Greenhorns gives input for USDA listening session

posted October 28, 2008

Dear USDA beginning farmer listening session:
ref: CSREES-2008-0003
I’m writing as the director of a small, grass-roots non profit that works to recruit, promote and support young farmers in America.
We are mostly known for our documentary film, The Greenhorns, which was featured in last week’s New York Times Magazine Food Issue.
Our name, The Greenhorns, refers to the ‘new entrants’ into agriculture.
Our group is made up of young farmers and beginning farmers- and the issues we choose to address are those close to our hearts and experiences as new growers. We work to build the organizational structures which we ourselves crave.
One major area of our focus is the establishment of agricultural/cultural activities and festivals for young farmers living in rural places.
State Fairs, bookstores, coffee-shops and farmers markets contribute immeasurably to the dignity and levity of our calendar year, but we must also have barn dances, bon fires, educational and networking events. We must have accessible and ecological agronomic trainings, we must have rock and roll.
In France, agricultural funding is available for the establishment and support of ‘rural cultural enlivenment’-be that photo exhibits in small towns, grant monies for establishing local craft-fairs, or for refurbishing dance-halls and granges, converting abandoned buildings into skate-parks, re-establishing the old movie theatres.
As you discuss the needs of new entrants into America’s rural places-I urge you to remember that towns stripped of farmers, slaughterhouses and a ‘main street economic base’ have often also lost the venues of local folklore. And with the loss of those structures, the cultural events that bring meaning to the seasons, the work and the place are doomed to go uncelebrated.
We must rebuild those structures: the community groups, the buyers clubs, the kindergardens, the art galleries.
We need grants to rebuild structures which validate our vision, which recognize our struggles and which bring the needed feeling of community and unity to us we as work on farms, start our own farms, and rekindle rural economies.