Food Alliance still working to provide farmers with access to affordable land
HARDWICK TOWNSHIP — The annual Foodshed Alliance update to the Northeast Organic Farming Association-New Jersey Winter Conference was different from other years only in that Executive Director Kendrya Close updated from her Hardwick home on Saturday, Jan. 30.
One of the alliance’s main purposes is providing farmers with access to affordable land.
Close updated the conference on the SAgE program.
The Sustainable Agriculture Enterprise provides land to farmers with experience but not enough capital to purchase expensive New Jersey farmlands.
The SAgE parcel in Andover Township, Sussex County, has several tenants.
The first tenant was the Sussex County Community College student farm. The students developed a business model to service their primary customer, the school’s culinary arts program.
Although developing the plot has been delayed, the students are working on adding heritage grain.
Another tenant, Dark Earth Farms just received a hemp license, Close said.
The Munsee Three Sisters Medicinal Farm was established by members of the Turtle Clan of the Lenape Ramapough whose reservation on the New York State line suffered severe water and soil pollution from industrial dumping.
Turtle Clan Chief Vincent Mann said the farm will provide clean, healthy food for the Clan free of charge and also bring in funding to help the community and others served by the Wanaque Reservoir which is downstream of the pollution.
Seek-No-Further Orchard is 13 acres of apple, pear, peach and plum trees and will soon have plots of berries, Close said. She showed slides of the Lionshead Bee Farm with its hives on an old building on the site to keep bears from disturbing them.
There are still two plots available on the Route 206 site, Close said.
Other initiatives of the Foodshed Alliance involve strengthening the local food economy, Close said. Farmers require proper compensation and consumers need affordable food while all residents benefit from keeping food dollars local.
“Thriving farms are stewards of the soil, water and air. We can’t keep losing topsoil,” Close said. This even applies to the small urban plots the alliance supports such as the Rabbit Hole which is two adjoining vacant lots in downtown Newark being developed into a garden with a process of recycling rainwater. The lots will eventually feature a sweat lodge and a place for art as well as to do yoga.
The Rabbit Hole is only one initiative designed to connect the demand from urban centers with the supply.
The alliance is continuing with its Local Share program which recruits volunteers for gleaning on cooperating farms and distributing food to needy areas.