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This Thursday, the Polk-Burnett Farmers Union is hosting Feeding Our Community: Family Farms and Rural Economic Development, a presentation by food systems analyst Ken Meter at 6 p.m. in the Amery High School Cafeteria. Meter’s presentation will make the case that increasing the capacity of local farms to produce and sell directly in our region could improve farm viability, support more farms on the land and contribute more fully to our rural economies. We’ll also serve up a spread of light fare prepared from local farm goods and prepared by local restaurants and the Amery High School Catering program following the talk.

The idea for hosting this event originated with the Design Amery process highlighted in the Amery Free Press two weeks ago. Our thought was that as community leaders contemplate Amery’s future, let’s insert agriculture into the discussion. Polk County is home to many types and sizes of farms, and has a strong agricultural tradition – why not make the case that our future is local food?

We are in a time of struggle and tension all across farm country; however, this meeting is not about small vs. large, CAFO vs. organic, or farmer vs. consumer. This is about coming together to explore ideas and hopes for our shared future. This is an opportunity to imagine our agricultural future more broadly – not just focused on the CAFO debate. In seeking to envision that future, and with Ken Meter’s talk on Thursday, I’d like to offer some common ground – a place to work from together, regardless of our position on the “hog in the room.”

We can all agree that: Farmers want to keep on farming, and make a living selling what we raise. We want more farms on the land, and not less. We want to see our communities grow, and not shrink. We want our schools to increase in enrollment, not decrease or go away. We can agree that either our farm or a farm we know is struggling. Clean water and air are essential, and we are responsible for building up our soils. We want to maintain our county’s natural and cultural assets: farms, small towns, lakes, rivers, and diverse outdoor recreational activities.

Our shared future can be based on what we hold in common. Let’s amplify what we share, be good neighbors and build on what’s best. We hope to see you Thursday night, 6 p.m. in the Amery High School Cafeteria.

Jason Montgomery-Riess

Polk-Burnett Farmers Union – Chapter President