November 4, 2008, the Freemans Journal: ‘Farm Catskills’ Shows Homesteaders To Farm Like Forebears Might Have

‘Farm Catskills’ Shows Homesteaders To Farm Like Forebears Might Have

link to full article is here


‘Hatching new farmers.”
That’s how Amy Kenyon, East Merideth, president of Farm Catskills, sees her organization’s mission.
And a $5,500 grant from the Community Foundation for South Central New York is going to help it help new farmers get prime farmland, equipment, and greenhouse and cooler space for new farmers who couldn’t otherwise afford it.
Farm Catskills, an organization of 150 farmers, landowners, families and residents in Delaware County working to build a sustainable community, is starting Phase I of its Growing New Farmers initiative, an “incubator” – hence the hatching reference.
The piece of land for the “incubator” is next to Richard Giles’ organic Lucky Dog Farm in Hamden.
“Richard has had many individuals come to work on his farm to learn how to work the land and run an organic farm,” said Kenyon.
“But when they go off to start their own, they either have to move far away to find affordable land, or they just fail because of a lack of resources.”
Farm Catskills is modeled on the Intervale Center, a farming community in Burlington, Vt., which rents land and shares equipment to help farmers get started.
It’s grown to 14 family farms on 120 acres, former swamp along the Winooski River, and supplies 17 percent of Burlington’s fresh produce. It wouldn’t have happened for many of those farmers without Intervale Center’s support.
Up until now, Farm Catskills has been linking farmers with bigger organizations to protect their farms and land – the Open Space Institute in New York City, for instance, which puts land under agricultural easements.
Within the “incubator,” Farm Catskills will make land and greenhouse space available, and convenient access to a distributor who stops at Lucky Dog Farm three days a week.
“None of this would be possible without Richard’s cooperation and willingness to provide greenhouse space at below market rates,” said Kenyon.
The money from the Community Foundation grant will go specifically towards developing policies and procedures, so three farmers can get started in 2009.
Longterm, Farm Catskills hopes to expand up to 100 acres.
The idea is to use the foundation’s grant as seed money to put the processes and paperwork in place.
“What is really driving us is the big picture goal of what it can look like,” said Kenyon. “We have terrific soils and we are looking for smart and energized farmers who otherwise would not have an opportunity to farm.”
“We will not be impacting just the environment, but the people too,” said Kenyon.
The grant will be presented at the Catskill Ag Inc. annual meeting on Nov. 22 at the West Kortright Center, where Food Roots, a community food organization, will discuss developing local food sources.
Kenyon said, “We hope to be a model for other parts of the community and area as we get going.”

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