Sponsored by Land & Water Lehigh Valley with support from close to 30 regional organizations, a regional food forum was held on Jan. 24th.
Both county executives, John Stoffa from Northampton County and Don Cunningham from Lehigh County, offered remarks on their counties' respective efforts to help local farmers.
Stoffa looked out at the crowd and remarked, "Do you realize what a political force you are? I don't think you do."
The need, said Cunningham, is apparent, "very apparent to me." County government must make it a practice of "sustaining the farmer and creating a market for the products at home."
Currently, Lehigh County has 550 farms on more than 100,000 acres, Cunningham said.
He would like to see farming as a "more productive and family-sustaining career."
Stoffa said corn prices are on the rise, that one local farmer shipped out corn at $3.72 a bushel, up from the historical value of around $1.50 a bushel. Farming can be profitable, he said.
Stoffa said one of his projects is to bring an ethanol production plant to Northampton County. In support of that, Stoffa said all new county vehicles purchased can burn ethanol as well as gasoline.
Stoffa also cited his .5 mill tax increase for the preservation of open space, which includes farms.
Cunningham said Lehigh County has developed an agreement to serve certain locally-grown products in the county prison and nursing home.
Eating regional foods can lead to the reduction of processed foods, said Jerry Brunetti, the evening's keynote speaker. He listed a variety of ailments-obesity, autism, diabetes, cancer, ADHD, allergies and asthma-that are known to have or believed to have a link with diet. That's not even delving into the impact of factory farming, use of U.S. banned pesticides on imported food and diseases like hoof and mouth, mad cow and bird flu.
Brunetti introduced the concept of "localvore," a person who eats only regional foods with the exception of "Marco Polo products," or olive oil, coffee and spices.
The local food concept could help promote sustainable agriculture, Brunetti said, agriculture that meets the needs of the present without compromising the future.
So how do you become a "localvore"?
1. Shop locally at area farmers markets and farm stands.
2. Grow your own fruits and vegetables. (more on how to do this later)
3. Buy a share of produce from area farmers.
Not only will you be supporting local business and agriculture, you will be cutting down on green house gas emissions, as food will travel less from farm to your plate.