Where Have All the Farmers Gone?

The 2012 Census of Agriculture reported the existence of 9,071 farms in the Garden State. Since the previous 2007 Census had reported 10,327 farms, some in the ag community were quick to express concern over what the decline in NJ farm numbers meant, if anything.

Farmer-SHitchner-2006However, in thinking about farm numbers and the farm economy, accepting the 2007 USDA Census data at face value might be a mistake.

 
In 2007, USDA policy leadership and Congressional policy advocates wanted to portray the USA as a nation with rising numbers of small farms, urban and urban fringe farms, and farms operated by non-traditional operators. The Farm Bill policy campaign was called, “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” and its laudable goal was to connect people with local nutritious food and farmers who raise it. In an ever-consolidating, large-farm global marketplace, officials wanted to elevate economically viable local food system career opportunities and community development for young people. What better method than by manipulating Census reporting to reveal a rising number of small farm opportunities?
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Legislating the Lust for “Local”

New rules are being proposed regarding farm products sold in NJ designated as “local.”
Learn how the proposed rules will affect you and send your comments regarding N.J.A.C. 2:71-10
before July 3, 2015 ~

  • via email: proposedrulesMarkets@ag.state.nj.us,
  • by mail: Al Murray, Director 
Division of Marketing and Development,
    New Jersey Dept of Agriculture, PO Box 330,
 Trenton, NJ 08625

Sherry Marolda, of Marolda Farms in Atlantic County, speaks for many family farmers when she says that rising customer interest in purchasing locally grown crops “is the best thing to happen to us in a long time.” As William Safire put it, “localness challenges cleanliness as being next to godliness… The lust for the local is even competing with organic — food grown or raised without a chemical assist but often transported around the world… ”
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Effective Political Communications

Farmers_go_to_TrentonIt is important that farmers be involved in policy decisions at the local, state, and federal level because quite often those charged with making policy do not farm and may not realize the impact their actions have on the viability of farms in our state.

Farm families feel frustration toward government institutions that seem unresponsive on a range of issues, from crushing regulatory burden relief, to agritourism legislation affecting the hosting of lifecycle events, to inadequate access to educational outreach programming.

The way to cope is to get engaged and get heard. Effective communication with elected officials allows you to be heard on issues affecting your ability to farm. [Read more…]

Motivating Farmers to Attend Worthwhile Extension Programs

The itinerant teacher will be expected to give as much thought to the economic side of agriculture as he gives to the matter of larger acreage yields.

Congressman A.F. Lever of South Carolina,
US House of Representatives Report No. 110
creating Cooperative Extension Work, 1914

There’s a lot to chew on in Congressman Lever’s statement. With the creation of Cooperative Extension, Congress intended for educators to be mobile, traveling to farmers for the purpose of teaching the most economical methods of distribution as well as the best methods of production. There was an expectation that thought be given to what amounts to a curriculum for farmers. Following from that is the expectation that thought be given to how to motivate farmers to engage in programs that provide value to their lives and livelihood.

You might think that there is an easy, single answer to what motivates farmers to engage in worthwhile Extension programs: Profit. However, there’s more to it than that. In fact, we may be inadvertently presenting programming in ways that actually lead to disengagement.
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