(RE: gardeners; to the extent people have even minimal exposure to producing
their own food,
they have a greater appreciation for what it takes to do that. If a child
falls in love with the soil by
gardening, maybe they go on to at least want to farm.)
Bo Yerba writes "of the 4 adults and 3 kids in my family...none of we
[sic] kids now farm."
Stu Duncan writes "Our small family farm was 'sustainable' because
both my parents worked
off the farm. Frankly, that lifestyle sucked."
In my own family, my maternal grandfather died before I was born and, after
three generations of
farmers, his four kids sold the family farm -- none of them wanted to farm
Seven years ago my husband and I bought a small plot of farm-zoned land in
foothills. Both of us worked off-farm for the first three seasons, then I
became a full-time farmer
-- seven days a week, twelve and fourteen hours a day for the past four years
-- using sustainable
organic practices. This year, we are fallow while I work on my health (lung
problems.) I love the
soil, I love growing food, I love Farmers' Markets, Co-ops and restaurant
sales but, if I'm well
enough next year to go back to farming, it will necessarily be on a less
I have found a kinship in people who also work the soil, whether they are
sustainable or organic, whether they farm one acre or five hundred. We all
farm because we
must. It is a basic need for us in the same way that a writer must write or
a painter must paint.
The daily joy of discovery, the wonder of watching a tiny seed become food,
being in league with
critters, bugs and birds, the extraordinary range of color and form in the
varieties I grow, and the
challenge of producing those crops are an endless source of joy to me. Yes,
I'm a romantic. But,
to a great extent, isn't that what it takes? We can teach business
marketing and sustainable practices but, if we can't find people who WANT the
job of farmer,
what's the point?
The concentration of seed, fertilizer, herbicide, pest control, and food
processing ownership in
four major companies is scary at best. The ability of that concentration of
resources to force larger
and more costly production units, emphasize higher yields at the expense of
genetic diversity and
cultural cohesion, and dictate static commodity prices, mitigates against the
economic and social
sustainability of American farmers.
It is technically possible to laser map fields and computer guide huge farm
machines like robots
from a control room tower miles away or even from a satellite in space. It
is possible to change
the genetic make-up of plants to make them resistant to herbicides so we can
kill everything in a
field except the chosen crop. Such technical marvels will probably cull for
those folks who are
into technical marvels and production statistics -- qualities that may not be
found in someone who loves having dirt under their nails.
Stewardship comes more easily to those who see the minutia of the natural
living system on a
daily and intimate basis than those who view it as just another data point.
sustainability depends on an attitude of stewardship. As a country, we must
look at the place of
the farmer resource and the farming community that can nurture it in the
production system today is clearly not sustainable for the farmer resource.
The question is, what
will we do about it?
Thanks for the ear
If you eat, you're involved in agriculture.