There are some hefty impediments to causing this goal to become a reality.
One is the lack of understanding of the people interested in sharing in this
type of agriculture. I once gave a couple of frozen whole chickens to a
member in gratitude for using her home as a drop-off site for other member's
vegetables in her neighborhood. She thought that was nice but declined
because she would not know what to do with them...she lacked the knowledge
and experience of cooking a chicken! This example is not uncommon. One of
the more important tasks in running a CSA is education. To be successful, I
have to teach people how to, when to, and why to eat in a particular way.
This adds a degree of complexity to farming that exploitive (conventional)
agriculture does not have to deal with.
A second is the difficulty in finding good farm help. Competing for good
help in the labor market at farmers wages is tough. Long hours, hard work,
low wages and occasional poisoning (not on my farm) make it difficult to
find farm help. As I've recently been told by a ex-farm hand, "Hell, I can
make more being a grunt on a construction job." Industrial agriculture also
tends to hire the cheapest labor source possible, hence the migrant worker.
They seem more willing to tolerate the harsh conditions the American labor
market has been taught to avoid. If this isn't bad enough I now read that
prison labor is being looked into for some of the nastier jobs (i.e. factory
poultry farms). It becomes very difficult to earn a living when we have to
compete against operations that pay little or nothing and are able to sell
at prices that reflect these subsidies.
Another impediment is the lack of 'True Cost Accounting' on the ledger
sheets of conventional agriculture. To compete with a system of food
production that is so heavily subsidized is not fair, but these subsidies
seem to extend thought out not only the agricultural industry, but all of
the free-market, capitalistic society.
I divide the subsidies into three categories; externalities, direct
subsidies, and indirect subsidies.
An externality is a negative consequence of an operation that is not
internalized into the operating costs of the operation. Examples include;
polluted aquifers, poisoned rivers, drained aquifers, salinated regions, and
related health costs of those affected by the 'green revolution'. The cost
of this pollution and it's effects are not born by the instigators, but
shunted onto the general public. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said, "Show me
pollution, and I'll show you a subsidy."
Direct subsidies are generally governmental programs designed to achieve a
specific purpose. The decisions to implement these programs are often
influenced by lobbing groups representing not the good of the people, but
the short term profit of powerful agri-business groups. Some programs
designed with the common good in mind have unforeseen negative consequences
or immorally exploitative. Examples of direct subsidies include: California,
Arizona and Nevada water programs, and many of the other farm programs
Indirect subsidies things like the transportation system and the cheap
energy paradigm. Both of these examples are fraught with their own set of
subsidies, and are certainly unsustainable.
The reason Americans pay so little for their food is because they don't pay
for the true cost of production. The farmer receives such a small portion of
the food dollar, and that is exacerbated by the fact that people don't pay
full cost for food. Until we find a way to access the cost of the subsidies
to any industry, a sustainable movement will find tremendous obstacles in
The sustainable farmer often chooses to forgo the subsidies and produce food
in a morally sound manner. They work long hours, substituting human labor
for chemical or mechanical input. Instead of finding ways to do this or
that, they look toward synergetic systems that eliminate a step or process
entirely. And most find they are in the position of an educator, helping
teach the consumer that there is a difference and it is in everyone's best
interest to choose sustainable.
We sustainable farmers choose to nurture instead of to exploit. That is a
concept entirely foreign to the general public. A common goal of the
sustainable community should be to educate the masses as to the imperative
nature of creating a lasting form of agriculture.
Another should be to hold accountable those indulging in the exploitation of
the environment and society. Costs need to be accessed on these subsidies
and the exploiter need pay. Only then will the playing field become level,
and the sustainable farmer compete on a equal basis.
Prairie Dock Farm/CSA
Even if your on the right track,
you'll get run over if ya just sit there.
To Unsubscribe: Email email@example.com with "unsubscribe sanet-mg".
To Subscribe to Digest: Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the command