Farmer survey aims to shape future of food system in New York

 Vicky Klukkert The Daily StarA view of Berry Brook Farm from Back River Road in Hamden on Thursday, Dec. 23. Co-owner Eleanor Blakeslee participated in a focus group for CADE’s Vision 2050.

New York farmers were invited to participate in a statewide Vision 2050 plan survey.

The Center for Agricultural Development and Entrepreneurship, the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University, the Cornell Small Farms Program, and faculty from Columbia University, Hartwick College and SUNY Cobleskill launched a statewide farmer survey asking what farmers want to see for the future of New York state’s food system by 2050.

“Farmers are a central pillar to our food system, and their voices are critical for the future of how we feed our communities,” CADE Executive Director Phoebe Schreiner said. “The vision will ultimately be shared with political leaders, thus farmer voices are needed to ensure that future agendas, policies, and resources can be allocated in the ways they need.”

The survey represents the second phase of CADE’s data collection process, built on the results of 17 focus groups that were conducted between March and October in partnership with Cornell University, SUNY Cobleskill and other researchers, a media release said. Structured as roundtable discussions, the focus groups brought together 90 stakeholders from all sectors of the food system. This project follows a similar course chartered by Food Solutions New England, which released a 2060 Food Vision document produced by six partner states in 2014.

Members of the focus groups represented all aspects of the agricultural industry, and about 10% of participants were farmers, Schreiner said. There were aquaculture, dairy and produce farmers, agriculture researchers, advocacy groups representatives, buyers, environmentalists, distributors, investors, political leaders and more on the different panels. The goal of the focus groups is to “create Vision 2050, a document that will be used as an advocacy tool to set agendas for our state political leaders,” she said.

The farmer survey will help “identify barriers to be overcome and areas of opportunity and growth, so that we can encourage the adoption of a New York state strategic plan to strengthen agricultural development and our food system for the long term, inform policy, resources, and state programs and services.”

One of the themes that emerged during the roundtables from a sample of farmers who participated was the need to bolster farm profitability, the release said.

Schreiner said CADE has shared the survey widely with farmer associations across the state, through Cornell Cooperative Extension offices, NY Farm Bureau, National Young Farmer Coalition, American Farmland Trust, and other agencies with outreach to the farming community. “We are also promoting it through social media,” she said. “We acknowledge that the survey is targeted to farmers with internet access.”

She said about 200 farmers from across the state had completed the survey a bout a week before the end-of-the-year deadline.

“The results of the survey will be included in the Vision, and we will share highlights of their responses in future press,” Schreiner said.

Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at vklukkert@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_VickyK on Twitter.

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