Supportive communities can mean the difference between success and failure for farmers. Recognizing that community support is an essential form of food system infrastructure, we aim to cultivate strong and vibrant farming communities through Keep Farming®, a process we developed through collaboration and research.
Keep Farming’s methodology mobilizes an organized and informed constituency of community stakeholders, including farmers, civic and business leaders, planning and land trust professionals, and residents, who work together to put in place economic development and land use strategies and policies that make it possible for small and mid-sized farmers to thrive on the land and in the marketplace while ensuring access to fresh, healthy food products and preserving community character.
More specifically, the program provides hands-on training, guidance and materials to: create and organize a constituency of community volunteers; research, assemble and analyze data to quantify and evaluate the role of agriculture in the local economy; bring the community together in civic discussion on the issues and challenges faced by farmers in their area; and create a strategic action plan (which can include economic development and land use projects and policies) for strengthening the community’s farm sector.
Putnam County adopted the Keep Farming process this year. This partnership with farmers, the County Soil & Water Conservation Board, the Agriculture & Farmland Protection Board, the County Planning Department, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service is looking at challenges and opportunities for strengthening and supporting the agricultural sector in our home county. The initiative aims to increase awareness of the importance of agriculture, build community support for local farms and locally grown food, and leverage the ways in which agriculture generates economic development.
In addition to Putnam County, Keep Farming has been implemented in dozens of towns and counties across the Northeast, most notably:
- Berkshire County and Northampton in Massachusetts (2011-2012)
- Chestnut Ridge, Orangetown and Clarkstown in New York’s Rockland County (2009)
- Durham in New York’s Greene County (2009)
- Red Hook in New York’s Dutchess County (2008)
- Cleremont, Germantown, Livingston and Chatham in New York’s Columbia County (2004-2006)
- Clinton and Buffalo in Pennsylvania’s Butler County (2003)