Local Economies Project and Wild Earth

Sometimes it takes a network of partners to bring about real innovations. Here we feature a partnership among EcoLabs that combines innovations in farming, education, and local economies.

The Local Economies Project (LEP) —   supports ecological farming, food justice, local stewardship, and food economy. The mission statement expresses the primary goals:

Our mission at Local Economies Project is to build an equitable and ecologically resilient food system in Hudson Valley. Through program development, grant funding, and convening partners across the region, we are fostering the food and farming economy and its capacity to nurture the natural environment and serve our communities.

The Local Economies Project supports the work of local food companies in a variety of ways. For example, LEP provides low-interest loans to a variety of small businesses that grow food and produce local beverages. By creating a “hub” of local farms, they offer a model for supporting small, ecologically oriented farming around the country. They write:

The Hudson Valley Farm Hub presents a unique opportunity to model a new way of doing business and encourage innovation through demonstration, education, and research. Because profit has traditionally been in contention with equity and ecology, the Farm Hub’s programming is targeted at finding ways to ensure that values-based practices can be economically viable. As a non-profit demonstration farm, we can afford to take risks that farms and food businesses cannot take, and   through recordkeeping and enterprise budgeting, we are collecting and sharing vital information about the true cost of food. Additionally, as we market Farm Hub products along with others we will be building opportunities for Hudson Valley farmers, working together to achieve our vision of a resilient, and collaborative, food and farming economy.

Recently, LEP partnered with the Novo Foundation to purchase a 1200 acre farm adjacent to Kingston, NY. The goal is to turn the farm into the largest agricultural incubator in the United States. The Farm Hub offers farmer training, research and demonstration, and a seed sanctuary on the recently acquired land. And the O+ Festival offers education programs for kids in Kingston:

LEP White Papers summarize the concepts and results so that others can emulate them:

* White paper on finance: Financing a Better Food System (PDF)
* White paper on grain: Reviving Grain in the Hudson Valley (PDF)

We feature in particular the work of LEP’s partner organization, Wild Earth,  Through its educational programs, “Wild Earth leads transformative nature immersion experiences that cultivate character, confidence, passion and perseverance in New York’s youth.”

This series of partnerships transforms multiple features of Hudson Valley society at the same time: support for small farms, local economies, and nature education for kids and adults.