The future of local farms

Author: By Susan Hurd
Posted: Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Local food demand booming. Farm preservation. Locally grown food and food security. Spectacular landscapes and green open space. These are all good reasons to support family farms. Let’s take a look at what’s ahead for farm families in the valley by looking back in history.

This year commemorates the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s voyage up the river that bears his name. Farmers broke ground, colonized along the Hudson River Valley, fed their families, traveled westward, and fed other families. Around the turn of the century, Hudson Valley farmers headed down the Hudson River to New York City. Picture, if you will, Hudson Valley apples piled into barrels, loaded onto flatbed barges, and sold on New York street corners.

In 2009, with vibrant farmers’ markets springing up in nearly every city and village, family farms carry on this important tradition of feeding other families with fresh, local produce. They provide an important connection to the farmer who grows the food you eat. Today, the New York City green markets carry on the tradition of bringing country produce to the city markets.

Enjoy farmers’ markets My cousin Lindsey and her husband Jack, live on St. John’s Street in Brooklyn. They are customers from the Big Apple who are delighted to have fresh fruits and vegetables brought to their doorstep at a weekly farmers’ market in their neighborhood. Although it’s a major project for your local farmer, the day can be lucrative. I believe these markets are a goldmine for many Hudson Valley farms, as loyal customers will head northward to the valley for a visit to their favorite farm.

Enjoy farmers’ markets
My cousin Lindsey and her husband Jack, live on St. John’s Street in Brooklyn. They are customers from the Big Apple who are delighted to have fresh fruits and vegetables brought to their doorstep at a weekly farmers’ market in their neighborhood. Although it’s a major project for your local farmer, the day can be lucrative.

I believe these markets are a goldmine for many Hudson Valley farms, as loyal customers will head northward to the valley for a visit to their favorite farm during the popular apple picking season. As life becomes crazier, people desire a country outing where they can experience a different environment without traveling far from home.

Farms can serve this need by providing an intergenerational outdoor experience with friendly customer service. Hudson Valley farm visits are growing exponentially every year for educational school tours, family reunions, youth group events, company picnics, motorcoach stopovers, and even weddings. My favorite memorable newlywed shot was Patrick and Amy inside a turned apple bin! And while folks are visiting, who doesn’t enjoy a good story?

Family farms with a future in the valley will want to share interesting stories, sow seeds of history and a few colorful family life stories into people’s lives, as well as botany and plant science. Creative, enterprising farms are here to make a difference. Everyone has a farmer in their family tree somewhere! With fewer than 2% of Americans engaged in production agriculture, Hudson Valley farm families have an opportunity, and I believe an obligation, to share a piece of agricultural history as well as hospitality at their farm venue.

A connection to the land
As I ponder over what draws customers to us, I come back to connection. People comer back to connect with their food and farmer. We have a story to share and can provide the link that connects people to land and to food.

As people play, grow and learn, they will share their experience with family and friends who in turn will share about their farm with the groups they are involved in, and the family farm keeps growing, hiring more local community, and supporting the local schools and businesses along the way. It’s a win-win proposition!

As long as Hudson Valley farms continue to provide an authentic experience, using all the resources on the farm property, as a backdrop for staging activities and special events, and brainstorm creative activities for singles, couples and families, and to grow fresh products for healthier lifestyles, they will continue to grow and prosper and to add value to their local communities.

Susan Hurd is owner of Hurd’s Family Farm in Modena.Visit them at www.hurdsfamilyfarm.com

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