Want Local Food? Got to have Local Farmland!
Our food comes from farmland—and we are losing farmland fast. New York State has lost half a million acres of farmland to suburban sprawl since the 1980s. That’s the equivalent of 4,500 farms. We have to stop losing farmland now. Don’t let concrete be the last crop.
John De Maria of Hemlock Hill Farm, a second generation family farm in Westchester County, New York, knows what it feels like to nearly lose everything. He was fighting to prevent his 120 acre Hemlock Hill Farm, which raises free-range livestock and organic vegetables from going into foreclosure.
But then he learned that New York’s innovative farmland protection program—that American Farmland Trust helped make possible—was going to protect his working farm forever.
“I thought it was the happiest day of my life. I figured we could finally get out from under the mortgages. It was finally my day.” –John De Maria, Hemlock Hill Farm
But the money didn’t come through for many months due to dramatic cuts in the state’s farmland protection budget. “The whole local-food movement is built on a house of cards unless we think about how to protect the farmers who grow the food,” –David Haight, New York director, American Farmland Trust John De Maria wasn’t alone. At the time, 64 other family famers were also waiting for the promised farmland protection dollars to permanently secure their land for future generations.
American Farmland Trust’s staff jumped into action, meeting with John De Maria and government officials, alerting the media, including a reporter who did a story about the dire situation for The New York Times, and working with local land trusts to mobilize the community. Working together everyone pressured the state to deliver on the long overdue funds that would save Hemlock Hill Farm.
When the check finally arrived for John De Maria, it wasn’t a minute too soon, as he had received the foreclosure notice only the week before! Protecting Hemlock Hill Farm has done more than protect John De Maria’s family legacy. It has also opened up a bright future for his daughter Laura, who is now a full-time partner in the family farm.
In March 2013, while Laura tended the farm, John joined American Farmland Trust’s annual No Farms No Food® Rally at the state capitol in Albany where he asked state legislators to continue to fund the critical program that saved his family farm. Help more family farmers like John and Laura De Maria save their farms.