Summer harvest is here! Every delicious, ripe tomato; every sweet, luscious blueberry! I’m brimming with gratitude to all the farmers out there right now!

To all the many hands that ensure we can put healthy, delicious local food on our tables – thank you. For all the essential workers and the vital roles that you play in this – thank you. The farmers who grow and raise our food have met the uncertainty of 2020 head on, and as they always do, they keep farming. It is easy to forget all that goes into every meal we eat, but it all begins on the farm.

Countryside CEO, Darwin Kelsey

Darwin Kelsey

The past several months have dramatically changed how we all live and work. It has led me to think a lot about what the future of agriculture might look like and I’ve been reflecting back on how far we’ve come. More than a decade ago, Countryside’s founder, Darwin Kelsey, cast a vision into the future. Darwin wrote:  

By 2020, the Countryside will transform Northeast Ohio into a region of thriving community-based farming and food entrepreneurs 

Countryside has indeed played a significant role in the revitalization of our local food system. He went on:  

Taking local community-based food systems “to scale” in Northeast Ohio – say 20%-30% of total consumption – will be a two or three decade process. It will require rebuilding (and thoroughly modernizing) the farming and food system knowledge base, culture, skills, and infrastructure which have virtually disappeared over the past half century.

 

By 2020, the process will be dramatically underway. Home and school gardens will be flourishing. Hundreds of new, small farming/gardening businesses will have sprung up in virtually every county across the region. Neighborhood CSA’s and farmers’ markets will be commonplace in most urban and suburban subdivisions. Local produce, dairy, eggs, and meat will be on the menu or the shelves of nearly all restaurants and grocery stores. Tens of thousands of new full and part-time jobs be strengthening the region’s economy – and will be transforming its quality-of-life. A broad new commitment to stewardship of the land resources on which this all depends will have become part of popular culture.  

Today, these things are nearly commonplace and continue to grow, and hardly seem prophetic. Yet, his words came in the infancy of Northeast Ohio’s local food movement. He was a visionary. He could sense the groundswell and believed. Countryside, hand in hand with many other amazing farm and food leaders, helped to bring this vision to life. But the work is far from complete. 

Over the next several months, I will share with you some of the important work that still must be done to build a truly resilient food system. Together, we need to keep these 3 issues in the forefront: Farmland preservation and accessEquity and justice in food and farming; and Growing the next generation of farmers. 

Meanwhile, let’s keep supporting Ohio farmers. Join a CSA, stop at your favorite farm stand or farmers’ market and buy local when you can. Summer’s delicious bounty reminds us how necessary farmers are.