This article was written by past Local Food Program Director, Steve Russell. I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce our readers to one of the great social entrepreneurs in Arizona’s agriculture industry today. Marine Corps Veteran, Michael McKenzie is an up and coming game-changer in healthy, local living. McKenzie’s Lucky Nickel Ranch (LNR) began in 1999, with a social mission in mind to create employment opportunities for underserved and underutilized populations, such as veterans and seniors, and to help build the movement for healthy, sustainable, and local food in Arizona.
Over the years, Lucky Nickel Ranch has built up its offerings and provided essential services to the community, including a Community Supported Agriculture program, Farmers’ Markets, and most recently, a farm incubator program.
The agricultural sector in America is shrinking at an alarming rate, centralizing the life-sustaining work that is agriculture into the hands of just a few megalithic corporations, known to waste fossil fuels and to cause a huge tax on our environment and public health. Since 1870, employment in the industry’s labor force has nosedived from 70-80% of the US population to less than 2% today. In addition, the number of farms has shrunk, nearly three-fold, separating us from our food, and facilitating the ambivalence that has led to a steady increase in diet-related health conditions. We MUST re-establish competition in this industry, if we ever want to see a return to healthy living in America.
Incubator farms are a groundbreaking concept that has taken hold in various pockets around the country. Very similar to co-working spaces, which have become popular in urban areas, incubator farms provide business management skills and tools, as well as modern agricultural techniques with an eye toward sustainable agriculture at a local level.
Small local farms are smarter than the industrial agriculture machine we support when we purchase “conventional” food products, which often travel thousands of miles to reach us. With our economy the way it is, the work of incubator farms like McKenzie’s Lucky Nickel Ranch is SO important, not only for the greater public and the environment, but also for those who are out-of-work, and those who have an interest in the agricultural sector, but limited experience.
--- Please, support your local farmers whenever you can. A great way to do that today is to pitch in on Michael McKenzie’s Kickstarter campaign to expand the incubator program—this program is a crucial building block in the re-emergence of the local food and agriculture economy. ---