Farms may be dwindling, but a closer look shows a determined few defying the trend.
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Ben and Taryn Marcus work on a small farm in Maine.

They farm a piece of land that had long been neglected but is protected by an agricultural easement, meaning it can't be sold off to developers.


It's taken them years (not to mention endless blood, sweat, and tears), but they've managed to revitalize the land into a "thriving community food hub."

The two have faced challenges, for sure, but what they've managed to do for the land and the community is very impressive.

"Growing Local," a Seedlight Pictures film directed by Bridget Besaw, tells their story — and two others about folks who have committed to local farming despite (or even because of) its challenges.

"We're at the cusp of something great."

Ben Slayton is the focus of another of the "Growing Local" stories. He's a butcher and an entrepreneur determined to give consumers direct access to healthy, sustainably raised meat.

"We're at the cusp of something great," explains Slayton. "The local food movement is taking off, and we are part of building that infrastructure and support to sustain it."

"The local food movement is taking off, and we are part of building that infrastructure and support to sustain it."

Slayton is pursuing his model at great risk because his success depends almost entirely on regular ol' consumers like you and me. He says, "It comes down to consumers believing that what they eat is a statement. It's more important than just filling their bellies."

Take a look at the numbers — you'll see just how important these stories are.

Hearing from folks like Slayton and the Marcuses kind of makes working on a small farm seem pretty glamorous, doesn't it? Well, farm life can be tough — and the statistics show just that.

The number of farms in the U.S. has been in a steady decline since it peaked 80 years ago. Just between 2007 and 2012, the farm count fell by 4.3%. At the same time, the average farmer is getting older, and new, younger farmers are having a hard time taking over.

Not to mention, in 2012, 75% of farms had sales of less than $50,000.

That's why people who are committed to local growing are so crucial to the changing agriculture landscape. These stories of folks defying the larger trends are the most important of all.

They're not the only ones taking a chance — and a stand.

Slayton and the Marcus couple are brave and determined. They've worked hard to create the change they want to see.

And despite what the agricultural census says, they're not the only ones committed to creating a local-based, sustainable food system. Stories of farmers like these can be found all over the country. "Growing Local" is the beautiful film that highlights three such stories — check out the trailer below.

The farming landscape is shifting. It's up to us to shift it in the right direction.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.