The New York Times Finally Gets it Right

Now, I know I’ve snarked a bit on here about the Times.  It’s an easy target:  the “paper of record” that takes itself so seriously and is always late to the trend-party.  The Times has sometimes failed to grasp the structure of a CSA, claiming that the shareholders were joint owners of the farm.  Perhaps they confused the farm shareholders (also known as subscribers) with company shareholders?  Regardless, the Times’ coverage of the shift in farms and farming hasn’t always been stellar.  It hasn’t been bad, just a bit clueless.

But on one shining day in August, the Time’s New York and Region section was just bursting with well-written articles about farms and local foods that did a great job of talking about what local food means to people and how it works.  Seriously, each area the Times covers (Westchester, New Jersey, Long Island and Connecticut) had at least one article about local farms.  Some had two!  It was amazing.

David Hunsinger for the New York Times

Tomatoes being added to CSA boxes; David Hunsinger for the New York Times

The big piece was “After the Harvest, Claiming the Bounty,” a light article about the Honey Brook Organic CSA in Hopewell Township, NJ.  It’s really a nice little introduction to what a CSA is, what the different membership models are, and how the farm and the whole process works, told from the point of view of this semi-skeptical writer.  By the end he’s been won over by the farm, particularly by the sense of connection to his community and the food he’s eating, as well as how much cheaper the farm veggies are to comprable produce from Whole Foods.  The slideshow is rather charming, and a good bare-bones introduction to how CSA’s work.

Most excitingly, there’s lists of local CSA’s for NYC, with farm locations, prices and membership information.  There’s also links to Local Harvest‘s website, the most comprehensive resource for finding local food in the US.  Here are the lists for:

Westchester

Connecticut

New Jersey

Long Island

There were also several other articles in the “In the Region” section, each portraying farms and farming positively.  In Connecticut, “New Milford Makes a Statement:  Farming is Staying,” the town council pased an ordinance preemptively protecting the few reamining farmers from nusciance complaints about the practicalities of farming, including early morning machinery and barnyard smells.  Calling it a “right to farm” measure, the ordinance

cautioned home-owning arrivistes that this is farm country, son, though it put it a little more formally. “Agriculture is a significant part of the town of New Milford’s heritage and a vital part of the town’s future,” the preamble read.

“New Milford is making a statement that they support agriculture, that they support the farming industry, which is not a position a lot of communities take,” said Jeremy Schulz, who farms 200 acres of corn, tomatoes, pumpkins and other vegetables that he and his wife, Willow, sell from a stand on Route 7.

This is really great:  the Times is spotlighting small farmers and local food and taking it seriously, and small towns are being pro-active about preserving the ability of farmers to farm.  Whether you’re coming at this from the local food side, or want to preserve rural character and charm or enhance food security,  or feel at “farming is part of the American character”, or heck, even share the “frivolous lawsuits are ruining America,” viewpoint, this is great news.

It’s because of developments like this that more and more peole are thinking about working at a small farm, or even starting one themselves, like Josh Levine above, in this article, another from the same day about local farming .  It’s supportive actions by town councils that really makes local farming possibe, rather than prohibiting noise or chickens or what-have-you.

It lets people like the Villano family, in this article, who have a market garden on their property in Lebanon, Conneticut, consider getting a cow.  More importantly, it lets the people at Local Farm in Cornwall Bridge, Connecticut, maintain a working cow farm and teach cow newbies the ins and outs of dairying, preserving a vast amount of agricultural knowledge.

The White Hart's own herd of beef cattle

The White Hart's own herd of beef cattle

And having local working farms of course provides the produce and meats for restaurants that feature local foods, like the White Hart, in Salisbury, CT, profiled in this article.  While these restauranteurs actually bought their own beef farm, that’s a bit more in-depth than most people go.  In general, restaurants that feature local foods, with their steady, bulk ordering, can provide a crucial source of reliable revenue to the small-time local farmer.

All in all, a great day for both the local farming movement and the New York Times.  Well done!

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