by Shain Saberon
Am I a dreamer and a fool because I dare to believe good farming can save our country? I have been told by many, “You work too hard, too long, for too little," and "Our country and its people are too far gone down the industrial path for you to stop it now.” I fully understand that industrialism and the corporatists have a lot of momentum. However, Lynn Miller, the editor of The Small Farmers‘ Journal, recently shared a perspective that eliminated my pessimism. His thoughts give me hope.
The more farms we have, the greater the opportunity of success for each. The landscape will heal, the countryside will welcome the return of vibrant small farm communities, the economy will strengthen, the capacity to feed people will increase in quantity and health, the immune systems of an ever growing number of people will improve, governments will move offshore, the moral base will once again rise up from the truths of actual working, and the ranks of the hungry will shrink day by day.
This is a big boast—improved national ecology, economy, nutrition, health, and morality. Both historical accounts and mounting agricultural research support Miller’s proposal. With the passing of time I am certain his perspective will been seen as undeniably true. I believe history will judge us according to how soon and to what degree we understood and acted upon this ideal.
Millers’ model is nothing new. Thomas Jefferson argued, financed, negotiated, and legislated this very idea. It is known as the agrarian view, and it stretches far beyond our shortsighted material horizons. Unfortunately, the narcotic of greed fueled by the radical industrial practice of extracting and mining local goods and services, in other words, the practice of globalization as implemented by supranational corporations, has prevailed and taken us to the brink. As a result, we now face a convergence of nutritional, ecological, economical, political, and moral crisis.
Where am I going with all this? Follow me to a very different political perspective; one I hope you will take with you through our 2008 election cycle. Friends please understand this—from an agrarian point of view both the Republican and Democratic parties have failed small family farms, businesses, and our respective communities. For evidence, consider how our elected politicians have cast their votes for a global economy. Their endorsements (of NAFTA, GATT, numerous other “free-trade agreements,” and another subsidized farm bill giving yet more corporate welfare to the largest and wealthiest agribusinesses in human history) prove this point. Their voting records in regards to this critical issue are dismal! We, the small farmers and producers of life-sustaining goods, simply cannot compete with cheaply, hazardously, irresponsibly, and immorally produced foods and products forced upon us through slave labor and extractive industrialized processes. This crime has been perpetrated across borders and oceans to conceal it from our sight. What is our government’s crime? Outsourcing! And inasmuch as we are the government, we share the blame.
I concede that our adversaries—in this instance the supranational corporate globalists who have destroyed our health, land, souls, and nation—have the upper hand. So, what can we do? Consider and act on the following plan to take back our communities and country:
I. Educate yourself. Visit websites like Cornucopia, The Rodale Institute, The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, and Slow Food. Also, read the works of Thomas Jefferson, Wendell Berry, Joel Salatin, Michael Pollen, Barbra Kingsolver, Sir Albert Howard, Robert Rodale, Rudolph Steiner and Lynn Miller. In their words reside the seeds for change.
Thomas Jefferson: read his original letters found on line at The Library of Congress by clicking here.
Wendell Berry: read The Unsettling of America, Home Economics, Citizenship Papers, Another Turn of The Crank, and The Gift of Good Land.
Joel Salatin: read Holy Cows and Hog Heaven.
Michael Pollen: read The Omnivores Dilemma and In Defense of Food.
Barbara Kingsolver: read Small Wonders and Vegetable, Animal, Miracle.
Sir Albert Howard: read An Agricultural Testament and The Soul of Soil.
Robert Rodale: read Save Three Lives.
Rudolph Steiner: read The Rudolph Steiner Archive online here.
Lynn Miller: read The Small Farmers’ Journal (subscribe or read selected articles online here).
II. Buy local goods, especially foods, and support local people. This, above all, has gained the most momentum and has the greatest and most lasting impacts.
III. Seek out, compliment, support, and when possible vote for the few uncorrupted local and national representatives that support agrarian views.
IV. Flood your unsympathetic politicians with letters and calls demanding favorable agrarian reforms. To find them go to this website.
V. Find, encourage, support, and elect true representatives, especially those more sympathetic to agrarian views (positions that are anti-globalist and supportive of local empowerment, production, self-reliance).
In Another Turn of The Crank, Wendell Berry argues that the only hope we have for turning around our current convergence of crisis is through the power of LOVE. Specifically, he explains that by caring—about ourselves, each other, local landscapes, the agricultural and natural soils that sustain us, the plants and animals upon which we depend, the air we breath, water we drink, and most of all the communities to which we owe our existence—we will save both ourselves and our world.
With more at risk, arguably greater than at any other time in human history, our choices are becoming increasingly more consequential. We can choose to ignore our situation or to care and take action. I choose to care.