Yesterday provided me with two seperate opportunities to discuss agriculture within my region. The first meeting I attended yesterday morning was a Tioga SET (Sustainable Economies Together) that is focusing on increasing bioenergy awareness and development within the Southern Tier Region of NY. During the meeting, our major focus for this month was demographic, statistical trends and how trends could change through the development of bioenergy within the region.
One attendee made a comment that within the Ag Statistics, he felt that the farms with an annual sale of less than $10,000 should be dropped off the list because they are considered hobby farmers. I will admit, this did upset me greatly. I haven’t delved into my mind about the reasoning on exactly why it bothers me so much…so I am going to discuss it here.
I am one of those farmers that takes in less than 10K/year. Now, I don’t work any less on each individual animal than a farm that makes 500k/year. If anything I think I am more concerned about animal well-being, how my crops grow, how clean my barns are…the list goes on and on. What other reasons concern me about this? According to the NY State overall Ag Stats, this makes up a fair percentage of our farms. Then the rebuttle I recieved when asking what the real issue was over not including those farms, I recieved the following answer: Because they are not really contributing to the over food supply chain within the state. If those farms weren’t factored for Ag Stats, they wouldn’t recieve tax deductions and would have to pay tax on all the goods they buy.
Now, that develops into a whole different issue for me. As a land owner that pays 26% or more of the land value for taxes every year (grand total is 140/WEEK), I would atleast like to be able make enough “farm sales” to be able to pay for my taxes every year. I don’t consider myself a hobby farmer. I consider our farm part time employment! Two hours every morning and night equals four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year….more hours and devotion than someone flipping burgers at McD’s. Now considerating just those hours contributed, wouldn’t I still be qualified as a worker in agriculture?
Now, taking a step back and accessing this from the bioenergy sector…I personally think that these farms are the ones that could contribute the most. I think they are much more capabile of diversity too. Flexibility in agriculture is growing in importance due to the swinging shifts in Ag Markets. It makes each farm less dependant upon just the price of corn or hay.
Now let’s consider this…in Chemung County says there are 116 farms with less than $1000/year in annual sales. My mind tells me that these are probably farms that produce seasonal products for local farmers markets or they are selling something like eggs directly off the farm.
Extending that out to my afternoon, I attended the Local Food, Fiber and Fuel Event at Cornell University’s Mann Library. There were vendors that produced hydroponic fruits turned into jellies and jams, a weaver that made socks/hats/sweaters/gloves from alpaca fur, local vegetable producers and even local organizations that assist agriculture. Our both was set up to discuss how Ag and biomass can work together for alternative energy. While there, I started circulating through the tables and held conversations with each table about Ag Marketing and NY Agriculture. Not one person could tell me when they last time they saw any type of advertisments supporting NY Ag. This is one of my major concerns and issues. There is no development to educate the public about what products are produced throughout the whole state. Yes, the wine manufacturers have done a fair job of promoting their products…but yet, there are still limited advertisments or write ups across the state.
No one seems to know where advertising money for NY Ag comes from or where it could even be established. My growing concern is that one of the major players that should be promoting NY Ag states, “Even if every available acres was planted, it could still only supply 30% of the food requirements for NY.” I ask you to consider this, NY Ag also supports the major city zone around NYC. I am not saying they aren’t part of the states population but do they really factor in under the Local food supply chain for the Northern District of NY, which is about 8 hours away? Or even my local food market when NYC is a four hour drive? I am going to start breaking the state down by region and the amount of food “stuff” that could be supplied within those regions. More will follow up on this topic over the next couple of days!
Feel free to comment or add your input, it is extremely valuable knowledge as I move forward in developing some type of consideration advertising for AG in any area.