Specialty Food Magazine

OCT 2012

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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FROM THE PUBLISHER No Farms, No Food I n an election year where Tomas Jefferson will frequently be quoted—or, more likely, misquoted—it is only appropriate that this column should lead with one of the many statements Jefferson made about the importance of farming. Specifically, this Found- ing Father talked about the need for young people to choose farm- ing as a career. In a letter from 1803, Jefferson expressed his hope that, "… Fascinated with its solid charms, and at a time when they are to choose an occupation, instead of crowding the other classes, [young men] would return to the farms of their fathers, their own, or those of others, and replenish and invigorate a calling, now languishing under contempt and oppression." To this day, choosing to grow food as a career is often overlooked. According to the most recent U.S. Census of Agriculture, the average age of the U.S. farmer was 39 in 1945 but it has steadily crept up to 58 in 2007. With the growth of the world population driving the need for more food, farming would seem to have greater opportunity than ever—but barriers stand in the way of young entrepreneurs taking the plunge. In a recent study the National Young Farmers' Coalition found that the top two challenges facing young farm- ers are lack of capital and land access. This trade knows plenty about the lack of credit available to small and/or startup business, but land access is a problem unique to the farmer. American Farmland Trust, an organization dedicated to preserving farmland and responsible for the "No Farms, No Food" bumper sticker adorning my father-in-law's car, states that between 2002 and 2007 more than 4 million acres of agricultural land fell to development. That's an area the size of Massachusetts in just five years. Those lands under the greatest development pressure are those near cities, yet they also produce most of our fresh food. American Farmland Trust places the blame not on development itself but rather on wasteful development. The organization notes on its website that over the past 20 years, the average acreage per person for new housing almost doubled. Between our national interest in enhancing food safety and security, and our social interest in conservation and the preservation of a way of life, I believe our trade faces a legitimate business risk if we don't do what we can to help all farmers, particularly the young ones. Many of the trends driving consumer interest in specialty foods are intel- lectually tied to small, sustainable farms. Natural, organic and non-GMO—not to mention farmers markets and CSAs—all rely on consumers making conscious decisions about what they put on the table. It's difficult to eat local if suburban farms continue to be repurposed for cookie-cutter houses with sprawling lawns. If you want to do your patriotic duty this fall, deepen your HAVE A COMMENT? Go to specialtyfood.com/mthomas/nofarms commitment to doing what you can to support a critical part of our social fabric. |SFM| By Matt Tomas Publisher, Specialty Food Magazine mthomas@nasft.org facebook.com/specialtyfoodmedia OCTOBER 2012 5

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