By Chip Rowe
When the end of our industrial civilization comes, as it has for the Hudson Valley residents of Union Grove, New York, in James Howard Kunstler’s dystopian novel, World Made by Hand, everyone will be a farmer. With no oil, you’ll need to work your patch of land with horses and plows, but, on the bright side, the Hudson River will again be teeming with fish. (Kunstler has called the world he created “an enlightened 19th century.”)
Despite the two recently released dystopian reports on climate change, we’re nowhere near that scenario — are we? Regardless, it’s always comforting to have friends who are farmers.
In this, the third and final part of our series on the uncertain future of farming in the Hudson Valley, we will examine the progress we’ve made in preserving and growing our farms in recent decades and examine a few of the driving forces of agricultural health: the federal farm bill, up-and-coming crops such as grains, and strategies to help more farmers earn a living wage.
Many people in the Hudson Valley and beyond have given much useful thought to farming, including what, how and where our food is produced. Some argue that our problem is reflected by the fact that Congress passes a farm bill every five years; better, they say, we have a 50-year farm bill. That would force us to look farther down the dirt road at our prospects as food production becomes more challenging for the many reasons outlined in the first two parts of our series.
“The problem of feeding the world should be addressed, first of all, by calculating the waste — from farmland and topsoil to thrown-away food — in the world’s food systems,” the farmer and essayist Wendell Berry recently told The New York Times. “The people, fairly numerous and highly credentialed, who argue that only industrial agriculture as we now have it can feed the world are arguing in fact that we can feed the world only by an agriculture that destroys both farmland and farmers. There is a point, obviously, beyond which this kind of agriculture will not be able to feed much of anybody.”
In 2004, the American Farmland Trust organized a report on Hudson Valley agriculture. “Some people worry that farming may disappear from the region during our lifetimes,” it read. “We stand at a crossroads. Will we protect our farms and strengthen our agricultural industry?” When we asked Todd Erling, executive director of the Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corp., this week to take a look at the report, it got him thinking. “We need Crossroads 2.0,” he said.
In 2004, a major report recommended changes in the Hudson Valley. How are we doing?
By Chip Rowe
The 2014 Farm Bill was great for the Hudson Valley. How about 2019?
By Brian PJ Cronin
Reports from the Field
The wheat field, the rye field, the barley field, and the oat field
By Deb Lucke
What can be done to make farms profitable?
By Cheetah Haysom
Where Will the Food Come From?
By Chip Rowe
Study: 90 percent of U.S. can feed itself