Farmers are now good news. When I was a kid they were not. They were hicks, people with dirt under their fingernails.
Now they are honored. But which farmers? Here’s the incredulous response from Food, Mommy, from a farming family in Kentucky (I love to follow blogs from working farmers).
Apparently to many of the visitors to the Incredible Food Show in Lexington, Ky. this past weekend [a farmer] is someone who is growing their own food in their backyard or selling at a “Farmer’s” market.
it really shocked me that every time I mentioned to someone that we were there on behalf of farmers to encourage conversation about how food is produced, the instant response was, “Oh, I love that. I visit the Farmer’s Market all the time.” Or, “My sister has a garden. That’s great.”
Food, Mommy is saddened and puzzled that productive large farmers are dismissed as practising industrial agriculture.
The produce farmer in Ohio, or even California, who is large enough to service several grocery stores in our state now has a big “X” on his/her face. Some folks are just convinced that since the farm is not “local” and is producing food on several hundred acres instead of two, that the product is bad, industrial food. At what point does a farmer or farm become “industrial?” And when did “success” become a bad word in agriculture?
I’m with her. How did farmer become a word only for tiny, unmechanized startups?
Steve Jobs creates cool technological devices, has them produced in China, and is a candidate for sainthood. American (market or truck) farmers create cool ways of delivering asparagus and lettuce year round, employ people in the United States (Mexicans if Americans don’t want the jobs), and are relegated to the outer circles of politically unacceptable hell.
Isn’t there an inconsistency here? How is it possible to wait breathlessly for Steve to improve on the tablets of Moses while shunning farmers who move beyond Cain’s farm and Abel’s pasture. And even Cain and Abel needed more than the 3000 square feet now often described as a “farm.” 3000 square feet is, after all, only 7/100ths of an acre, neither enough to feed a person nor to make a living, valuable as it may be in teaching children about growing plants.
Edit. This quote from Russ Parsons of the LA Times puts it well:
Agriculture is a business. Farming without a financial motive is gardening. I use that line a lot when I’m giving talks, and it always gets a laugh. But it’s deadly serious. Not only do farmers have expenses to meet just like any other business, but they also need to be rewarded when they do good work. Any plan that places further demands on farmers without an offsetting profit incentive is doomed to fail.