Tuesday, August 12, 2014

if being a young farmer in america makes no sense, my diet automatically becomes a political issue


being a young farmer in america makes no sense. that's bern smith's conclusion in his article for the nytimes. 
The dirty secret of the food movement is that the much-celebrated small-scale farmer isn’t making a living. After the tools are put away, we head out to second and third jobs to keep our farms afloat. Ninety-one percent of all farm households rely on multiple sources of income.
a sobering statistics. when over dinner, people praise the merits of organic or slow food, rarely the discussion veers from the aesthetic merits & flavor & nutrition of the food to who grows the food.  
On top of that, we’re now competing with nonprofit farms. Released from the yoke of profit, farms like Growing Power in Milwaukee and Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., are doing some of the most innovative work in the farming sector, but neither is subject to the iron heel of the free market. Growing Power alone received over $6.8 million in grants over the last five years, and its produce is now available in Walgreens stores. Stone Barns was started with a $30 million grant from David Rockefeller. How’s a young farmer to compete with that?
we're generally blind to our food provenance. is it ignorance, bad faith or both?
... in urban areas, supporting your local farmer may actually mean buying produce from former hedge fund managers or tax lawyers who have quit the rat race to get some dirt under their fingernails. We call it hobby farming, where recreational “farms” are allowed to sell their products at the same farmers’ markets as commercial farms. It’s all about property taxes, not food production. As Forbes magazine suggested to its readers in its 2012 Investment Guide, now is the time to “farm like a billionaire,” because even a small amount of retail sales — as low as $500 a year in New Jersey — allows landowners to harvest more tax breaks than tomatoes.
(forbes' suggestion makes my skin crawl)
It’s not the food movement’s fault that we’ve been left behind. It has turned food into one of the defining issues of our generation. But now it’s time for farmers to shape our own agenda. We need to fight for loan forgiveness for college grads who pursue agriculture; programs to turn farmers from tenants into landowners; guaranteed affordable health care; and shifting subsidies from factory farms to family farms. 
if what smith discusses is true, we have a big problem. we need not just good food, but more sustainable farming. food production should not destroy the very planet we're trying to feed. of course we understand the adaptability of the market, a three-pointed vector that includes agribusiness, factory farming & the so called intensive crop farming (and the problems associated with water conservation, pollution, food prices, government subsidies, etc).

smith's article hits me with its factual force. i feel i've lowered my guard & once you lower your guard you become an accomplice (incidentally, complicity is more widespread than we're prepared to accept: see it as a befuddlement between seudo-enlightenment and social anomie).

what's the meaning of "slow" or "organic" if it's produced from the top down & financed by big farm?

in the last few years our food has gotten better, people are changing eating habits, but the food message is coming from the wrong source. 90% of independent farmers don't have the means to underwrite the the food publicity ads we urbanites read.

this is the picture: america's urban poor are hooked to junk, which leaves the dwindling middle class and the rich full access to "better" food (let's assume now that some of our better food comes from big farm and their interests posing as "sustainable"). by the way, the mantra that better food is not necessarily more expensive is a discussion the poor will not understand as long as they are socially conditioned to eat poorly. the asymmetry in food consumption reflects the chronic dysfunction of our system.

so, i'm prepared to connect two apparently disparate vectors: if being a young farmer in america makes no sense anymore, my diet automatically becomes a political issue.

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