Markup is public and Tuesday and Wednesday are going to be really busy days both in DC and in the sustainable agriculture community. Over the past year we at Southern SAWG have been pushing out information designed to both educate and provide strategy information for your grassroots efforts. Today, I thought, let’s take a few moments to look at the real-world implications of this massive bill that has us all caught up in a whirlwind of legislative talk. I’d like to do so by telling you my story and personal connection with the Farm Bill—by taking a tour through my local sustainable agriculture community.
I love greens—kale, chard, broccoli, mustards, spinach, beets—and am fortunate to have a CSA through a local urban farm. This urban farm has a great training program—Urban Grower Training Program-- designed to create a new generation of agriculture entrepreneurs. Participants in this program learn the art and science of growing food in small spaces through a grant provided by the USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. The graduates of this program have gone on to start their own businesses from value-added food production to growing around the city.
I was introduced to sustainable agriculture through another farmer in the metropolitan area. He has a really cool barn/greenhouse on his property. This barn, an original structure to the property, is more than 100 years old. To save money on water, the farmer dug a well that is housed in this barn and was able to pay for it through a USDA cost-share program. This farmer specializes in providing food to low-income seniors and families in communities throughout the Atlanta area. These seniors and families are able to buy his low-cost naturally grown produce through the SNAP program. I forgot to mention, the farm that supplies my CSA, holds a farmers market twice a week. At this market they offer a discount to SNAP customers through the Wholesome Wave program.
Earlier this year, I decided to start a project—growing food--with a few friends. This project serves two purposes, supply the food pantry of our churches and area restaurants with fresh produce. To get seed, I have been speaking with organic farmers in the area. Those organic farmers were able to get their certifications through a cost-share program designed to lower barriers to entry to organic farming.
When I first started working with the Farm Bill, I did not consider how much it affected my dinner plate and my immediate community. The programs I mentioned are just a fraction of the many programs that are funded through the Farm Bill. It worries me that so few members of Congress from the south support the Local Farm Food and Jobs Act and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act and many of the provisions that are in direct support of sustainable agriculture. As a consumer I would like the choice to support the growth of the burgeoning local food movement in my community. As a food advocate, I work hard to see that members of my community are educated about the importance of the programs supported through the Farm Bill. As readers of this post, I hope you will take time to consider how the Farm Bill supports the work that you do and the food that you eat. Next week we will need your support. Have a thoughtful weekend!