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State agriculture tour stops at Indian Ladder

When it comes to what's cool and happening in New York right now, you can forget clothes, hairstyles and celebrities, because local, farm-fresh foods are part of a trend that has a lot of people talking.

\Agriculture is very trendy right now, and we're happy about that, said Julie Suarez, director of relations at the New York Farm Bureau, a non-governmental, volunteer organization financed and controlled by families who are looking to address economic and public policy issues

in the agricultural industry.

Suarez and several other agriculture and environmental advocates, including several members from the state Department of Agriculture, attended the Farm Aid press event and tour at Indian Ladder Farms on Thursday, Sept. 6.

Farm Aid, a nonprofit organization that supports the maintenance and sustainability of farmland throughout the country, aims to raise awareness about the loss of family farms and the decline of agriculture. Started by recording artists John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson and Neil Young in 1985, the organization is known for putting on the country's longest-running benefit concert, accumulating high-profile followers like Dave Mathews, who joined the board of directors in 2001 and performs at the concert.

Last Thursday, before making its way to New York City's Randall's Island for the 2007 Homegrown Festival concert on Sunday, Farm Aid's Upstate-Downstate Food and Farm Caravan made a stop at Indian Ladder Farms as part of their state farm tour, which also included stops at farms in Ithaca, Rochester and the Hudson Valley area. The group picked up fresh food from Indian Ladder and the other farms along the way to feed the hundreds of artists and crew at this year's festival.

Farm Aid campaign director Mark Smith said the caravan visited about 14 farms statewide, including poultry farms, hog farms and dairy and beef farms.

"We wanted to make sure those workers get to experience the wonders and pleasures of eating fresh foods," he said.

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