Hudson responded, “The farmer needs to make a living, so they shouldn’t bear the brunt of this burden. But everyone should have access to healthy food. It’s a community and a government responsibility.”
“People have to get used to the idea that good food costs more,” said Dunsmore, who noted that food prices in many other countries are considerably higher.
“I have that conversation every week at the market,” said Swartz. “Fifty percent of what I do in terms of selling is that education piece. The only real systemic change is going to be on the federal level.”
Reaching consumers at a younger age and teaching the lost art of cooking healthy foods were identified as important strategies. School gardens, community gardens, farm share newsletters and information booths at farmers markets were seen as tools to advance understanding. “Knowing how to cook enables you to eat better,” said Dunsmore. “Lacking that skill puts you at a disadvantage.”
Reconnecting kids with the sources of local food was also considered. The PASA group has proposed school field trips to local farms to see and taste farm foods, but has encountered a lack of support. “Parents need to speak up about what they want their children exposed to,” said Bollinger.
Swartz noted that art is another way to reach children and that NACL theater is currently touring its all-ages production of “The Little Farm Show: The Greatest Show on Dirt.” Free shows are scheduled at 12:00 noon on July 28 at the Barryville Farmers Market in Barryville, NY and on July 29 at the Callicoon Farmers Market in Callicoon, NY (visit www.NACL.org).
Swartz also noted the need for more farmers and access to land. “It’s the single largest potential for our regional economic development,” he said.
Hudson added, “There are a lot of people who want to farm, but access to land is difficult. We must find ways to make entry into farming easier.”
As for the future of local food, all three participants were optimistic. “I’ve seen a huge change in awareness about food and being conscious about what you eat,” said Dunmore.
“There’s a rising tide of more producers and opportunity all around us, as long as we, as a community, make decisions that do not pollute our natural resources,” said Swartz.
“We’re heading in the right direction,” added Hudson, “but a lot of these changes can’t just happen on their own. It takes community support.”