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How Long Could Your Community Feed Itself?

Liz Graznak wanted to farm her own land. But, it took her nearly a decade to make it happen.

Like many first generation farmers, Liz didn’t have access to farmland nor did she have the capital to make a purchase. So, she got a job at a local garden center to save money for a farm.

Six years later, she quit her job as garden center General Manager and started Happy Hollow Farm outside Columbia, Missouri. Happy Hollow Farm is now a well-known organic success story and Liz is a national organic “farmher” hero!

It shouldn’t be so difficult for smart, motivated, landless farmers to get started. Most who try don’t end up acquiring the land and infrastructure needed to build a successful business into the future.

Liz Graznak simultaneously mothering all her babies (tomatoes included)!

Covid-19 has reminded us that building strong local food systems are about more than supporting a hardworking young farmer. They’re the cornerstone to resilience. Sometimes the trucks delivering our industrial food simply don’t show up. Sometimes people hoard the food when headlines report uncertainty. Sometimes large supply chains get contaminated, or entire work forces get sick. The Smithfield pork processing facility in Sioux Falls has 3,700 workers and is the source of a covid-19 outbreak. We are experiencing major disruptions in portions of our food supply.

Covid-19 has shown us there will be times when local farms might be our only source of food. It’s not a matter of “If it will happen”, but “When”?

A Happy Hollow Farm eclipse celebration in 2017. We need strong communities now more than ever.

And just as we have made this realization, even a successful local organic farm like Happy Hollow is vulnerable. They have lost restaurant accounts and sales are down at the Columbia Farmers Market. Liz has adapted by increasing her CSA subscriptions, but that involves a shift in production and a committed local community.

While adaptable local farmers are racing to create new sales models, even their best efforts may not make up for lost sales. Eaters must also adapt to the new outlets farmers are creating to distribute local food. Please don’t take the existence of your local farmers for granted. We are a very vulnerable group, operating on extremely tight margins.

Covid-19 begs the question: If global supply chains were disrupted, how long could your community feed itself?

Local abundance at Happy Hollow's farm stand at the Columbia Farmers Market in Missouri.

Linley Dixon
Associate Director / linley@realorganicproject.org
Real Organic Project / realorganicproject.org

“The work of a human is to discover the answer to the question:
“What does the earth ask of us?'”

“She asks us by modeling generosity for sure. She asks us through the consequences of our failures and through the many examples of our non-human teachers, helping us imagine how it is that we might live.”

  • Robin Wall Kimmerer