Farming is not easy

Dear Islanders,

    Farming is not easy.

    Let me rephrase that. Farming is hard. Just ask a farmer. They put their heart and soul into the land or the animals that are their livelihood. And more often than not, many farmers can barely make ends meet, and most family farms are gone. The only people making big money farming today are the industrial farms, which sadly sometimes grow products for industrial food that makes us sicker, slower and more lugubrious. But does that mean local farming should end? And more importantly, why do people still pursue farming if it is not lucrative?

   Farming is part of who we are

   Despite the challenges, many farmers would never give it up. I was speaking to someone on the Island who dabbles in farming. He told me about a man he knows farms his land from his wheelchair! He even engineered his old tractor to fit the chair. Not that he makes any money from it. But even when he lost his ability to walk, he could not give up his love of farming. You see, many smaller farmers do it because they are passionate about it. America has always been a place that embraces farming. I’ve spoken about it before, but most of the founding fathers had farms. And it was the great joy of their life to return to farming once their service to the country had ended. Even the names of their farms—Mount Vernon, Monticello—have almost mythical status in our country. Grand Island has always been a farming community. I recently had the opportunity to fly over the Island at a low level, and I could see all of the many drainage ditches that were once used by early farmers to get their land dry enough to farm. I don’t expect there to be large industrial farms on the Island. Nor, would we want that. And I was reading recently about some communities in California that have adopted “free range” laws so that there are chickens wandering freely between homes. We don’t want that either. After all, we are still primarily a residential space. Still, even large cities, such as Boston and New York, are embracing the concept of the “Agrihood” by adopting broader codes to allow for farm related activities. I’m proud to say Grand Island is also moving in this direction by examining our agricultural laws and by supporting the expansion of a protected Agricultural District. Yes, with farming comes sacrifices, but remember farming will also help keep Grand Island a green space between Niagara Falls and Buffalo. To outside developers looking to cover the Island in apartment complexes, a whiff of a little manure and a couple of chickens are like garlic to a vampire.

    I continue to encourage and support the start of a farmer’s market

   I support farming because it’s a symbolic benefit to our Island. It also will help support our health. Embracing local farming will help encourage more clean and healthy eating. People want to know where their food is coming from and that is hasn’t been coated in chemicals so it can be on a truck for 10 days before it gets to the supermarket. And even if it’s hard to get rich off local farming, it would be great if our entrepreneurs could make at least a few more bucks doing it. There has been a huge explosion in the number of farmer’s markets across America. Today, every little town and borough wants one. Some people think the movement has peaked, and there is just not that much demand. But I think there is still enough of a demand in Western New York to make a Farmer’s Market viable. Who doesn’t go to North Tonawanda once in a while on Saturday morning, wishing we had something similar right on the Island? Yes, the costs of locally produced goods can be higher, but the old maxim about getting what you pay for also holds true. When you eat something that is fresh and made right, you just feel good. And remember, farmer’s markets are not just about produce. There’s honey, meats, baked goods, and other locally produced products. The market won’t only stimulate the economy on Grand Island, it will give residents an opportunity to support each other and grow our community spirit on Grand Island – all the while being healthier

    It’s not just about the food, it’s about the experience

   Going to a farmer’s market is also often a great experience. You smell the food and interact with those that produce the food in a way that is entirely different from the overly sanitized experience you get at a supermarket. Life is not all about efficiency – despite how we race through our days. After all, we are not machines. Walking through the market, picking out some flowers, feeling some fruit, and shaking the hand of the man or woman who planted it stays with you. Hemming spoke of the “moveable feast,” meaning experiences that shape you and shape the way you interact with the world. Having a farmer’s market, engaging with it, and then eating from it might be a literal ‘moving feast’ for our community—nourishing our body and soul.

    If you are interested in joining the farmer’s market – contact my office

   If you want to be a part of the Grand Island Farmer’s Market, please reach out to my office. Contact Cyndy at 716-773-9600 x658 or cmontana@grand-island.ny.us or stop in. Some like-minded souls are already in the planning stages with us. And I know that there are already some folks selling their farm products independently. But there is power in joint forces, and we could use your input and support. Also, even if don’t want to join the market selling goods, we hope you come out to buy some when it starts. Without the traffic and your support, the Farmer’s Market will not be successful. Let’s make sure that does not happen. I can’t wait to see all the wonderful things being produced on Grand Island that many of our residents don’t even know are being grown in our very own backyards. “If you ate today, thank a farmer!”

Warmest regards,

Nate