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July 2014 Publisher Letter

On a recent sunny Sunday afternoon, I offered to help my friend Darrell transplant a field of elderberries at Wellspring Organic Farm, in West Bend. It’s been years since I’ve done any serious digging and it felt great.

As dirt caked my fingernails and I regained a feel for using a shovel, I felt an unusual sense of joy and satisfaction that told me why so many young people are turning to farming. NBC reports that enrollment in university agriculture programs increased during the past decade, and the Future Farmers of America, an educational youth organization, now boasts nearly 600,000 members—the most since it was formed in 1928. Young entrepreneurs typically cite two primary reasons for taking up farming as a career: a stifling corporate world with little job security and a strong enough demand for locally and organically grown foods that they feel confident of success.

Wisconsin is a hotbed of organic farming. According to the latest umbrella study available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, our state leads the nation in the number of organic dairy, beef, pig, chicken, turkey and sheep/lamb farms, and is second only to California in the total number of organic farms.

Milwaukee has become a leader in urban agriculture. The local Victory Garden Initiative installed 548 new gardens during their most recent annual development blitz. Milwaukee Urban Gardens, a nonprofit land trust that partners with residents to cultivate healthy gardens and communities, has announced its 2014 Community Garden Grant for existing and planned community gardens. The Urban Ecology Center’s Real Food educational programs also strengthen the local sustainable food system by connecting the urban community to area farmers. And in 2013, Growing Power celebrated 20 years of transforming urban communities through the development of community food systems; people come from around the world to participate in the organization’s resident training and hands-on farming experiences.

Even entrenched skeptics are starting to ask the right questions: Why are so many of us getting sick? Why are so many suffering from cancer and a range of autoimmune diseases that were rare 30 years ago? Why is one out of three children overweight or obese?

Part of the answer may be found in the slowly but surely increasing use of toxic chemicals in the mass production of food. Despite mounting research studies showing that Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide is detrimental to our health, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency just ruled to allow residues of the chemical on food at concentrations a million times higher than levels shown in a recent study, published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, to induce the growth of human breast cancer cells.

In 1826, the French epicurean Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin concluded a lifetime of observation by writing, “The future of the nations will depend on the manner of how they feed themselves.” Today the message is more pertinent than ever. Fortunately consumers still have a choice. By choosing to support local farmers that use organic growing methods, we can know and trust the source of our food and build community food systems that preserve the hope of a healthier future.

To health-fortifying communities,

Gabriella Buchnik Natural Awakenings Milwaukee

Gabriella Buchnik, Publisher

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