Mimi Edelman on the Westchester Grower’s Alliance

A unique support system for Westchester farmers, the Westchester Grower’s Alliance was established five years ago by Katonah farmer Mimi Edelman. Today, Edelman serves as president along with vice president Doug DeCandia and secretary/treasurer Deb Taft.

“We create a sense of support—if one of us do well, we all do well. We strengthen and empower each other,” said Edelman.

Along with support for fellow farmers, the Alliance works on issues of local food in the area. It has partnered with local organizations such as Harvest Community as well as county legislators to work on farming and food related issues.

The alliance is now on the verge of becoming a 501(c)(3) recognized nonprofit, hoping this transition will allow it to become more engaged in policy change and education of the community. With this development, Edelman also hopes to change the makeup of the organization.

“We are now developing our board–talking to individuals who come from diverse backgrounds and bring unique skill sets. Not necessarily farmers—we’re also looking for people who come from an environmental law perspective, or an agricultural, economic perspective,” she said.

This increased exposure to the community is especially essential at a time when the farming population is dwindling in Westchester.

“We are losing young farmers. There’s no infrastructure, no financial support, no land. So when you’re starting a farm, you can’t even expect to break even for 3-5 years. That’s realistic–you’re building up the soil, you’re building up your crop list, and you’re living hand to mouth. The farmers started migrating about 3 years ago–the new farmers, they started going north, to the upper Hudson Valley. They were able to get cheaper land, longer land leases,” said Edelman.

Speaking of the dwindling farming population in Westchester is a personal subject to Edelman, who has been forced to leave her land of eight years after the passing of her landowner.

“It’s a very bittersweet departure,” she said. “As a farmer I want to live in the community I feed, and that’s very difficult for me. Agriculture is one of the lowest incomes on the spectrum of professions, yet I feel it’s the most important–it connects people to the land, and it offers them food that is enlivened and full of the benefits, whether it be color, texture, nutrition.”

Edelman hopes expanding the support system of the Westchester Grower’s alliance will help attract and maintain Westchester farmers.

“There’s a romantic part of farming, and there’s the reality of foraging through fourth day of a heat wave. So it’s gotta be in your blood, it’s gotta be in your DNA. And if you have a support system around you, you might have a better chance than if you’re out there alone in your field.”

Despite all the challenges, Mimi has remained devoted to farming and plans on continuing it in her new land, on the North Fork.

“If you’re passionate about something, when you love something, it gives you that perseverance, if it’s something that doesn’t resonate with you in your heart and your soul it’s just going to feel like a chore.”

Social media and a website for the Westchester Grower’s Alliance is coming soon. Click here to read more about getting to know your local farmers and supporting their life-sustaining work!