Friday, February 3, 2017

Now More than Ever it is Important to Support our Farmers

I always believed in the power of food and when I started the Farm & Fork Society 10 years ago, my goal was to gain access to the best organic sustainable produce available for my family and the community.  Over the last decade, I delved deeper into the industrial food system, the health impacts of food, and the overall impact that food has on society. Modern life has made it increasingly important for groups like Farm & Fork Society to exist.
In a recent commentary in Civil Eats by Mark Bittman, Michael Pollan, Olivier de Schutter and Richard Salvador, the authors eloquently discuss the interconnectedness of agriculture, immigration, labor, income inequality, equal rights, wages, woman’s issues, education, climate change, health diets, and industrial food. “It’s all connected; the common threads are justice, fairness, and respect... a “sustainable food system” cannot exist inside an unsustainable political and economic system.”  I recommend reading the entire article to understand the full breath of the piece.
As I start to assemble the paperwork for our 10th season, I look back to see how far we have come to grow this amazing group. Hundreds of members of our community have joined together to support our local farmers so they can pursue the types of farming practices that are sustainable and in line with our values. Farming is a hard business, and I am proud to enable us to support partners who work to ensure that we all get quality, delicious produce at affordable prices. Unfortunately, this is increasingly more difficult, and we suspect with the changes going on at the national level, life will only get harder for our farmer/partners. 
Some key challenges for our famers face include:
  • Climate Change is affecting perennial fruit bearing trees that require a minimum number of cold days for proper fruit production.
  • Plants are flowering earlier, but the frost dates are still the same, resulting loss of fruit product. 
  • Longer hotter summers that are predicted by climate models have shown to increase pests and disease. 
  • Drought affects all our farmers. In 2016, New Jersey faced the worse drought in 14 years.
  • Bees are dying at an unprecedented rate—up to 30 percent per year—and are in serious and immediate risk from human-caused climate change. Fruit trees require bees for cross pollination in order to bear fruit.
  • Each summer our farmers hire migrant laborers (legally) to work fields because Americans do not want to work on the farm. With new conflicts with Mexico and other immigration initiatives, our farmers likely will have trouble finding workers.  
  • Food is big business. The industrial food system is one of the largest contributing factors to climate change via methane releasing livestock, contaminating water from feed lots, the use of pesticides, and monoculture farms. The lack of appropriate national leadership has and will continue to create polices that effect food (e.g, GMOs, food labeling, organics), agriculture, natural resources, rural development, and nutrition. 
Now more than ever they need our support. Being a member of Farm & Fork Society is vital to our farmers and our community. Your membership ensures that our local, organic farmers make enough money to continue to practice the agricultural stewardship that we all want. Without your membership, your dollars, and your support these small local farmers will most likely go out of business.
I recognize that each weekly share provides you with a tremendous amount of food. Farm & Fork Society makes sure that any leftovers never go to waste. It all gets donated to two local food banks, Our Lady of Sorrows Food Pantry in Maplewood and Interfaith Food Pantry of the Oranges. There will be an option for those who cannot join this year to donate funds to purchase shares for the food banks. More than one million people in New Jersey are food insecure, with Essex County having the highest rate in the state, almost 20%. Any donation not only help our farmers, but also those families in need in our community.
The 2017 pricing will be available in the coming weeks. I look forward to building our vibrant community around food and let us “march” with our forks. As Michael Pollen says, “The wonderful thing about food is you get three votes a day. Everyone of them has the potential to change the world."
Thank you to everyone who has participated in our food community in the past and who continue to support us into the future. 
Please spread the word. 

I look forward to growing our food community.
Eat well,

Melissa Goldberg
Farm & Fork Society