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Mindful : April 2015
new type of fa rm-lifestyle. They’re hoping that with enough support their farms will flourish, and also provide them with a great quality of life. A Need for Land Lindsey Lusher Shute a nd her husband Benjamin produce vegetables and raise pigs and hens on 70 acres in the Hudson Valley in upstate New York, a mecca for sustainable agriculturists. Now in their mid-30s, they’ve spent a decade in the fields yet neither grew up on farms or with farming back- grounds; she studied environmental policy a nd music at NYU and Bard College while he studied anthropology at Amherst. They met doing commu- nity ga rdening in New York City. The couple, who now have two young daughters, cofounded the National Young Farmers Coalition four years ago, when they realized no organizations focused on the needs of a new generation of farmers coming from non-farming backgrounds. “ People like us are facing difficult barriers to making a career,” she says. One of the biggest difficulties is finding affordable land to grow food near to substantial markets, since so much good arable land gets eaten up by real estate developments with big footprints. If the land you’re on is too expensive and too far from markets for fresh local food, “you ca n only go so far before bringing food to market becomes very expensive and miserable,” she says. Her group is now working with various land trusts, organizations formed in the 1970s with an interest in protecting the environment, including protecting farmland and open space from development. More and more people are concerned about the effects of industrial ag riculture—environmental degradation, soil depletion, less nutritious a nd tasty food, an addiction to providing feedstock for highly processed foods—and want to support agriculture that’s close to them, Shute says. And, in her view, local ag is good for the economy and the environment. “Having fa rms near cities throughout the country with many small holders means much more wealth stays in those communities and the landscape is managed in a way that leads to fewer problems with the ecosystem,” she says. The National Young Farmers Coalition strategy for taking on the la nd availability problem is to scale up the work of land trusts nationally and at the same time push new types of conser vation easements that not only set aside land for farming but also keep the land affordable for fa rmers. “This is done in Vermont and Massachusetts now very effectively,” Shute says. The coalition has worked to rally as many young farmers as possible around this cause, and now claims members in every state, totaling some 30,000 farmers and consumers, as well as 24 chapter → On first page: Lindsey Lusher Shute with her husband Benjamin Shute, cofounders of the National Young Farmers Coalition, and their two daugh- ters, on their land in the Hudson Valley. On facing page: With a 20-year career in farming, Jack Algiere oversees the cultiva- tion of more than 300 varieties of produce and 100 varieties of flowers and herbs at Stone Barns Agricul- tural Center in Pocan- tico Hills, New York. from selling around 100 varieties of vegetables— from Lincoln leeks and Nebraska wedding tomatoes to Carmen peppers and Silverado Swiss chard—from his 6,000 -square-foot culina r y ga rden. Last year, he har vested more than 1,600 pounds of vegetables, edible flowers, and herbs—farm-to-table produce for discerning restaurants. “ I realized early on that the best food starts with the best ing redients. Being able to grow food on my own, I really enjoy having the direct relationship to the land and seeing the fruits of my labor. Growing food for local markets also connects me to other people and helps me to see my place in the world.” For Chender, nothing rivals the joy of sta rting with seed and soil and ending up with something luscious and nutritious on the plate. It’s part of the reason that a new generation of small farmers— young, educated, activist, and keen to be stewards of their own fields—are joining forces in a rapidly growing movement. They claim that environmen- tal awa reness and sustainable practices have been lost to both growers and consumers. As pioneers in today’s small farm movement, they aim to forge a PHOTOGRAPHSBYJOSHUASIMPSON(LEFT)ANDNICOLEFRANZEN(RIGHT) mindful food revolution 46 mindful April 2015