It has been difficult to find the time to post on my blog the last while, mostly because I’ve been writing elsewhere and the last thing I want to do when writing full time, is writing in my spare time.
The past year I have been working on a book about farming. Originally, the working title was The Organic Farmer’s Sourcebook. Farming is a whole different ball game from gardening because of scale and labor. On the small garden scale, one person can easily produce enough vegetables to feed themselves through the winter. On a large industrial farm scale, ten people can easily produce enough food for 5,000 people with the aid of a tractor and still make a profit. But, on a small farm scale, five people can struggle to produce enough to pay everyone. It’s a difficult spot - less efficient than a big farm, more work than a garden.
As I learned more about farming, I became increasingly aware that small farms face another, possibly even greater problem: politics. Agriculture is intrinsically tied up with politics and the economy, especially so today thanks to Goldman Sachs commodity futures trading. Corporations own the food, through patenting everything from seeds to chicken breeds, and 99% of the food we eat comes from them. The other 1% is the small farmers. It’s no wonder small farms have trouble making a profit. Especially when the corporate powers have the ability to lobby for subsidies to pay themselves to grow things that aren’t worth anything, or even to not grow certain crops.
After following stories of injustice towards small farms for the past year, another problem surfaced: real oppression. It is becoming more and more common for small farms to be oppressed. Not in the I-am-paranoid-against-the-government kind of oppression. I’m talking real, unjust and ridiculous oppression that is systematically trying to shut down small farms at every level, from the small urban farm to the generational Amish dairy farm.
The trouble is that as the local food movement has grown, corporations have tried to jump on the band wagon by mimicking the feeling of small farms through their marketing. They create brands named Harmony Farm or Rolling Hills with nice little pictures of green fields and happy cows roaming a pasture, when their farms look nothing like that at all. But people aren’t stupid. I think it works on some level, but it doesn’t destroy the competition. Small farms don’t try to squash their competition because they just don’t work that way, but big corporations do, and we forget that. It’s driving them crazy that more people are shopping at the farmer’s market.
The book title is now Food Tyrants. Its a book that takes a long, objective look at everything happening to our food system right now, and it can tell you what is going to happen in the future if things don’t change. It also tells you what to do about it.
One of the biggest goals I have had with this project is making sure I am not spouting some inaccurate fear-mongering. One of the greatest tools that the opposition has is our false facts. If we spread rumors and bad science about GMO’s, they latch onto that and use it against us. For example, as of today there is no proof that GM corn is worse for your body than other kinds of corn. However, there is proof that there is conclusive evidence that more study is absolutely needed before anyone should have put it in their mouths. There is absolute proof that genetic drift is a terrible problem. And it’s absolutely true that Monsanto tries to harass people because of it. Focusing on the real problems is key in trying to solve them.
I am writing this because I realized that farmers aren’t able to fix this, especially organic farmers. This increasingly terrible food crises is partially caused by injustice, and it’s the rest of us who must make changes to fix it. We let it happen, and its our responsibility to reverse it. If we don’t, there will be terrible consequences.