2018 Local Hero Awardee: Richie Davis

Each year, CISA presents Local Hero Awards to farms, businesses, or individuals who exemplify our mission of strengthening farms and engaging the community to build the local food economy. We applaud their hard work, social responsibility, and many contributions to sustaining local agriculture.

Richie Davis has been reporting on Franklin County and the surrounding region for over 40 years, but it’s not just longevity that makes him stand out: his deep care for local farmers and farms and his dedication to clear communication about complex issues are what make him a Local Hero.

Richie grew up on Long Island, 20 miles from New York City, and his interest in farming stretches back to his youth. He says, “When I was really young, there were farms there – I remember visiting them as a little kid. Then they turned into houses, and so there weren’t any more farms. We’d go visit the vestiges of the old farms that were within bicycling distance of my house to take pictures. They were interesting because there’s nothing else like them in the suburbs.”

College in upstate New York introduced him to big apple and dairy operations, and when he took a job as editor of a local weekly paper after graduation he started writing about agricultural issues in that area.

In 1975, Richie came across a “Farm and Ranch Vacation Guide,” which led his young family to vacation in Lancaster County, PA, and then brought them to an old dairy farm in Shelburne. “We fell in love with Franklin County because of that dairy farm,” says Richie. “We came back a couple of times within the next year, and knew we wanted to move here.”

By 1976, Richie had taken a job at The Recorder, where he has filled a number of roles over time, but his personal interest in local agriculture has made farming a primary theme in his more than four decades of work. His feature articles, long-form pieces, and in-depth series have explored the stories, challenges, and hopes of local farmers and their businesses.

As it turns out, The Recorder has been the ideal home for this work: “The Recorder has always, like Franklin County itself, been a special place that ‘gets it.’ They’ve given me the creative space to come up with my little (or big) ‘discovery projects’ that aim to convey why this place is so special.”

Richie’s own words about his work sum up the reasons that his writing has made such a significant contribution to the public’s understanding of and investment in local farms. He says, “I think of my work as being part of the education realm. I’m trying to explain to readers why agriculture is important, even If they don’t always think it is. My feeling is that a lot of people don’t understand the pressures that farmers are under. By which I don’t mean that I have all the answers! I just ask the questions.

The bottom line is I want to get into the heart of what the farmers are dealing with, and why it matters, and why it is the way it is. I think what really moves the reader is to understand the depth of the issue for the people who are affected. Farming is so compelling because a lot of farmers can’t quite explain why they work so hard and why they do this work, except that they really love it, and they’re driven to do it. Getting a sense of that drive really gets to people. It’s that tug of emotion.”

For his fact-based reporting, dedication to nuanced communication, and beautiful, human-centered storytelling, CISA is proud to present Richie Davis with a 2018 Local Hero Award.

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