When you think of the environment, Jerry Cosgrove should come to mind. His 30-something career has spanned all aspects of agriculture, from food safety to agricultural development. Cosgrove has implemented policies, spearheaded projects and given dozens of presentations. Farming even runs in his blood. His childhood was spent on his family’s Clinton dairy farm.
Currently, Jerry Cosgrove is working with The New World Foundation. He is the associate director of the Foundation’s Local Economies Project. The project partners with Hudson Valley farms to create new sustainable economic development initiatives. Also, the project is exploring ways to develop a sustainable regional food system.
The farming industry is facing many hardships nowadays. Farmers are aging out. Less small- and medium-sized farms are staying afloat. Starting a family is getting tougher, particularly with local, state and federal policies favoring industrial growers. This is detrimental to famers growing produce on a different scale. In urban areas, land prices are sky-high, due to lack of non-farm development.
The project targets four key areas that need addressing immediately:
- Farm Hub
- Create sustainable training and marketing program for beginning farmers
- Support research and demonstration of technological innovations supporting resilient growing methods
- Help farmers access capital and expand operations
- Find ways to get farmers more affordable land
- Food Hub
- Sarah Brannen, Speaker Quinn’s FoodWorks Program architect, leads Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress study.
- Brannen is the former New York City Senior Food Policy Director.
- Study examines the regional food system, particularly use of farmland and design of local centers.
- Research the feasibility of regional branding and valued-added products
- Farm-to-School Education
- Place program in K-12 schools
- Teach students and their families the benefits of eating local, fresh food
- Partner with American Farmland Trust to gain more support for “farm to institution” efforts
- Policy and Advocacy
- Send information out about adopting purchasing policies
- Push for efforts by local communities to change procurement policies
- Follow through with implementation of those policies to assist local farmers
Partner organizations for the project are:
- American Farmland Trust-New York
- Cornell Cooperative Extension
- Cornell University, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
- The Glynwood Institute for Sustainable Agriculture
- Hawthorne Valley Pattern for Progress
- National Young Farmers Coalition
- Northeast Organic Farming Association
- Open Space Institute
- Patterson Belknap Webb and Tyler, LLP
- Red Tomato Fair Trade Distributors
- Rondout Valley Growers Association
- Scenic Hudson
- Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture
- Sustainable Economies Law Center
Jerry Cosgrove has worked extensively with farmers just starting out through the Greenhorns. Young farmers, filmmakers and activists manage the nonprofit group. Greenhorn folks produce a weekly radio show, write a blog and wrapped up a documentary. They also make presentations, organize panels and partner with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The Hudson-Valley based Greenhorns appear in the media often. The group is cited in The New York Times and NPR, just to name a few. The National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) is another Jerry Cosgrove, agriculture expert, favorite. NYFC is geared toward young farmers across the United States. Members have access to social networks, one-on-one learning and chances to support important farming policies.
The average farmer is 57, but the United States loses 2 acres of farmland each minute. That equals almost 3,000 acres a day. Without farms, Americans would lose their jobs. Produce and meats would get shipped overseas. More important, the industry that once thrived would become a part of history.
Cosgrove encourages farmers to get involved in the Greenhorns, NYFC or other local organization. Farmers can connect with their peers and learn something new. Plus, if their crop is struggling, perhaps another farmer can offer solutions.
Jerry Cosgrove: NYFC study tracks farming trends
Jerry Cosgrove, aNew Yorkresident, tries to keep afloat of today’s farming news and trends. The NYFC released a study that outlined the hardships new farmers face. More than 1,000 people from 34 states responded to the study. Among the respondents, 81 percent were farmers. Ages ranges for the farmers were 25-29 – most first generation – with 1-5 years of experience.
Among the programs farmers valued most were:
- 74 percent – Apprenticeships
- 55 percent – Local Partnerships
- 47 percent – Community Supported Agriculture
- 47 percent – Land-linking Programs
- 44 percent – Not-for-Profit Training and Education
- 30 percent – College Education and Training
The areas the farmers said they faced the toughest challenges were:
- 78 percent – Lack of Capital
- 68 percent – Land Access
- 47 percent – Health Care
- 40 percent – Credit Access
- 36 percent – Marketing and Business Planning Skills
- 30 percent – Profitable Markets
- 26 percent – Training and Education
With these 2011 findings, the NYFC hopes communities will get more involved helping new farmers. Locally, people can form Community Supported Agriculture groups and buy food from farmers markets. They can also protect farm property through zoning and buying development rights. On a state level, legislation can offer incentives, like tax credits, to farmers. Congress can feature the “Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Opportunity Act” in an upcoming Farm Bill.
NYFC Director Lindsey Lusher Shute said Congress needs to address these issues to keep Americans farming. “We need credit opportunities for beginning and diversified farmers. (We need) land policies that keep farms affordable for full-time growers. (We need) funding for conservation programs.”
Severine Fleming is the director of The Greenhorns. Fleming said “young farmers are ready to redefine the American landscape with our food scene.” He added, “We are strong of will, and determined to make farming sustainable in this country.”
Tierney Creech, of the Washington State Young Farmers Coalition, said the report will help young, new farmers gain status. “We know who our senators and representative are, we vote, and our friends and families vote. We need USDA and government support to succeed. We’re going to let the nation know that.”
Jerry Cosgrove knows that the farming industry needs protecting. According to the NYFC, there were roughly 6 million American farms in 1910. Now, the United States only boasts 2 million-plus. Agriculture specialist Jerry Cosgrove has a brother that keeps up his family farm. But not every generation is as fortunate. Environmentalist Jerry Cosgrove hopes more farms stay alive with aid from various organizations.