Agriculture takes center stage as consumers drive local food movement

By: Mark Haney

16499358401_928ea32394_nKFB calls itself “The Voice of Agriculture” because it is the only organization representing all farmers – big or small.  We have county leaders growing everything from A (alfalfa) to Z (zucchini).

Me and my brother, Don, have an apple orchard, retail market and cattle in Pulaski County. My family has been growing apples in an area west of Somerset for 140 years. We were engaged in the “local foods” business long before that became the craze of the 21st century.

Today, I’m just as excited about those opportunities as I am for the prospects for the more traditional Kentucky farm enterprises. From my viewpoint, Kentucky agriculture has a bright future.

Consumer interest in locally-produced foods indeed has created many opportunities for Kentucky farmers. This type of agriculture no longer fits the “niche” category; it has become an integral part of our overall farm economy.

You know this is serious business when the mayors of Kentucky’s two largest cities participate in a UK conference focused on increasing local food service to large retailers and entities like school systems, hospitals and universities.  Farmers markets are thriving in both Louisville and Lexington. A multi-million-dollar “foodport” is in the works for Louisville.

For a rural organization like Farm Bureau, it’s gratifying to see urban leaders recognize agriculture’s importance to their respective communities. We’ve been touting that for many years, reminding Kentuckians of how the work of farmers benefits our overall quality of life.

489224553_a16942390bKFB’s primary initiative in the “local foods” movement is a certified roadside farm markets program that has grown in its 20-year-history to 99 markets throughout the state (Haney’s Appledale Farm is among the charter members).  This program provides participants with free advertising and promotions, plus educational workshops and an annual summer tour of farm markets and agritourism ventures in other states.

As this industry moves forward, KFB likely will be more and more engaged with issues affecting local food producers. We look forward to addressing the challenges.

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