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Article published June 18, 2013
Support local farms
T. Lyle Ferderber Valencia
Dr. Adalja’s letter of June 11 objects, somewhat rightly, to farm subsidies. These subsidies have changed over the years; however, with the current ones that involve getting paid to not plant, or plant certain crops, there’s a good target for concern. Three decades ago, we took the only farm subsidy we ever accepted: we split the cost of contouring and draining almost 20 acres with the government, with the result that still to this day, there is less erosion and better performance from these drier fields. Alas, these subsidies went the way of the dodo as the newer ones took hold. But Dr. Adalja’s suggestion, that we should support the food growers of other countries that don’t have subsidies, is ill-informed and just plain wrong, the weakest link in the argument. Perhaps we should get plane tickets to other countries where health care is cheap. I wonder how that would affect his business. And as a doctor, he should perhaps know that cleaner, less-processed and more locally gown food is better for patients, better for the (his sacred, my local) economy and better for our planet, as less fuel is burned to move our food to our table when it is purchased nearer to home. Consumers and farmers are learning slowly that when an agricultural state like Pennsylvania has an average article of food travel 1,500 miles to table that there is something inherently wrong with the food system that many embrace. Farm markets, consumer supported agriculture — CSAs, subscription purchase of local food — direct farm sales, value-adding (like making cheese from your milk) and more local and regional sourcing of food, whether through grocery stores, co-ops, restaurants or school food service — all contribute to a change in where, how and what we eat in a positive way. Please chew on that. Full disclosure: I serve proudly on the board of Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (www.pasafarming.org), which is actively educating folks to the above principles, to help farmers learn new techniques to make enough money to keep farming, to help consumers find closer to home, cleaner food, and to help local economies that benefit when farmers keep farming and eaters eat closer to the source of their food.