With the editorial page so frequently a space for wailing and the gnashing of teeth, its nice to take a break and celebrate something that looks like its going the right way. The growing diversification of agricultural enterprises in the region, combined with efforts to market agricultural products locally and the plan for an agricultural park, are such a promising development. (See Agriculture still number one-Sullivan County industry, in the August 2 issue of The River Reporter.)
Its always nice to see people striking out in new directions, but thats not the only reason we applaud these initiatives. What is most encouraging is that they fit broadly into a development that we have touched upon in previous editorials: the time is coming to reverse the decades-long trend towards globalization, and move instead towards localization of the economy.
There will always be some need for global trade—in a climate like ours, we would be hard put to eat a nutritious diet in the winter, for instance, without it. But the simple equation more globalization=more wealth that prevailed for some decades made sense only on the assumption that the resources consumed in global trade—especially energy sources needed to move freight—are infinite. The growing realization that fossil fuels are running out, and that burning them has huge costs not reflected in the dollar value of the products currently consumed, directs us to rethink the value of producing and consuming goods, as much as possible, locally.
The benefits of such localization are numerous. In addition to the ecological concerns, there are financial benefits to keeping our dollars circulating locally, supporting local jobs and businesses rather than corporate headquarters located elsewhere in the country or even abroad. And given the recent spate of headlines about toxicity and contamination in imported food products, buying local agricultural products appears increasingly attractive in terms of food quality and safety.
The fact that this area is so close to metropolitan New York is another big plus. Not only local residents, but city dwellers as well, can be expected to be increasingly interested in buying food raised closer to home, especially as rising fuel costs start reducing or eliminating current price differentials with cheap imports. That means we have a large ready-made market for high-quality goods, especially niche-market items like organic produce, artisan cheeses and free-range livestock and eggs.
The idea of creating an agricultural park that can process our agricultural goods is the last piece of the puzzle. It will allow us, with minimal freight expense, to produce retail-ready products either for local consumption or to be shipped a relatively short distance to the metropolitan area.
The whole global-versus-local issue is a matter of degree, not absolutes. As noted, some trade will always be necessary and desirable. To that extent, any area must have goods or services to sell that are in short supply elsewhere, to fund imports of goods it cant produce for itself. In that respect, the fact that alpaca processing capacity is apparently in short supply in this country, as noted in last weeks article Alpacas: friendly, neat and able to withstand the cold, is of interest. How about an alpaca fiber processing mill in the agricultural park?
For all our pleasure in the local growth of new agricultural enterprises, we must caution against the conclusion that these new farms mean we dont have to worry about the decimation of the dairy sector. Milk is a staple. This country has already surrendered the means to produce one essential after another, from steel to textiles, a trend that amounts to a loss of self-sufficiency. It made sense only under the assumption that cheap freight (not to mention peace with our trading partners) would be a fact of life forever. If we lose the means to produce milk, we are not going to get it back easily. (Fluid milk still cannot be shipped long distances, but powdered milk, the basis of most processed dairy products, is increasingly imported from abroad). That means we should also think of ways to use the agricultural park to help our dairy farmers move forward, along with the newer enterprises. How about a processor for organic milk and premium organic dairy products that could be marketed in the metropolitan area?
The investment in agriculture in this area is not—or does not have to be, if properly nurtured—some quaint back-to-nature throwback. On the contrary, we believe it puts us on the cutting edge of what is likely to be the leading trend of the 21st century: localization. To those who are making it happen, whether they be out in the fields or behind desks drawing up plans, we say bravo.
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Regarding your article, On the comeback road in the June 28 issue of The River Reporter: The new Luxton Lake Property Owners Association (LLPOA) represents a very small portion of the owners in the area. They are representing the community as though the history starts with them. I am glad that a former Luxton Lake Association president responded to correct that impression (see letter Luxton Lake a well-to-do community in the July 7 issue). Many concerned owners are not active and not encouraged to participate.