Recently John Stossel of FOX Business Channel has aired a number of segments disparaging sustainable agriculture. His issues have included the use of herbicides and pesticides, grainfed vs. grassfed beef, genetically modified salmon and food safety. Is Stossel going out of his way to be outrageously provocative? To what end? And for whose benefit? Certainly we are not the only ones to condemn these reports as being inaccurate, unbalanced and biased, as the many comments to the reports attest. Stossel would no doubt accuse me of being unrealistic and only supporting small scale farms. However, the reality is that to keep the planet healthy and fed we will need to employ a wide range of solutions. Sadly, the last 40 years of ”big ag’s” version of the solution has shown chronic failure in the form of antibiotic resistance, tainted water and some of the largest food recalls in history. Too bad Stossel doesn’t recognize that we have to stop using the planet – a finite resource – as “big ag’s” test tube.
A variety of speakers representing a wide range of knowledge and expertise shared their insights into creating a sustainable and efficient food supply chain from western New York State farms to the retailers and restaurants of New York City during the “Reaching the New York City Market” summit held April 23 in Alfred, New York. The summit was co-sponsored by Animal Welfare Approved and Alfred State College. (Pictured above Nick D’Agostino III, Chef David Schuttenberg (Cabrito), and Chef Bill Telepan (Telepan Restaurant)).
The issues of the day were introduced by Greg Bowman of the Rodale Institute and the summit opened with a panel that addressed the demand by chefs, retailers and other food purveyors for food sourced from New York State farms. The panelists delved into the obstacles they encounter trying to purchase the products they need and what features they felt were necessary to enhancing a future supply chain. The New York City panel featured New York City chefs Bill Telepan and David Schuttenberg. Retailers were represented by Nicholas D”Agostino III of D”Agostino Supermarkets and Jeremy Hirsch and Patrick Martins of Heritage Foods USA. Tom Massara of Auxiliary Campus Enterprises and Services represented the viewpoint of institutional buyers. Bob Lewis, of the New York State Department of Agriculture, moderated.
Farmers and other producers presented the supplier side of issue-detailing the difficulty accessing the New York City market in a way that is both efficient and profitable. Charles Deichmann of Willow Creek Farm, Charles Emerson of Emerson’s Maple Farm, Mary-Howell Martens of Lake View Organic Farm, and Ivan Davis of Grizzly’s Custom Cutting talked about the challenges local producers face and the attributes a successful supply chain would need to be effective for producers and growers. Martha Goodsell of Fallow Hollow Deer Farm moderated the discussion.
Bringing the issues of purchasers and producers together was the focus of the day’s third panel. Moderated by Miguel Gomez of Cornell University, the panelists were Tom Sleight of the New York Farm Viability Institute, Steven Holzbauer of the Center for Agriculture Development and Entrepreneurship, and Tom Tolputt, who heads a group of farmers in the U.K. supplying beef, lamb and pork to the London market. Using input from the two previous panels and extensive policy knowledge, the group began the work of envisioning a cohesive system in which producers and purchasers worked together to maximize opportunity for both sides.
Summitt attendees also heard from other agricultural experts, including Patricia Whisnant of the American Grassfed Beef Association, Judith LaBelle of Glynwood, Don Tobias of Cornell University Coopeative Extension-NYC and Mike Faupel, Program Manager for the University of Arkansas Sustainability Center, which will be undertaking a similar endeavor this summer. Dr. J.H. Bahn, National Program Leader of USDA CSREES closed the day.
“The energy throughout the day was amazing,” said Animal Welfare Approved program director Andrew Gunther. “The group laid the groundwork for workable supply chain and the building process has begun.” In the coming weeks, video of the summit will be posted on YouTube and Animal Welfare Approved will be making post-summit materials and reports available on its website. People interested in following the work of the summit working group should sign up for the Animal Welfare Approved listserv to be notified of developments and other news.