2010-06-10 / News

Check out Jamestown’s farms online

Conanicut Grange Report
By Bob Sutton
This past month, the Conanicut Grange members successfully initiated a website that highlights the Conanicut Island farms, defines the produce available from the Jamestown farm community and gives a point of contact.

The site, “Conanicut Island Growers Group,” can be found at www.ciggri.org.

The new website provides an electronic connection to the rest of the world, but more importantly, it provides Jamestowners with an up-to-date billboard of activities at the farms and the food available.

Creating the website was the work of a small committee of the Grange, namely Phil Larson, Carol Trocki and Jessie Dutra, along with an excellent consultant, Norma Burnell. The website is extremely well done and user friendly, so check it out. The Conanicut Grange and the Jamestown farmers, small as we seem, are clearly participants in the 21st century.

The 21st century is also providing invaluable object lessons on the vulnerability of the “bigger is better” theories that dominated the last 150 years. The automobile industry, once the absolute pride and joy of this country, teeters on bankruptcy. Huge banks and gigantic lending institutions – “too big to fail” – fail. Giant oil rigs drilling a mile under water with redundant safety systems blow up, killing the workers, and fail-safe shut-off valves fail to shut off, destroying the Gulf of Mexico. What is as unnerving as the incidents themselves are the lame responses of the corporate leaders who, if not being led off in handcuffs, seem unwilling to accept responsibility and are clearly powerless to control the catastrophes perpetrated on the society and on the planet.

What should be even more unnerving is that what we eat to stay alive every day is a function of this very same “bigger is better, failure to take responsibility” international system.

Agribusiness is a huge conglomerate of global industries linked organizationally, fraternally and by common interest in international agricultural production, transportation, product development and marketing. It involves, in one way or another, just about every other global industry, including biotechnology, chemical, oil and financial institutions.

For years, our country has pursued an agricultural policy of “get big or get out” and as a result, small local farmers got out. Today, most of what we eat is a function of agribusiness and has traveled thousands of miles to get to our dinner table. Like it or not, our “daily bread” is a vertically integrated global industry of which we have little understanding and over which we exert little, if any, control.

Global population is expected to increase to more than 9 billion by the year 2050 – and the population of this country will represent approximately four percent of that. “Get big or get out” as a strategy for feeding us seems arrogant, foolish and terribly dependent on an increasingly overburdened international food system. “Get smaller, smarter, personal and concerned about how and what we eat” may confront the reality of our future more successfully.

Over the last three decades, the community of Jamestown has been a leader in protecting the island’s farmland. The farm aesthetic, pastoral landscapes, old barns and open vistas support and enhance the natural beauty and natural heritage of Conanicut Island and have provided a strong environmental and emotional justifi cation for saving farms.

For the taxpayer, the fact that land being used for cows and hay and vegetables requires far less in governmental services then spread-out subdivisions, full of people wanting up-to-date modern governmental services, has provided a strong economic incentive. But, actually, growing what we need to eat is what is really important.

The Jamestown farmers have responded and today, more land is in active agriculture, producing food product, than at any time in the last 30 years.

A legitimate local food strategy for Jamestown is one that builds on what we as a community have already accomplished. We can begin immediately to develop a strong sustainable, economically viable, farm/community economy, and a relationship that recognizes the value to our health and well-being – and the true cost of agricultural production that realistically faces our future.

Outstanding in the Field

At the Grange meeting about one year ago, we decided to have a Grange/farm website. Everyone was excited by the idea and wanted to make it happen, but a Grange member asked, “Does anyone know how to do it?”

Nobody did.

But somebody at the meeting knew Norma Burnell, a resident of Melrose St. in Jamestown, and said, “She knows how to do it.” The rest is history. Norma is employed by Fleming and Company in Newport as the head of the Web department and she agreed to help us as a freelance consultant.

So if you want a website but don’t know how to do it, you may want to contact Norma Burnell at normajb@cox.net because she is clearly outstanding in the field.

What’s available

in Jamestown:

Dutra Farm: Hay, 662-5686.

Hodgkiss Farm, North Main Road: Horse Hay, home-knit wool caps, 423-0641.

Watson Farm, North Main Rd.: Grass-fed Red Devon beef, lamb, Conanicut Island and Rhody Warm wool blankets. Hours: Thursday, 3 to 6 p.m.

Windmist Farm, 71 Weeden Ln.: Grass-fed beef products, fresh eggs, Hours: Friday, 3 to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Return to top