“We are not going to have economic development or economic revitalizing in our rural areas or subsequently in the state as a whole, without factoring in agriculture and the preservation of agriculture,” stated newly appointed New York State Ag Commissioner Darrel Aubertine.
This past Wednesday we, along with nearly 200 farmers, local foods advocates, land trusts, hunger relief volunteers, community gardeners, chefs, and local officials, came to the Capitol from across the state–including New York City–to meet with more than 120 state legislators for the No Farms, No Food rally organized by American Farmland Trust.
On the heels of the state budget being passed, the message was loud and clear, agriculture is important to the state’s economy. Farm and food advocates from across the state engaged elected officials and their staff in productive dialog about the importance of agriculture to the state’s economy and food security.
I went as a representative for Field & Fork Network, a non-profit organization I co-founded and whose vision is to build a thriving, healthy community through local food in Western New York. While there, I was able to meet with the staff for two of our local officials; Senator George Maziarz and Senator Mark Grisanti. Both of them sit on the Environmental Conservation Committee with Grisanti serving as Chair. The Environmental Protection Fund is managed by this committee, which was applauded for their efforts in sustaining funding which provides dollars for the state’s farmland protection program.
In addition, more than $3.5 million was restored in the final budget for other key agriculture programs including the New York Farm Viability Institute, NY FarmNet, and funding for organizations that promote NYS farm products such as the Maple Producers Association and the Wine and Grape Foundation.
The three messages we took to legislators on Wednesday demonstrated the interconnectedness of food, farming, food security, health, the economy, and the environment and why farmland protection is a key component to all of these.
The first message was protecting farmland also protects the environment. Farmers are key allies in providing clean air and pure drinking water while growing fresh, healthy food for New Yorkers. With over 7 million acres of farmer managed land in NYS, that’s more than 25% of the land in the state, farmers can play a pivotal role in protecting water quality and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.
Without farms, there would be no fresh foods available to New Yorkers. Our state’s farmers and consumers are on the forefront of a national movement towards stronger local and regional food systems. Dairy products, fruits, vegetables, and meats from New York farms can increasingly be found at the state’s nearly 500 farmers markets, schools and institutions, grocery stores, restaurants and other venues.
Last, but certainly not least, protecting farmland ultimately strengthens the farm and food economy of the entire state. It is no secret that New York’s farm and food businesses are critical to growing the state’s economy. Farms across the state sell nearly $5billion in products. Combined, farm and food businesses generate over $31billion a year in economic impact to the state’s economy.
As the budget passed the next day, Governor Cuomo sent a strong message to the food and agriculture community in that agriculture is key to our growth and to our future.
To learn more about American Farmland Trust visit: www.farmland.org/newyork
To learn more about Field & Fork Network visit: www.fieldandforknetwork.com
~contributed by Lisa Tucker, Publisher of Edible Buffalo and co-founder of Field & Fork Network