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Farmers walk among us...

By Owen Paine on Wednesday May 13, 2009 06:18 PM

... or at least they ought to, anyway. So sez this Counterpunch piece:

"Their intimate, human-scale knowledge of the land is what will allow agriculture to adapt to climate change. And as the cheap energy that industrial agriculture depends on disappears, it is farmers, with their small-scale innovation and sheer manual labor, who will feed us. Why do we care about having more farmers? Because deep down we know they are essential to a functioning food system."
The author, Lisa Hamilton's "new definition" of a farmer:
"... someone who grows crops in sufficient quantity to be a true commercial entity, yet is still close enough to the ground to bring human scale and values to the process."
Who's out of the running? "Backyard chicken enthusiast[s and] the corporation behind the feedlot." A farm is all about "the individual human on the land, growing our food" -- i.e. folks like my pal super Al Shoooster,

.... shown here in his endive patch near Canine Crossing, Vermont.

But Al, the news ain't good. According to properly adjusted gubmint stats these "real farmers" like you (and my aleatory sister Tess Paine) are going the way of the dodo bird.

"To stop this hemorrhaging," Ms Hamilton suggests "investing in a system that values farmers and propagates them... We must inspire nonfarmers to enter the profession.... A program that puts interns on farms [to] learn the skills of farming and experience the lifestyle; hosts would receive valuable labor to bolster their businesses."
Are ya ready Al?

Hamilton reaches for a complication:

"Such a program would face an obvious objection: AmeriCorps offers volunteers to public service organizations, but most farms are private businesses. Why should the rest of us help support them?"
Feelgood resolution:
"What if... we began to see farmers as the public servants they are, and enabled them to be the public servants we need: stewards of our soil and water, pillars of our rural communities, and guardians of our food."
Where's the single-grower movement in all this patched-pants policy?

Comments (2)


Now here's something I actually know something about! My neighbor is a farmer, married with two kids, the oldest yearning to get off the farm and away to college. He's a big Norwegian looking guy, a bit of an authoritarian, a constant self-marketer, talks about the odd varieties of lettuce and squash he's rescued from oblivion with pride, and sells his stuff at the farmers' market every Saturday. From June to September.

What does he do the rest of the year? Well, he left Silicon Valley a few years ago, and came up here to live a healthy life -- repair things, work the soil, do the books. And live off the proceeds of his first career, he allows me to imagine.

Peter Ward:

Wow, pretty embarrassing for Counterpunch to run. I think there is a lot to be said in favor of community garderns, but the naive romanticization is more than one can bear (apart from the completely false picture of most modern farming presented). In general, farmers are comparable to anyone else engaged in productive work--they do work that is vital just as say truck drivers do but they are not distinguished either.

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