Thursday, June 03, 2010

A Report is Born! Just in time for the Rural Summit.

Ok, so that may sound a little dramatic – but here at the Farm Aid office we are as proud (and as exhausted!) as can be to announce the launch of a report we’ve been working on for well over nine months now: Rebuilding America’s Economy with Family Farm-Centered Food Systems.

The report begins…

“In the past few years, our country has endured an economic train wreck--failed banks, a tanked housing sector, pinched credit markets, escalating unemployment rates, crippling health care costs, and mounting environmental crises. In the context of such troubling headlines, we must examine every facet of our economy and consider how it can foster a more prosperous and sustainable future. This paper seeks to underscore what we at Farm Aid know as a simple truth: Supporting family farmers and family farm-centered food systems is a powerful strategy for jumpstarting our fragile economy and revitalizing communities across America.”

It goes on to recount the true costs of an industrial food system to our rural economies and communities, and the ripple effects of a troubled farm economy beyond the farm gate. The heart of the report highlights the untapped potential of America’s family farmers to rebuild our nation’s economy through local and regional markets, and further enumerates what we have to gain by investing in both direct markets and emerging “mid-scale food value chains.” In addition to capturing some of the best research out there modeling the impacts of family farm-centered food systems, the report showcases the stories of innovative farm entrepreneurs finding success in local and regional markets and building better food economies in their communities.

The report’s release was celebrated today with a national telephone press conference featuring Alicia Harvie, Farm Aid’s program manager and report author, as well as Karl Kupers, Washington State wheat farmer and one of the founder’s of Shepherd’s Grain, an alliance of 33 farmers growing wheat sustainably in the Pacific Northwest; Fred Kirschenmann, organic farmer, Distinguished Fellow for the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University; and Ferd Hoefner, policy director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. Reporters from the mainstream and ag press were on the call to get the full scoop. We look forward to sharing some resulting news stories with you in the coming days.

Tomorrow, Alicia will head to Hillsboro, Missouri, to attend the Obama Administration’s National Summit on Rural America. As the USDA describes it, the Summit “will be an opportunity for rural Americans to share their vision for creating a more prosperous and promising future for rural America." In preparation, we made sure that both President Obama and Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack received a copy of Farm Aid’s report, accompanied by a letter from Farm Aid President Willie Nelson sharing our vision: that “leaders in Washington and in rural America will come together to support thriving local and regional food systems, keep small and mid-sized family farmers on the land, and attract new farmers to the land.” Stay tuned - we’ll be sure to report back from the event as it unfolds.

We’re delighted to share our shiny new report, and hope you’ll show it off a bit too. Please forward along to your local farm groups, food policy council, government representatives, school board officials, and beyond. Tell family and friends. As Rebuilding America’s Economy with Family Farm-Centered Food Systems shows, family farmers are already hard at work growing local and regional markets and spreading the benefits of good food to more Americans. Let’s stand behind family farmers and ensure they have the tools and support they need to put their best foot forward and rebuild our economy from the ground up.

As the report ends:

“Now is the time to invest in a new future--a future in which family farmers are recognized as key resources in solving the surmounting economic, environmental and public health challenges facing our nation. Ultimately, an investment in family farm-centered food systems is a critical investment in our economy, our communities, and our future: an investment that returns in spades.”

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