Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Local Food and Agritourism: New York Style

This weekend I had the pleasure of meeting up with a friend that is a true blue New York City,  Manhattan resident.  Many times when agriculture and rural folks discuss those "city" people, New York City residents become the quintessential example.  While driving back from another urban experience in Austin this weekend,  I took the opportunity to pick her brain and ask what's really happening with this local food movement in the big city.

The first question I posed centered on whether the local and organic food movement was really that big of a deal in her everyday life and the lives of those around her. In my view, some of the most fervent supporters of the new profood movement seem to reside in NYC and the east, or at least they get the most press coverage! I figured the topic may be the trend of the moment for a large portion of people.  Therefore, the answer surprised me.  She stated that there are definitely a few fanatics she knows of, but does not see a widespread proliferation in her personal network of friends and coworkers.  In fact, she said that most of the people she runs with aren't even able to find the time for grocery shopping and prefer to shop with an online grocery retailer that delivers her items on her schedule. 

Ok, well that covers the upper income financial sector, but what about the rest?  Here came another shocker. In her own estimation, she and her friends had once decided that a person could not live comfortably on Manhattan Island without making a minimum of 150K per year!  Wow, that's incredible.  In my short life span, that would cover most of the people that I considered well-to-do. With regards to the rural sector of our country, that would just about make you rich! 

So what do these people do with all that money?  My friend let me in on a little secret that the local foodies go nuts over.  It's called Blue Hill Farm.  http://www.bluehillfarm.com/ After checking out the website and the menu, I was blown away.  This is the type of agritourism that most rural residents always talk about, or at the most poke fun of!  I can picture it in my mind "those city people will go out to a farm and pay $135 per meal! It's totally ridiculous!"  The key is that upper class urban residents are thirsty to learn, see and taste what fresh food is like and what rural life has to offer.  While I don't foresee most rural people that trying to profiteer from a fresh grown crop or the simplicity inherent in their lives, it is relevant to note that your lifestyle carries a value and possibly even a luxury price tag. 

When people are so busy with their urban lives and corporate jobs that they are unable to take care of the basic necessity of grocery shopping, the slow and steady pace of rural life becomes almost priceless.  Blue Hill Farms seems to be a little opportunisitc for my simple taste, but it validates many of my suspicions.  Much of the local food movement is perpetuated by an elite crowd with expendible income looking to stay "current" on the latest trend.  However, is it reasonable to continue promoting our rural heritage with luxury price tag although it philisophically clashes with the rural value set?  Capatalism says yes, and for a select few, they are reaping the benefits and paying the dividends.  Possibly a middle ground would provide a better future for rural America while staying true to it's roots.


  1. I think the answer for most people is a local farmer's market. Many of the new invention's we enjoy now were initially enjoyed only by society's elite. Right now a lot of the most expensive "natural" type foods are out of reach of most people, but in a few decades we might take it for granted.

  2. Great point Blair. I hadn't actually thought of that. Just think about the National Parks, they too were originally somewhat of an elitist phenomenon. I'll keep that in mind. Great perspective.

  3. I think it was great that you were able to talk to someone that is really live right in the middle of things. I think too often we assume what people and the consumers are thinking. Also I agree with Blair, I even find myself going to the farmers market more often now, since i am off the farm. the food just tastes better!