EDEN, NY - Generation after generation, farms keep the country fed, yet how often do people stop to think about all the work that goes into the things we eat?
Convenience in our society is both boon and bane, it's so easy to just pick up something at a market, but that ease also leads us to forget one of the most important aspects of everyday life.
Dave Walczak is Operations Manager At Eden Valley Growers in Eden, NY." You can walk into a store anywhere now and get a pepper, a cucumber, a banana , an orange, any time of the year. In years back, that wasn't the case, the seasons were the seasons, you couldn't bring up bananas in the wintertime, you couldn't even find bananas in the middle of wintertime, it was meat and potatoes, whatever was available that time of year, that was what you got."
Here in Western NY, we are fortunate to be surrounded by a rich agricultural environment. One of the area's most successful producers is Eden Valley Growers. Not only are they one of the areas oldest food providers, but also one of it's most unique. Eden Valley is a co-op, combining several local farms into one . Begun in 1956, Walczak says the group of growers found strength in diversity. " They were competing against each other and decided why are we doing that, if we were to get together and each specialize in a different commodity, we could go to market and get more for our product. That's what happened fifty years back, and since then it's grown by leaps and bounds."
The united farmers quickly found that producing a wide variety of crops made them stronger as an organization. " We don't try to specialize in just one product, we're diversified, we sell fifty to sixty different products, and we'll continue to do that."
Walczak tells 2 The Outdoors that at Eden Valley, great care is taken in everything they do. Although they could take the easy route and pick their veggies mechanically, they continue to gather their harvest by hand. " They don't just pick it and throw it in a bucket, they handle it and place it in a bucket, then dump it gently into a bin if need be, or they go into baskets, so it's very gently done, so I think it is a necessity if you want it done properly."
Despite it's importance to the health of the community, farms in the U.S. are dwindling. Farming has traditionally been a family enterprise, with farms being handed down to kin. Today, less than one percent of the American population provides food for the entire country. " People don't, I think, recognize how important farming is." Says Walczak." We support not just our own country, we send a lot of product out of the country as well.
I think the notion is still there that you walk around and scatter some seeds on the ground and wait for them to grow, and it's definitely not that, we take our jobs very, very seriously."
Farming is not easy, the hours are long and the work can be grueling, and because they are so good at what they do, their results often go unnoticed. So what keeps these growers so dedicated to their craft ? Walczak explains." it's very rewarding. To walk in a store and see it on the other end or hear the phone call on the other end, or get the remarks on the website saying what an awesome product you have, it just makes you feel good about what you're doing. Of course we share that with the guys out in the field, you know it makes it easier to get up the next morning."