Last updateTue, 24 Nov 2015 12am

Put family farmers back into farm to school

Farm to School programs appeared in the 90s with a three-way focus: fresh, local foods in schools; agriculture and nutrition education in classrooms; and purchases that support local family farms. Years since have seen these programs grow to include 40,000 schools and 23 million students.

However, the focus has slipped from ‘local family farms’ to ‘local food.’ Schools and program administrators alike don’t know the difference between nearby corporate, industrial farms and smaller, family farms that derives their income from the management and daily labor on their own land. It’s far easier for schools and administrators to define ‘local’ than it is to define ‘family farm.’

Family farmers, schools, and rural communities are losing out. Family farmers lose out on income from sales when schools don’t make the distinction between food grown by a farm family and food grown by a corporation. Schools lose out when they don’t choose a farmer who can demonstrate how crops and livestock are raised. And communities lose when food dollars go to a corporation headquartered elsewhere instead of to a local family business that buys its supplies right there in the community, where the money can recirculate. In fact, family farms generate among the highest economic multipliers of all industries, which should make them the darling of economic development directors.

Hazy Farm to School program goals are a part of the problem. Goals should define a preferred local food supplier to ensure ‘local family farms’ are truly supported.

Wyatt Fraas

Center for Rural Affairs

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Corrine Brown, a disappointment

Judge Terry Lewis ruled that the Republican-controlled legislature drew congressional districts for “partisan advantage rather than for fair representation.” This was in violation of a constitutional revision passed by the voters of Florida in order to get rid of such practice. Several districts were drawn “in order to favor the Republican Party” Judge Lewis found. Corrine Brown, as a Democrat, should take heart with such a ruling, but she does not. She attacks the ruling as an attempt to “diminish congressional districts represented by minorities.” With this remark it is obvious that she is in no mood to take one for the team! NO!   Her position is obviously merely to save her job! As a Democrat I expected her to come out in favor of the ruling because it should favor the Democrats for elections to come. But she is no better than any other elected official who, as soon as he/she gets elected, does everything to ensure that they are re-elected. I really expected more of her.

Thomas R. Weller

High Springs, Florida

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High Springs commissioners agree on much

It has been said that the High Springs Commissioners are at odds with each other: that when Commissioners Scott Jamison and Byran Williams were elected this past year, the “new” majority would control the commission, and there would be a 3 – 2 split (Jamison, Williams and I against Barnas and Gestrin).

While I will admit that the five of us don’t always agree on issues and discussions do get heated, the predicted 3 – 2 split simply has not occurred. In fact, in reviewing the commission minutes of the past seven months the votes on the issues that have come before us show just the opposite.

Excluding votes taken for approval of minutes, approval of the agenda, and votes to table an item, the sitting commission has voted on 77 substantive items. Of those 77 votes, 68 were unanimous. There has only been nine times the sitting commissioners haven’t agreed on an item, or to put it another way, 88 percent of the time the High Springs Commission is in agreement.

The evidence shows there isn’t a “new” majority, just citizens trying to do what is best for our city. Should we be surprised? Not really. When we take the time to research the issues, ask questions, and openly discuss the issues before us (heated or not) we tend to agree with each other. So the next time someone talks about the dissension on the High Springs Commission, you can state to the contrary, they almost always are in agreement.

Sue Weller, Mayor

High Springs, Fla.

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All is not well in High Springs

Last week, High Springs Mayor Sue Weller wrote a letter that wanted the public to feel that all was well at the city in High Springs. That the commission is voting together and just as happy as can be. She gave some numbers to indicate votes were at many times unanimous, or at least a larger than majority vote.

If you take all the easy votes like helping the senior citizens, tabling an agenda item, giving an award or accepting a report, she is correct. 

But if you take the hard ones that deal with your tax dollars, your sewer, water or trash bill, or the fire assessment fee you might pay, then that is a really different story.

Recently Weller, Jamison and Williams voted to consider raising your fire assessment fee from $73 to $99, and this will come up again. Barnas and Gestrin voted “no.” Who will win this vote?

The back-and-forth battle about closing the road behind City Hall was a big deal to many. Weller, Jamison and Williams voted to close that road. Barnas and Gestrin voted “no,” to keep it open. Who won this vote?

And finally, Barnas and Gestrin wanted to tell you all that your 1,801 votes (last year) to limit the city debt has been voided. I wanted to have the city send a letter out, but it hasn't happened yet. Wonder why not? Could it be that there is no majority to consideration telling you? Maybe wants to keep it quiet?

This year there is an election in November again. Weller is running against a fiscally concerned Bobby Summers. This (in my opinion) is why last week there was a letter "claiming" everything is rosy by Commissioner Weller.

Be sure, this is the beginning of the posturing of a candidate in the "press" as always.

Bob Barnas, Commissioner

City of High Springs

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High Springs sewer issue affects everyone

At the May 23 meeting of the High Springs City Commission, I noted that perhaps the monthly losses of the sewer system could be solved by expanding and asked the board for their thoughts on this issue.

No response was given until at the very end of the meeting one member responded in an offhand way: “We discussed expansion before...” A second member stated that expansion would spread out the costs. He went on to say that if this doesn't happen perhaps a citywide fee could be imposed to pay for the sewer (similar to the city wide assessment fee we now have for fire services).

When I moved to High Springs in 1999, no one informed me that a sewer system was about to be implemented. After I moved here I received a letter from the then incumbent city manager stating that hooking onto the sewer was mandatory.

This statement was repeated many times at several City Hall meetings that I attended. Needless to say, I agreed to the hookup thinking since the costs would be spread among all city residents, they would not be prohibitive. As a senior living on a fixed income, this was an important issue.

My, how times have changed. Exceptions and opting out of the sewer have been made continually. Two commissioners in particular have sworn that they will fight any attempt to expand the sewer. Those same two are leading a rally to hike rates for the sewer on the unfortunate 450 - 500 estimated householders currently on the sewer.

Why was this changed? Why are people already on the sewer, who were told it was mandatory, being penalized? Why are some commissioners totally uninterested in brainstorming to find a creative solution for the sewer problem?

Another disturbing thought. Eventually the State of Florida will order High Springs residents to be on the sewer system since we live directly above the aquifer that is becoming more polluted with every passing day.

Do the citizens of High Springs really want to end up drinking their own toilet water?

If High Springs delays action until that fateful day, costs may have skyrocketed.

Elaine Gudbrandsen

High Springs, Fla. 

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