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On the Road: Meeting with New Farmers in New York

Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden talks to Hearty Roots Farm owner Ben Shute on his farm in upstate New York. (Photo courtesy: Christina Iskandar)

Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden talks to Hearty Roots Farm owner Ben Shute on his farm in upstate New York. (Photo courtesy: Christina Iskandar)

Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting with new farmers across New York to talk about challenges and opportunities in agriculture.  I began my trip with a visit to Eight Mile Creek Farm in Westerlo where the farmer, Pam Schreiber, participates in a variety of USDA programs. Along with her three children and some local interns, Pam runs a 223-acre farm that produces more than 100 crops.

The next stop of the day was to Hearty Roots Farm, where the Shutes raise dairy cows and chickens. They also have row crops on their farm and are in the process of applying for a Farm Storage Facility Loan which will help their produce stay fresh for longer periods of time. Hearty Roots Farm has a strong Community Sponsored Agriculture program. In addition to local deliveries, one of the farmhands drives two hours each way, twice a week to bring produce to CSA customers in New York City.

I was fortunate enough to be able to head across the street and speak with about 25 beginning farmers just like the Shutes. We were able to discuss the challenges they faced with access to land and capital, as well as pathways to farming resources.

I awoke the next morning in a much more urban setting not too far from New York City. My second day on the road began with a trip to Peekskill Middle School, where I was greeted by very enthusiastic young gardeners. The students showed me their high tunnel, which was provided Cornell University and the Ag in the Classroom partnership. They showed me that even in such an urban setting, kids still want to know where their food comes from.

The last stop of the trip was to the 6th annual National Young Farmers Conference at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. I spoke to nearly 300 young farmers about my peanut farm in Georgia and how growing up on a farm has shaped who I am today. At the end of the day, I want new farmers to know that USDA is their one-stop shop for the resources they need not only to get started by remain successful in agriculture.

The future of agriculture is bright not just in New York but across the country. I look forward to many more meetings with beginning farmers in the months to come.

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