New Leaf New York: From Pharma to Farm


The farmer as rock star
August 5, 2008, 12:47 pm
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Courtesy LA Times

Courtesy LA Times

Two interesting pieces today on the farmer-as-rock-star.  The LA Times features a budding young goat farmer, Kimberly Barnes, who is the darling of the 4-H circuit in Orange County.  Did you know there was a 4-H circuit in Orange County?  I sure didn’t.  Anyway, Barnes is generally a fantastic, responsible, and inspiring teenager whose love of goats has led her to study to become a veterinarian at Iowa State, where she’ll begin her freshman year in the fall.

“I really love showing,” she said, in part because it’s the culmination of lots of hard work.

For five years, she’s been up before the sun, milking and feeding before school. The same chores are waiting for her in the evening. She drinks the goat milk raw and makes cheese, but doesn’t sell it. This is all voluntary, with no financial payoff.

Barnes is a great example of what the future of farming could be.  I have a lot of hope for young people interested in farming — learning the newest knowledge and techniques in sustainability and soil science, it could revolutionize the way this country eats.

Getting a little more local, we’ve got Amy Hepworth and her outstanding produce.  She’s a seventh-generation farmer up in Milton, near Poughkeepsie, and produces some of the best apples New York has ever tasted.  The Park Slope Food Coop invited her to speak at a “Meet Your Farmer” event, where she was treated like a new American Idol.  Hepworth is a fascinating character: headstrong, energetic, wise-cracking, and deeply passionate about her farm.  And she eats apple maggots, believing pests are good for immunity. Continue reading

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Sisters doing it for themselves
July 14, 2008, 4:40 pm
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The New York Times reports that, according to the Department of Agriculture, 20,000 farms in the Northeast alone are run by women.  Not only that, but: “There are 80 percent more women who are farmers than there were 20 years ago in the United States, even as the number of farms has decreased.” These statistics surprised me, but in the best way possible!  Moving out of the city to work on a farm is a far-fetched fantasy of mine; I’d have so much to learn, not the least of which is learning to hate living in New York, and I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Farmers like Barbara Shinn, Diane St. Clair (who owns Animal Farm in Orwell, VT — har, har!), and Nova Kim (pictured), among others featured in the article, all happily engage in sustainable, organic and biodynamic practices, which they’re refining all the time.  Most of these farmers sell to food co-ops, farmers’ markets and CSAs.  These women are doing amazing things right here in the Northeast, and to say I look up to them would be an understatement!