Annapolis, Md. (December 9, 2015) – A network of nonprofit organizations, farmers, consumers and businesses publicly launched a new campaign today, seeking to reform a Maryland food system that they say lacks adequate fairness, transparency and accountability.
Participants say the Fair Farms campaign seeks to invest in homegrown, healthy food while restoring local waterways. Supporters are working to showcase successful models of sustainable farming and call consumers to action regarding existing practices that jeopardize clean water, soil quality and public health.
“At Grand View Farm, we set out to prove that wholesome food can be produced in a way that regenerates the land, respects nature and the needs of the animals and reestablishes a lost visceral connection between consumers and their food,” said Nick Bailey of Grand View Farm in Forest Hill, Maryland. “We should all strive to be part of a food system that enables the consumer to participate and make responsible decisions based on that connection.”
Fair Farms has a Farmer Advisory Council, made up of 12 farmers, that provides feedback and guidance on campaign goals, objectives, strategies and opportunities to support the sustainable farming community. More than 40 green businesses, community nonprofits and sustainable farms have signed on as partners to the campaign.
“This campaign is not about environmentalists versus farmers,” said Betsy Nicholas, executive director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake. “Fair Farms is about working together to reform a food system that is out of balance. We shouldn’t be rewarding farm operations that produce cheap food with steep hidden costs to the environment and public health. Instead, we need to find new opportunities to support those agricultural practices that will grow food in healthy ways for generations to come.”
The Chesapeake Bay Program lists agriculture as the number one pollution source into the Chesapeake Bay. The Maryland Department of Agriculture estimates that at least 228,000 tons of “excess manure” annually cannot be spread on farm fields because of the serious risk to local waters.
The campaign’s first call to action asks state legislators in the 2016 Maryland General Assembly to prohibit routine use of human antibiotics in farm animals that are not sick. The inappropriate use of human antibiotics in agriculture is seen as one of the culprits in the 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths caused by drug-resistant bacteria each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Estimates suggest that 70 percent of the medically important antibiotics sold in the United States are used to raise chickens, hogs and cattle on large farms.
“As consumers, we can, and should, vote with our forks – and with our pocketbooks,” said Elvia Thompson, Co-founder of Annapolis Green. “When I go to the grocery store I imagine the pesticides and antibiotics in most of the food offered for sale and it’s very scary. I want all of our meats and produce to be grown responsibly and ethically – for our good health and for a healthy planet. Fair Farms will help educate consumers and support those farmers who are already using a sustainable model.”
The Fair Farms campaign recently launched its website, which details the campaign’s position on important issues related to public health, agriculture pollution and sustainable farming. The website also features blog posts from farmers and other supporters, explaining why and how they are working to change the food system to one that prioritizes families, public health and the environment.