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Mindful : April 2015
For Fleming this is the central question: “Can the farm economy move from one that destabilizes rural populations, is commodity-based, corporate, and dependent on ag ro chemicals to one character- ized by diversity, resilience, caring for the soil?” She answers an emphatic yes, and presents ways to bring about that shift in the Our Land web series. There’s a huge cost, she says, to relying on indus- trial farms for our food, and it’s not just the health cost resulting from the use of pesticides and chemi- cal fertilizers. Food security is another issue. “ We’re shipping a lot of the food we eat in the winter from thousands of miles away. So when there’s a drought (3/5 of US agricultural counties are in drought now, according to the USDA), we can see clea rly why cities and towns need local agriculture they can depend on.” Most of the population in the US, Flem- ing points out, lives in urba n places. “ If those supply chains are blocked, it ca n create a major problem. People are becoming aware of that; they want to support agriculture and an economy closer to them. Each region needs to feed itself.” There is evidence that this is beginning to hap- pen. The young fa rmers in the fields today, many of them highly educated in some form of plant or envi- ronmental science and a sig nificant number coming from non-farming families, are working hard so that they not only grow good food on a sustainable landscape, but also are rewa rded for their hard labor. Many of them struggle, but they’re cha ng ing the food system, albeit slowly, and they’re beginning to envision a profitable future. Among their farming heroes are Jean-Martin Fortier and his wife Maude-Hélène Desroches, gradu- ates of McGill University’s School of the Environment. Founders of Les Ja rdins de la Grelinette, an inter- nationally recognized micro-farm in Saint-Armand, Quebec, the couple feed about 200 families through their thriving community-supported agriculture program and seasonal market stands. Fortier’s first book, The Market Gardener: A Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming, was released this spring, and he is in constant demand as a speaker at young farmers’ workshops and events. Traveling around North America, Fortier is overwhelmed by the number of young people he encounters who want to go into farming. It’s been growing, but now, he says, “It’s exploding.” Jack Algiere concurs, a nd is encouraged by the trends he sees, pa rticularly that “consumers” are increasingly seeing the connection between good food a nd good health, and that our current diet may be making us sick. “Anytime a trend has good health associated with it, it benefits everyone, so I’m certain we’re making progress towa rd a model for healthy, sustainable food production. I’m keeping my heart open.” ● From left: Stone Barns uses rotational grazing in their pasture, moving mul- tiples species across pastures to maintain healthy soils. These egg mobiles—portable henhouses—move in concert with grazing animals. Lindsey and Benjamin Shute collect eggs from laying hens they keep on their 70 acres in the Hudson Valley. Facing page: Eliza Greenman loves to get in the thick of things in her orchard. Donna Nebenzahl is a newspaper and magazine writer and author of Womankind: Faces of Change around the World. She teaches journalism at Concordia University in Montreal and is currently working on a documentary film about the small farming movement. PHOTOGRAPHSBYBENHIDERPHOTOGRAPHY(TOPLEFT)ANDJOSHUASIMPSON(TOPRIGHTANDFACINGPAGE) 54 mindful April 2015 mindful food revolution