Anthony Mecca is a soft-spoken, 29-year-old farmer who operates Great Song Farm, in the Town of Red Hook, located in the mid-Hudson Valley’s Dutchess County.Great Song Farm is a fruit and vegetable CSA with 90 members.Mecca is one of a growing number of young people who, having grown up isolated from agriculture, are launching careers as farmers.
The Columbia County Land Conservancy helped connect Mecca with Larry and Betty Steele, who own a 90-acre farm in Dutchess County, N.Y. Inspired by a creative lease pioneered by a Massachusetts farm where Mecca had worked, they came up with an arrangement whereby Mecca pays no monthly lease fee until the farm achieves a specified level in annual sales. Once lease payments begin, the Steeles’ will reserve half of each payment for improvements to the farm’s infrastructure.Great Song Farm is now in its second successful season.
A series of projects underway at American Farmland Trust (AFT) are designed to help farmers like Mecca by increasing access to farmland in New England and New York. Recent grants from the USDA’s Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program (SARE), Farm Credit National Contributions Program, and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation have funded AFT projects to support the transition of farmland to the next generation of farmers and improve access to farmland.