As a farmer, the fall holds a special meaning for me. A season's hard work is harvested, shared and enjoyed during these colorful, crisp months, bringing together families and friends from all over to celebrate locally-grown produce. I have dedicated my life to sustainable agriculture and growing local, organic produce at Full Circle's farms here in Washington.
Whether it's delivering fresh farm produce to our members' doorsteps, each week, selling at farmers markets or providing greater access to local food through grocery stores and restaurants, we, like so many local farmers, are passionate advocates for integrating homegrown agriculture into the regional economy. When the local food system works right, everyone benefits.
Today is America's first National Food Day -- a nationwide celebration of healthy, affordable, and sustainably grown food and a grassroots mobilization for improved food policies. I am proud to be part of this event as a farmer, healthy produce provider, advocate and all around foodie.
But at a time when we are celebrating good food and healthy living here in the United States, we should not lose sight of how we fit into the global food and farming community. Right now, there is a crippling famine and escalating food crisis in the Horn of Africa, where more than 30,000 children have died in the last three months and 13.3 million people are at risk of starvation. It is a growing crisis that cannot and should not be ignored.
That's why I am adding my voice to the growing chorus of farmers joining with the ONE Campaign, a grassroots anti-poverty advocacy organization with 2.5 million members -- close to 44,000 here in Washington -- who are calling upon our country's leaders to follow through on the immediate emergency aid they have pledged and encourage more long-term solutions to help prevent famines in the future.
Farmers in Africa and throughout the developing world want the same things we do: the ability to supply their families and neighbors with ample, healthy food -- though most are doing it while living on less than $1.25 a day, without adequate training, supplies or market access. Considering the fact that farming employs two-thirds of the population of sub-Saharan Africa, a focus on agricultural training can help millions move out of extreme poverty and have a pathway to self-sufficiency.
As Congress makes difficult fiscal choices in an era of increased budget austerity, we need them to preserve proven, cost-effective programs like Feed the Future, the global hunger and food security initiative that renews the U.S. government's commitment to invest in sustainably reducing hunger and poverty worldwide. These programs can accomplish big things: reducing hunger, training farmers in advanced, sustainable agriculture techniques and helping combat rising food prices worldwide. What's even better is that we can do all of that -- and more -- for less than 1% of the federal budget.
As an American farmer in support of farmers in Africa, I am doing my part to build a strong foundation for healthy, local food around the world. I urge others to join me as well.
Follow Andrew Stout on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@FullCircleFarm