First, local organic farmer Don Kretschmann waxes, well, organic about the "booming" local farm economy...
The willingness of the consuming public to pay a fair price for food reflects a fundamental change. They see that this nutritious food is actually a bargain when compared with purchasing cheap food which is deleterious to health, or food which is shipped astronomical distances incurring hidden costs of environmental degradation and energy dependency. (Is there a parallel in the auto industry?)
Although he acknowledges that are serious challenges for family farms...
I have to wonder if everybody would agree with Mr. Kretschmann about the "booming" business thing. Has this translated into more stability for their farms, particularly those that make their living raising cows, pigs, and chickens for beef, pork, and... uh, chicken? From what I've read and seen, this may not be the case.
Several factors can impede this unfolding ag revolution and opportunity. One is the loss of local, small-scale food processing facilities -- slaughterhouses and butchershops, particularly. And the other is the loss of young people to enter the field (no pun intended) who've had the experience of growing up on farms.
I've read posts on message boards about grass-fed operations selling a cow or two 'cause they can't afford to maintain them all, and over at the Ethicurean the other day there was an excellent discussion about how family farmers are struggling to pay for health care, driving some out of business and preventing younger wanna-be farmers from fulfilling that particularly wish.
In other words, I just don't know if the increased demand for more local, and in most cases, more sustainably produced food, is translating into more financially secure family farmers.
Meanwhile, the semi-famous Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson take to the pages of the Gray Lady with a call for a 50-year Farm Bill to, among other things, address the tremendous damage that's been inflicted on the soil.
Industrial agricultural has made our food supply entirely dependent on fossil fuels and, by substituting technological “solutions” for human work and care, has virtually destroyed the cultures of husbandry (imperfect as they may have been) once indigenous to family farms and farming neighborhoods.
Clearly, our present ways of agriculture are not sustainable, and so our food supply is not sustainable. We must restore ecological health to our agricultural landscapes, as well as economic and cultural stability to our rural communities.
I highly recommend reading the whole thing. The last line is killer.