The recent New York Times article, “Don’t Let Your Children Grow Up to Be Farmers”, about the plight of small farmers set me to thinking.
I think there are two kinds of farms. The first is the flashy farm where everything is new and everything seems…well, slick. It’s easy to spot them if you are a farmer. These farms are selling an attraction. That’s the “cash cow” so to speak. They are a show place, a venue, a destination. Sure, some have crops growing and livestock on the “grounds”, but that is the landscaping for the attraction. I’m always leery of the picture perfect places that are spit shined and polished. These are the places that are “farming” because they HAVE money and don’t really make a living as a farmer. The old saying “that place is all boots and no manure”, rings true.
The second type of farm is the place that is usually using older equipment, the grass might be a little shaggy and the farmer is usually “on the stretch”. There are almost always fewer workers than work and vacations and weekends and eight-hour days, are strangers here. This farm may very well be profitable, but only because of learning to live lean and get the most out of their land, their equipment and themselves. Some of these farms struggle to make a living, but the thing they have in common with each other is that they don’t do this for the money. They are well aware they need to make a profit, but that’s not the motivation, that’s not what rolls them out of bed in time to punch up the rooster. These are the believers, the ones that KNOW next year will be better, the ones called to Mother Earth as a minister is called to the pulpit.
Remember the mantra of the “Food Revolution” is based on sustainability, sustainability for each piece of the pie, the Earth, the farmer, the local community and the consumer. Sustainability is not based on whether one has the means to sustain the farm, but whether the market can support a sustainable living for the farmer. Sustainability requires enough value be created for EVERY piece of pie to have plenty of fruit in it. If we are to make this revolution last, our dollars need to support those with a little dirt under their nails and a little shite on their boots.
Find these farms and find value and quality and character. Find these farmers, and find the spirit that will save our land, lives and planet. Find your path to their gate for the good of your family and all the families to come.
On your next trip to the market, take a look around, look for those youngsters leaning forward with hope in their eyes and commitment in their callused hands. Look for the weathered old-timers with the crooked walk, the crooked smile and the tired yet resolute glint in the eyes, looking towards tomorrow, looking for next year.