The big, if somewhat wifty, picture.
I’m warning you. I’m going to get a little philosophical
here in a moment. A confluence of events is to blame. I listened
to Teresa Heinz Kerry speak at the Democratic convention, and she
quoted Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address, which had
me in tears (where are all the poet/philosopher/politicians when
you need them?). Then, a few days later I was editing a transcription
of a speech that peach grower and author Mas Masumoto gave at the
Eco-Farm conference earlier this year. He was talking about why
memory is the critical ingredient that turns good food into wonderful
food by connecting people with special moments in their pasts.
It all got jumbled in my mind with the question of politics and
farming—which over 50 of you chimed in on in emails to me—and,
then, the bigger question of why we do what we do. Not the reasons
we give ourselves in the light of day, but the vague, inchoate hopes
and longings that visit us at night. So ….
Why do we do what we do? Why do we farm, why do we work hard to
build community, to develop local food systems, or grow a business?
After the money is deposited, the dirt and sweat cleaned off, and
as we fall, exhausted, into clean sheets, this is the dream that
intrudes, this is why we care:
In a land that no longer values what came before, or what is to
come, we are braiding, with our own lives, a continuity from the
past into the future. We are cementing with our sweat “the
mystic chords of memory, stretching … to every living heart
and hearth-stone,” as Abraham Lincoln said in his First Inaugural
Address. And as Mas Masumoto would say …. stretching to every
peach and tomato and pear.
This fabric of memory connecting us to past, present and future,
to people living and dead … in my opinion, on the most fundamental
of levels, this is what organic agriculture is all about. It’s
an affirmation and acknowledgment of our interconnectedness.
Now, where does politics fit into this picture? Politics is the
messy, bloody birthing of our hopes and dreams into flesh. Without
it, all our hopes remain only dreams. Every act does have political
consequences, and politics is the art of working together as individuals
within a society to make sure the rules are in concert with our
dreams. As one reader, Catherine, wrote: "Although we don't
like it, politics is a part of everyday life, and we need to speak
out globally if we are to sustain a healthy planet." For more
reader comments on the "politics vs. practical" farming
Speaking of labor pains… Everywhere
we go, organic farmers are distressed over the issue of labor. People
like Tim Voss at Blue Heron farm in California want to pay living
wages, offer decent housing, and adequate benefits without--and
this is the trick--breaking the bank. In this issue we have two
pieces that address the issue of labor. One is on the ground and
in the trenches. Linda Halley of Harmony Valley Farm in Wisconsin
updates us on the arduous process of making
sure her Mexican workers are fully legal. The other is a broad
and detailed analysis of the
state of the farm worker in America, including pespectives on
labor issues from specific organic farms in California. It was written
by David Kupfer, a writer, activist and grower in Northern California.
A few of my favorite things ... Here
are my personal favs in this issue of The New Farm:
the next installment of his Pan-American Adventure, Don Lotter
takes us into the home and hearts of a farm family making it work
in the harsh climate of western Mexico.
Mas Masumoto, the well-known farmer and author of Epitaph
for a Peach takes readers on a journey into the pleasures
and power of memories associated with food. I strongly recommend
doing the memory exercise he describes--if for no other reason
than to do a better job connecting with your customers.
Two new features this issue: Welcome
to two new ongoing features.
- Jim Riddle, an organic inspector and longterm
member of the National Organic Standards Board, introduces his
Notebook. This week--lots of ways to make life easier for
you and your inspector.
- Courtney White,
co-founder and executive director of the Quivira Coalition, kicks
off his new monthly column, The New Ranch: Rethinking Range Management
in the Arid West. This month--
a tired piece of range land
in North Central New Mexico.
Chris Hill, Executive Editor
forget to check out our latest Organic
Price Index. Coming later today:
All new prices for the Grassroots OPX. Nineteen markets
in 15 states.
Western Mexico: Into
the home and hearts of a farm family in tequila country. See
Pan-American Adventure, below and left.
The Cut Flower Column is BACK: Mel
Devault is back with new insights on mistakes she's made, and advice
on keeping your flower supply constant all season long. See
below for more.
Michigan State student farm: With
its greenhouses and 48-week CSA, something magic is happening at
the student organic farm up there in East Lansing. See
below for more.
Great snakes alive! Andy
Griffin's garlic snakes (or scapes) could be a good part of his
business. He's not sure yet. See below