It’s time to step up for farming.
But even more than that, it’s time to step up for farmers.
That’s how Schoharie County Farm Bureau President John Radliff characterizes the importance of “Forgotten Farms,” a documentary the SCFB and others are bringing to the Cobleskill-Richmondville High School for a screening next Tuesday, September 19, beginning at 6pm with an ice cream social and ending with a panel discussion on the future of farming.
“What am I hoping? Well, there are 700 seats in that auditorium and I’m hoping to see every one of them filled,” Mr. Radliff said.
“In Schoharie County, farming is still the economic engine. That’s still the truth. Without agriculture, there is no economy here. We need to recognize the importance of that. I think this film is a way to open people’s eyes.”
Dave Simonds is the director of “Forgotten Farms,” Sarah Gardner is the producer.
Both will be part of the panel discussion following the 7pm film as will state Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball of Schoharie and other farm experts.
The film focuses on dairy farming as the foundation of agriculture across New England and points out that they’re fighting “for survival in an age of artisan cheese and kale.”
Through conversations with both farmers and policy experts, the film also looks at climate change and the need for food grown closer to home as well as the “cultural divide between the new food movement and traditional farming and the need to find common ground.”
Sponsors of the event also include: C-R FFA, Schoharie Fresh, SUNY Cobleskill Ag Council, Farm Credit EAST, and Dairy Farmers of America.
Mr. Radliff said the film’s topic is especially timely given the discussion in the Town of Sharon, where developers for the Keys family are seeking Joint Planning Board approval to subdivide the 350-acre dairy farm into 23 housing lots.
“We are not an indefinite resource,” Mr. Radliff said. “We’re getting older and young people don’t have the means to step up. Fewer have the desire. What’s going to happen then? Niche farming is nice, but all of the niche farms in the county don’t have the economic impact that my small dairy farm has.
“When dairy farmers make the decision that they’ve had enough, that it’s time to retire, they deserve to be able to retire on what they’ve put into their farm. No one’s looking for a handout, but if we truly value what farmers do, we need to find a way to help them.”
One way is through conservation subdivisions—something that’s included in Sharon’s Zoning Law. (See related story.) Another is by purchasing development rights—an option the County Agriculture & Farmland Protection Board has been studying.
So back to who should go to “Forgotten Farms”?
Farmers, maybe most of all.
“Farmers should go to feel good about themselves,” Mr. Radliff said.
“Too often, we hear that we’re polluters, that our food is unhealthy, that we don’t take good care of our animals…We wonder, ‘Does anyone appreciate what we do? Does any one care?’ This is as good a chance as any to answer those questions and to let our farmers here know that they’re not forgotten.”
According to the Schoharie County Office of Agricultural Development, the county is home to about 50 dairy farms which produced 102.3 million pounds of milk in 2015, compared to 88 farms and 1-7.4 million pounds of milk in ’05.
Average milk production per farm grew during the same 10-year period from 1,220,000 pounds to 1,968,000 pounds.
Dairy farms had $19.3 million in sales in 2012 and make up about half of all agricultural sales in the county.
The average age of farmers is 58; the statewide average is 57.