Graham Meriwether

published Washington DC Screening in Ruminations 2012-07-18 10:20:26 -0400

Washington DC

Another night, another screening, another spark...

Tonight we all learned that there's hope for the 2012 farm bill. 

After the supercommittee failed to reach consensus last week, the doors were reopened for a national conversation about agriculture... which is good news for everybody. 

Why's that-> because people like Susan Prolman who runs the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) will be able to share common-sense solutions to our nation's agricultural challenges. How? Through initiatives like the Beginning Farmer Bill which helps provide funding to new farmers, and the Local Food Bill which- yep- helps support local farms in every which way- through supporting farmers markets, helping farmers to produce food for local markets, and educating us everyday folks about how, why and where we can get this local food. 

What can you do? - Contact your state and federal elected officials and let them know that you support the Local Food Bill & the Beginning Farmer Bill. Right after you've done that- join the pulse of agricultural knowledge at Food Democracy Now! where our good friends Dave and Lisa will let you know about the precise moments when to take action about food topics that matter.

One person tonight asked if we need to focus on supply or demand to grow our movement... Maureen Moodie of Arcadia said we need to do both- that from the supply side- in the urban area of DC there's more demand for local food than can be met, the challenge is how to inspire young people to consider a career in agriculture...

Which is why it was so exciting to have Phil Petrilli- who manages Chipotles in the Northeast region standing right there. For those who don't know- Chipotle has recently started sourcing pork from local farms for a few of their restaurants. The first was Polyface Farms- which sourced pork for the Charlottesville, VA Chipotle. The program saves cash because produce doesn't have to get trucked around the country to get to a restaurant. Instead of traveling thousands of miles- now it travels tens of miles. It also means the produce is more fresh, and it helps to create more jobs. The one-farm-to-one-restaurant program has been successful- and now is at a number of Chipotles- in Texas, the D.C. area, and soon to be PA. They're essentially writing the book on how to locally source a major chain restaurant, and it's pioneers like Phil Petrilli who are making the nitty gritty logistical side of distribution happen...

If half of the 1300 Chipotles source locally, that will create tens of thousands of jobs for young people- right smack dab in the middle of the worst job market for people coming out of high school and college. Let's put a square peg in a square hole- let's employ these young able-bodied people in a rapidly expanding profitable enterprise also known as sustainable agriculture. If we see the niche market jump from 1% to 10% over the next 5 years, we'll see a lot of jobs be created and a much needed revitalization of rural America. 

The pieces are starting to fall into place. It's an exciting time to start farming, and an exciting time to be eating, too. 

published Young Farmers Conference in Ruminations 2012-07-18 10:06:31 -0400

Young Farmers Conference

Just got back from the screening of American Meat at the Young Farmers' Conference at Stone Barns Center...

After the screening we asked farmers what they need help with, and they talked about a number of things, all of which grabbed the attention of the room: 

1) Paid training-To bring the average age of the U.S. farmer down from 57, we're going to train a new generation of farmers. Given the hard work, and long amount of time it takes to learn how to farm, we need to make sure that farmers get paid for on the job training. Ways to do this Give government subsidies to farmers that take on new farmers so they can pay interns. 

2) Cheap leases for land- The cost of land seems to go up every year. That makes it even harder for new farmers to get a loan in order to own land. We need to find ways to get land to new, young farmers cheaply. Ideas?

3) USDA-inspected slaughterhouses nearby- Craig Haney mentioned they sometimes have to truck animals 5 hours one way to get them slaughtered. That's not financially sustainable. We need to come up with creative solutions- like mobile slaughter units- like changing state laws to allow for small farmers to slaughter on-farm- It's different state-to-state. Farmers in Washington state face almost none of the regulatory hurdles that farmers in Iowa face. 

4) Lift limits on small farm slaughter- One farmer mentioned that state law only allows for 200 turkeys to be slaughtered on farm. This unnecessarily limits the economic potential of small farms. How can we work together to have common sense policies for our small farms?

5) More tax breaks for farmers- Full-time farmers should get substantial tax breaks on property taxes because without them we wouldn't be here.

The national conversation is soon going to switch to agriculture as we work through the once-every-five-year 2012 Farm Bill.

The people we should listen to more than anyone about where to spend our tax dollars are our farmers. 

Fred Kirschenmann- President of Stone Barns Center- said that we need to gradually shift our government subsidies to local agriculture. Not all at once. We can't fault our farmers because they gave us what we asked for- large quantities of corn and soy as efficiently and inexpensively as possible. But given current and projected energy costs- we need to wean ourselves onto a more localized food system that isn't so dependent on fossil fuels. The way we'll do this is with a tough strong new generation of farmers.

As we stood in a room full with just those people, the task seemed a little less daunting. 

1 Million for 1 Billion: Money for Young Farmers

GOAL: 1,000,000 signatures

The average age of the American Farmer is 57. 

It goes up and up every year. 

We need to inspire and support the next generation of America's farmers.

Join us in the effort to shift 1 billion dollars of government subsidies to help young people become farmers.

Act now!

published Tickets 2011-10-24 16:48:00 -0400

published Rules 2011-09-28 13:17:14 -0400


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published Spread the word 2011-09-28 13:16:42 -0400

published Join 2011-09-28 13:16:40 -0400

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