Part of the Solution
We spent an interesting weekend in Staunton, Virignia this weekend. We were at a Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund fundraiser at Salatins’ Polyface Farm. It drew folks from the Weston A. Price Foundation community and the Paleo (“diet”) community. It was great to see two groups with a similar, non-conventional approach to food and farming come together to support an organization that works legally and legislatively to keep food choice legal. Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund has supported many career and hobby farmers in their quest to grow and provide wholesome food. It’s a great organization to belong to whether you buy your food from a farmer’s market or buyer’s club, have a small garden in your front yard, or are a full fledged food producer. They defend your right to obtain the foods of your choice, to exercise your Constitutional rights in this area whether you are a farmer or consumer.
Saturday evening we went to a showing of a screening of Kristin Canty’s (Farmageddon) new film series “Rockin’ Farmers” featuring Daniel Salatin, and a viewing of American Meat. “Rockin’ Farmers” was a great short about an up and coming farmer, and his unique niche in the family farm: rabbits. We’d add American Meat to our recommended viewing list. It was great to hear the maker of that movie, Graham Meriwether, who spent a great deal of time with the conventional farmers he featured, comment on why he felt those farmers had signed their Pilgrim’s Pride and Tyson Foods contracts. He pointed out after the movie that the industrial farmers were often times caught in the system. Even though they all recognized that large chicken and hog barns aren’t the best way to do it, they felt it was the only way to make a living (admittedly “of sorts”) at farming. He differentiated between the individual men he filmed and the larger system they were part of. The film presents a compassionate and balanced perspective on the tensions between industrial and non-industrial agriculture. It was telling that one hog barn farmer maintained that his conventional barn paid out best, but he ate pigs out of the “compassionate” barn where he feeds organic feed and the pigs have significant outdoor access because the pigs taste better. One of the things brought out in the panel discussion of the movie was the great need for more small, regional, non-industrial farmers. Most people felt there is demand. There are challenges to overcome, but America has the land mass to feed itself and export some food without round-up ready corn and concentrated animal feeding operations. What we really lack is people with the know-how to do it.
There are solutions to that problem. Internships and apprenticeships are one solution. There are some colleges with programs and courses on sustainable farming. Anyone Can Farm is another solution. A weekend training program can give you the tools to get started growing food for yourself and your family and neighbors. The best thing is what we recommended to one couple we talked to: just do it! Do something, whether it’s replacing one flower bed with nasturtuims and sweet peas or tomatoes, or getting 5 layer hens. Don’t wait till you have a 10 year plan and have researched everything and all possibilities. It’s great to be a part of the solution!