By Sabrina Artel
The threat to our local farms throughout the country is epidemic. The threat to farms in the Catskills and the Delaware River Basin in upstate New York and Pennsylvania is at the center of the debate with the Delaware River Basin Commission and its most recent controversy with Exxon-Mobil.
Farmer Greg Swartz (the former director of NOFA-NY) of Willow Wisp Organic Farm grows vegetables in Abrahamsville, Penn. in the Damascus Township just four miles from the bridge over the Delaware River (designated one of the country’s most endangered rivers due to proposed drilling).
Swartz’s growing season is burgeoning, with lettuce, arugula, sorrel, green garlic and radishes in his greenhouses, and fields planted with carrots, potatoes, cabbages, kale, beets, onions and much more to be shared locally as part of the Willow Wisp CSA and at farmers markets throughout the region.
Still, Swartz and his wife, Tannis Kowlachuk, discussed almost two years ago the possibility of leaving. “Our belief in farming as a good business opportunity is there but our faith in the future of that business is being rattled because of natural gas drilling,” he said.
This threat to farming puts at risk national security by threatening the local production of food; it is destabilizing the long-term economies in the fracking zones and industrializing rural areas. “Because gas production is extremely short-term, what happens to an area when gas production stops?” Swartz asks.
The Delaware River Valley is a place of immense beauty, with bald eagle breeding grounds, blue herons flying overhead, fishermen and recreational activities centered around the Delaware River and a weekly farmers market in the Callicoon Creek Park in Callicoon, NY, where hundreds gather on Sundays. The community efforts to build a local economy are blossoming even in the face of gas drilling and the specter of fracking. On the trip to Willow Wisp Farm, a drive of about 45 minutes from my home in Liberty, New York, there are many farms and much open space, in addition to a natural gas drilling test well I passed on my way to the farm.
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