Farming and only farming?
The debate rages--well, simmers--on the pages of New Farm: Should
we stick to only those issues that are directly related to farming
and marketing, or should we also address the larger questions of
social justice, the impact of global markets on local systems, and
the lack of federal support for organic and sustainable farming?
Ohio chef Parker Bosley started it with his reader commentary posted
last issue, objecting to our politicization of farming and food
readers responded, thanking Mr. Bosley for his perspective.
But I'm in the other camp. Mr. Bosley is under the impression that
free enterprise actually exists, and will solve all problems for
farmers. I happen to believe that free enterprise must be rescued
from the grossest sort of corporate cronyism before small scale
farmers will be free to compete in a fair marketplace. And that
will require political and social action, and systemic changes.
I want to understand and act on the issues that influence or interfere
with the kind of farming and rural life I'd like to see in this
country, even as I toil to make my own enterprise thrive.
It's an uphill battle, that's for sure. A lot stands between us
and fair prices, local markets, vibrant small towns, a farmer's
market in every neighborhood, and 100,000 organic farmers in the
U.S. And I agree with Mr. Bosley that most of the hard work must
take place one farm and one community at a time. But we must simultaneously
push for the rules and regulations that will support the kind of
farming we believe in. Without zoning, as you know, the "free"
market will put a factory farm in your back yard.
So, I welcome it when a guy like Paul Hawken comes along to give
us a boost of encouragement, to assure us that not only can things
change, but that they ARE changing, and that our efforts as individuals
and groups are part of a global movement that shares essentially
the same vision we do--a world of healthy local markets, local culture
and refreshing diversity. (Hawken gave the keynote address at the
PASA conference this year, and a transcription
of his address appears in this issue of New Farm.)
I don't know about you, but I think we need those booster shots
of understanding and inspiration to remind us of our broader hopes
even as we sweat to improve our crop rotation on our own small parcel
of land, or make improvements in our farmstand presentation. Why
did we chose this way of life, anyway? It sure ain't just the money.
(The farm manager for the Del Cabo co-op in southern Baja addresses
that issue--why we do this crazy stuff--in Don Lotter's new Pan-American
Adventure installment. Check
Why don't YOU weigh in on the issue: Should we mix issues and politics
with practical farming advice? Or should we leave it to someone
else? Send me your thoughts at email@example.com.
Getting your goat ... and eating
it too. One of my favorite episodes in Barbara Kingsolver's
novel, Prodigal Summer, involves a widowed farmer's wife
who's actually a city girl. She's determined to make the farm survive
after the accidental death of her husband. Someone mentions the
holiday goat market in New York City. The Southern farmers around
her scratch their heads and snicker at her insanity ... until they
discover that she's netting a lot more than they ever made on their
own farms. Sounds like that story is being played out over and over
again all over the country. Meat goats are a big business, now,
catering to a number of ethnic markets. In
her piece this issue, Darcy Maulsby describes a meat
goat operation in Iowa that's growing each year and adding lots
of income on top of the farm's more traditional corn and hog enterprises.
Chris Hill, Executive Editor
forget to check out our latest Organic
Price Index. Coming tomorrow,
July 21: All new prices for the Grassroots OPX.
others eat basil and tomatoes, Andy plans parsnips. See
CSA Journal below.
Pan-American Adventure: Don
Lotter continues his Latin journey with a story on a 300-farmer
organic coop at the tip of Baja. See
below for more.