The Future of Farming

By Matt Markham

June 21, 2011 Updated Jun 21, 2011 at 6:23 PM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) It is the largest industry in New York State, particularly strong in our area. But, it could also be in the most trouble.

We ask what the future of farming could be, and how it affects all of us.

The pastoral landscape is peaceful to look at, but to some it invites pictures of pain. The agriculture industry is struggling.

"You start with the price of fuel, and fertilizer that goes into the crop," said Judi Whittaker, a dairy farmer in the Town of Nanticoke. "Taxes. The price of feed is extremely expensive right now. These challenges just keep mounting and it strangles a lot of folks."

There aren't as many farms as there used to be.

"There were probably twenty dairy farms on Route 26," Whittaker said. "We're the only one still remaining."

Whatever we eat comes from the farm in some way.

What happens if there are no more?

"It's very costly if you try to start up from scratch, and of course once a farm is sold and sub-divided, that's the end of the agricultural operation," said Bradd Vickers from the Chenango County Farm Bureau.

"People need to understand that their food doesn't come from the grocery store realistically," said Alice Young, a junior at Walton Central and President of her chapter of the Future Farmers of America.

Some people say education is the answer to ensure farming has a future.

"I do believe in the future of agriculture but there are people out there that don't, because they don't understand the magnitude of, if this industry goes downhill, what it could mean for economies, businesses, people right here at home," Young said.

More than one hundred kids in Walton are in the FFA.

They are committed to keeping the industry alive.

The kids wrote for a grant and some donations to learn the basics of planting in this soon-to-be-complete greenhouse.

Farmers say buying local is enough to support an important industry.

"Know where your food is coming from," Whittaker said. "Know your farmer, know you've got farmers in your backyard to support."

In short, everyone has a part in the future of farming.

Farmers say regulations from state government have been difficult on farms in the past and now budget cuts in Albany are also trickling down to ag programs at local schools.

Only a handful still have FFA programs.

By the way, Alice wants to go into animal science.