Evolving Peace

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Farm Aid

As a child, my Sunday ritual with my Dad was to drive out to the farm to receive our weeks supply of milk. Those were the days when I thought that brown cows were the ones that supplied chocolate milk. While things have changed since then, I now do know that there are Holstein and Jersey Cows but still have no clue how many teats there are on a cow’s udder (those in VT will appreciate that). The farm was just a short ride from my boyhood home in New Jersey and at that age it was a thrill every time to take that ride to Monroe, NY on a Sunday afternoon. It is sad to say that the farm is no longer there, it had been given way to greener pastures while make rooming for another suburban housing development.

Like that farm, many American farms are going by the wayside. The agrarian society hailed in the age of Jefferson is no longer. Small independent farms have mostly been replaced by the large monolithic factory farms that spread out for miles along many rural areas of the country. These farms are no longer owned by families but owned by large corporations with the soul interest of profits. Family farms can no longer afford to pay equipment costs, mortgages, or energy costs. Excessive rains from last spring and summer hampered the hay cultivation thus adding exorbitant costs onto their backs. So given the choice to continue farming at high debt ratios or to sell to someone looking to develop a home off in the country, which would you choose?

Farms are the most vital resources of a nation, but given the status of the world you would think that we eat and drink oil. Farms are what fuel the country and serious attention should be given to the plight of the family farmer. Farmers are the lifeblood to our lives and we owe them our support.

Throughout the country there are various movements broadcasting their message of concern. In Vermont, the Localvore movement is strong by supporting locally grown food as an attempt to save the small farms from collapse and for protecting the environment. As a benefit for supporting farms as a consumer you would receive fresh foods that have not been shipped half way across the globe. As a result, that meandering countryside retains its esthetic value without resulting into the densely populated suburbs of New Jersey.

Additionaly, the continued resources that are required to ship foods across the globe are wasteful. Statistics have shown that the average American meal travels 3,000 miles to arrive on one’s plate. The nation can debate about the ramifications of global warming but easy steps by eating local foods will help in cutting green house gasses. In a time of environmental uncertainty, all approaches to maintain a more local based diet is not only good for yourself and the local farmer but is good for the planet.

As the issues of farmers may not make it on Headline News, as a populace we need to bring about awareness of the issue. In rural states, farmers issues are still prevalent but unfortunately there lacks a clear consensus on solutions. Vermont has seen battles over genetically modified seeds, animal registration and organic vs. conventional farming. My choice is to have non-genetically modified and organic food, as I hope everyone else would. With any business model there needs to be a profitability factor for farmers. Organic and natural foods are more expensive and the great demands for those options create higher prices.

Conversion to organic foods and niche markets does bring in greater price yields, but it does not answer a complete fix all. A bill recently introduced in Vermont, to remove milk hauling fees from being charged to the farmer can help answer some questions. Dairy is a major ingredient for most food within an American diet and farmers are unnecessarily charged fees to pick up their milk from the farm. While many distributors and other retailers profit exponentially of their product a farmer has to continue to work longer and harder days to stay afloat.

There are many solutions to helping our farmers survive and there are many organizations address their concerns such as Rural Vermont and Farm Aid. I hope for a continued presence of small family farms where I can still obtain locally grown produce and raised meats for my family. Throughout the land many farms have been forced to sell and it reminds me of the Soviet’s forced collectivism of peasant farms. A tragic mistake in the merge to gigantic state based farms. The presence of families and the cultural values were uprooted from their traditions of farming and favored a faceless bureaucracy micromanaging its resources for an efficient commodity. Likewise here farms are merged into corporate industrial farms and that is uprooting the landscapes and traditions of the America’s connection to the land. While no one is putting a gun to them to sell off like in the Soviet case, the economic hardships are just as potent. Plantings no longer are based on needs but what can be cultivated for the highest profit margins.

As a society we owe it to our farmer friends and neighbors to support them. Otherwise the landscape could be further decimated into tracts of suburban style homes. As for the solutions the best we can do is to eat more local foods and encourage the voice of the farmers to speak loudly. I look forward to the day where I will still be able to joke with my children as we see the “chocolate-milk cows” in the pastures of Vermont. Eat local and support your local farmer.

Robb Kidd

“The fight to save family farms isn't just about farmers. It's about making sure that there is a safe and healthy food supply for all of us. It's about jobs, from Main Street to Wall Street. It's about a better America.” Willie Nelson


At January 19, 2007 11:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Robb. It is important to support local farmers markets. Being in agriculture myself, my product is highly valued locally and I'm happy about that.

For more reading, please visit my friend Angela Eckhardt's web site. She is the best writer I know of in the field of agricultural freedom.



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