Friday, July 18, 2008

A hungry nation is an unstable nation.

Or so my ol’ dad says.

I am the first one to admit I don’t understand agriculture. I mean, I can plant seeds and grow shit, but when it comes to the political and organization side of it all, I turn into the village idiot. Does it really take that much legislation to grow food and get it to the table?

I’ve been doing some research regarding sustainable agriculture, mainly small farming, because the trends are much like the small town stores, small is out and Wal-Mart is in. The small stores can’t compete with the big boys. But, what if, instead of taking it as “can’t run with the big dogs, don’t get off the porch?” we change it to “I don’t wanna run with them anyway. We’ll stay on the porch and like it better than any of their stupid games.”

A lesson in this came from an advertising course I took in college. The class divided into groups, selected a product to create an ad campaign for, and competed against another group with the same product. Our group promoted our product by saying it could take on this other larger product, sort of the David and Goliath mentality. That didn’t work real well. Sunglasses with a built-in MP3 just can’t replace the i-POD.

We tried.

The other group promoted the glasses as an accessory and my group went “Oh, that would work.”

When applying this to ag, I’m thinking that small farmers should only compete with the big boys if they want to. But what if we small farmers just don’t play? What if we go off and make a new game with our rules? What’s wrong with going back to basics, where the farm provides for the family, garden, dairy, meat, you know, the basics, and doesn’t try to compete with ag corporations? Yeah, someone in the household needs a town job. Yeah, it’s tight and not even close to living right. But that’s life on the farm, isn’t it?

These are just my thoughts and opinions. I don’t have an ag degree. I hobby farm because we’re not big enough (or serious enough) to make it just as farmers. Dad has a town job and I’m working on selling my writing. This is an ongoing quandary for me because ag in the 21st century is so markedly different from any other time in the history of mankind. Fewer farmers mean more corporate farms and, it seems, lower food quality, more pest/herbicides that anyone can see harms the very land we need to survive. I know I sound like an activist here, but these are important issues, not just to farmers, but to anyone who needs food to survive.

Because life is so different today in terms of technology and overpopulation, I believe that we need new, creative solutions to the age-old problem of food and fiber. Whether that means farm markets and local shopping or community gardens, I believe that only a grass roots movement can make this shift from the firm delineation between food producer and food consumer to a more integrated circle where people get back to knowing the people who grow their food.