Listening to the Needs of Local Farmers
Advocacy For local farmers, it’s hard to focus on the ins and outs of agriculture and also deal with the financial, legal and political concerns of their business. Farm advocates can help.
It surely isn’t news to any of us that the need to protect our food source is an essential one. And yet, not many are quite sure how to do that, at least on an immediate, local level. But some people are working together to make a difference. Farm advocates are a network of both business professionals and community members who focus on supporting our farmers in a variety of important ways.
Lending a hand
After the Farm Crisis of the 1980s — an economic crisis considered more severe for farmers than the Great Depression — a league of advocates was formed, who still exist to this day in order to “help connect farmers with social, legal, agricultural and financial resources and services,” according to the Rural Advancement Foundation International. Advocates help guide farmers through the financial, organizational and bureaucratic duties that they simply do not have time to research or complete on their own.
“‘There is always a need for education in order to figure out how the financial risks and farm management work within their farming lives...’”
“Farmers know their plants, soils, grass — but the financial end is another piece,” says Susie Marshall, executive director of the Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. “There is always a need for education in order to figure out how the financial risks and farm management work within their farming lives, and to find the right resources that work for them.”
Finding a voice
As a farm advocate, Marshall focuses on connecting farmers with government resources that they may not have otherwise known they could benefit from. Marshall emphasizes the importance of leading workshops and developing relationships within the community. And one of the best ways to do that is by providing a voice.
“We’ve got to have people speaking up for the needs of farmers,” says Marshall. She recommends contacting your city council, county health department and state legislatures to help emphasize and communicate farmers’ needs based on your region.
Each of us can support a local farmer by shopping from our farmers markets when possible, joining a CSA, and by simply reaching out. When you visit the market, ask questions about their needs, the struggles they’re facing and how you can support them. Communication is the key.