Jaime de Zubeldia is one of the primary stewards and residents of ReZoNation Farm. He was introduced to gardening and beekeeping as a child, and studied biology before earning a degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Arizona. Jaime’s career began in land development, but his concerns over our society’s rapid consumption of resources compared with historical research of the demise of past civilizations, led him to question the long-term sustainability of cities and the rampant consolidation of food and seed industries. He believes that community-based, resource-efficient farming will be key in restoring the health of our soils, and in turn our communities.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Generational Resource Gap In “New” Farms?

When it comes to farming in a way that improves the land instead of degrading it, my sense is that a new crossroads is appearing.  A minor one rather, that pits capital and/or land-rich would-be farmers against those who have-not.  Access to land and capital are not the only things that stand in the way of starting a new farm.  Time is a third element that always seems to be forgotten.

With the average age of farmers pushing 60 it’s not as though we have unlimited time to train a new generation to replace them – a generation that is generally not even solvent enough to purchase bare land at more than $5000 per acre (if they’re lucky enough to find it), not including everything else required to farm.  Then add to these challenges the fact that it takes a minimum of 3-5 years experience to begin to farm moderately well.

In the quest to develop Good Food markets that can offer an alternative to industrial food markets it’s essential to incubate new farm start-ups.  The W.K. Kellogg Foundation defines Good Food as food that is healthy, sustainable, fair and affordable.  However, we should be careful to be realistic in how we measure the success of our efforts to recreate a local food system with an emphasis on the production of Good Food. 

Are we consistently giving a younger generation the tools and capital to start farming sooner, or are most of our perceived “new farms” made up of old ones switching over to more natural methods of farming?  Are the most successful farms actually rebranded multi-generational farms originally started by forward-thinking relatives?  While there is no doubt they are essential, they are not new farms, and they tend to be managed by already aging farmers – not 20-and 30-somethings.  Although this segment of farms has tremendous value in their training capacity, no amount of training will overcome a lack of access to the other half of farming – good land, capital and the time to transform it.

Is it reasonable to expect a younger generation who wants to farm to go into massive debt, or to spend the first 10-20 years of their careers earning corporate wages so they might have the option retire on a farm?  While we subsidize the creation of new troops to overcome more immediate threats, we’re still reluctant to provide resources to that same generation willing to improve our soil base and feed us later in life.  Putting our money where our mouths are means that both creative finance and philanthropy will be needed to start new farms.  Without both we risk the continued degradation of true farming success which depends on an unbroken multi-generational transfer of the farming baton.

One fledgling organization trying to change this paradigm while facilitating the education of new farmers is the Farmer EducationResource Network (FERN).

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Undermining Rural Communities In The Name Of Safety

We may have a serious problem.

Under the auspices of the federal government, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) - through it’s Food Safety and Modernization Act(FSMA) - seeks to bring under its umbrella and regulatory authority that which has historically been the domain of urban and rural families and communities.  In essence, the Act would impose structural and economic limits on the most basic pillars of our local economies - specifically the production of food.  The trojan horse being used to accomplish this, once again, is public safety.

Whether this imposition is an intentional attempt to limit the ability of the community to self-regulate the production and distribution of its basic necessities through local small business, or whether the FDA is actually well intentioned in its attempt to prevent us from sickening ourselves, certain facts remain.  Not only has the FDA been unsuccessful in regulating larger producers and processors, it is still even less equipped to enforce its proposed rules at the community level, notwithstanding the additional fact that it has only a novice understanding of the systems it seeks to impose its rules upon.

Further examination of the proposed rules revealed fundamental flaws that, if not dealt with, could limit our communities’ ability to increase the number of small farms and cottage industries that are the backbone of the local food movement which guarantees clean and healthy food.  This would be done by setting dollar limits to what is considered an exempt or “covered” farm, and then requiring these farms to comply with rules by establishing certain Good Agricultural Practices for the smallest of farms.  There are two rules proposed by the FDA (Produce Rule, Prevention and Control Rule) that will affect most farms providing food to the general public.  Currently, the rules, will not “cover” farms that earn $25,000 and below.  Meaning that small farms at or below this limit will not be subject to the new Produce Rule, which generally applies to farms mostly involved in the growing of food.  Under the Prevention and Control Rule, which is meant to apply more to those farms operating as a processing facility of agriculture goods, this threshold is raised to somewhere between $250,000 and $1,000,000 – the FDA is seeking public guidance to determine what this limit should be.  In addition, the current language does not guarantee that being exempt means that a small farm earning below $25,000 under the Produce Rule, or $250,000 under the Prevention and Control Rule, will not have to prove (through records and paperwork) its status in order to qualify for the exemption. 
Of the most egregious failures of the proposed rules is their inability to foster, protect, and increase the number of local family-scale farms.

The rules do not encourage small farms to grow and increase their levels of production to serve local customers.  By placing a $25,000 maximum to define a point beyond which a small farm will have to submit to further scrutiny and satisfy more FDA requirements under the Produce Rule, the rule both punishes and fails on two accounts.  First, it does not allow small farms to earn a living wage without having to report personal information to the federal government concerning farm activities and receipts.  Second, the $25,000 limit does not separate costs of production from actual profit (the living wage portion of the revenue).

If we are to assume that our families, small businesses, farms, educators, conservationists, etc…are now self-aware, and that this significant majority of our population makes up an established and vocal “Community Party”, then three possible options exist:

1)   During this “comment period” respond with language that insists the FDA does not seek to regulate small farmers and processors/distributors at the community level, but instead, limit their activity to multi-regional or trans-national corporations involved in commodity-level food production and processing.

2)  Respond with specific revised language that proposes annual farm earnings (adjustable for inflation) that take into account costs of production and reflect a “livable wage”, while eliminating any registration, exemption, or safety protocol requirements for the smallest of farms and processors.

3)  Do nothing.

Option one clearly requests new rules and defines a boundary that we, representatives of a local economy, expect the federal government to respect.  Necessarily, establishing a boundary requires consequences to be formulated, and an ability to administer consequences requires an organized mobilization of resources.

Option two - while establishing more appropriate and realistic levels of earnings and costs - legitimizes the federal government’s assumption that it can expand its authority to encompass how we maintain our communities at the most basic levels.  We therefore become an unwitting accomplice in what I see as undermining our own community authority, expertise, and experience.

I cringe every time another food borne illness in the media gives the FDA and USDA another excuse to expand regulation over small businesses and farms growing for the local community, while their regulatory ambitions need to be more punitive and focused on those only interested in quantity.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

May Your Stream Sing

This week had more than its share of challenges.
Over an inch of rain fell overnight on Wednesday.  A slow and even shower that allows our soils time to absorb – a perfect rain for sandy-clay deserts.  Yet there’s rarely a storm that doesn’t add to our work in some way.

By morning most of the water harvesting swales and basins had filled and a light drizzle was persistent.  Even simple first morning tasks such as letting out the hens from their protective enclosures becomes problematic when extreme moisture makes a rare visit. 
A feed bag left uncovered and consequently soaked due to a leaky roof. 

A one-inch high ridge of earth and goat manure holds back a newly formed shallow lagoon that makes for very unhappy herbivores.

Mud and chickens are enemies, so a bale of straw temporarily offers relief, balancing carbon, and purpose for lots of curious feet.

An overturned box of bees whose supports gave way into the saturated earth is threatened by fire ants.  Too, their work schedule has been altered by the rain.

Usually challenges on a day like this subside by noon, but this day was different.

It’s 1:30pm and an hour long meeting dictates I leave the farm by 2:30pm.  Experience told me I had ample time to set the hive upright, and because it contained two relatively young and small hives, the likelihood of rebellion was low.
Smoke?  What for?  I don’t intend to open the hive so I could probably get by without it.  The combs are still mostly in good order, and all that’s needed is to tip things back into proper position.
So, dressed in the usual protective clothing, a jerk was made to make the hive upright and prepare it for a lift back up onto its base.  The drum of a deep buzzing drone in tune with my motion was a definite warning that I had shoved them past their point of comfort, and had made my presence unwelcome - cloudy wet days make for moody bees.   

Within seconds three managed to find their way up my shins as several others quietly clung to my suit and flew at my veil determined to make short work of my intrusion.  One last heave and the hive was almost back to normal.
A short retreat into the house to remove a few stings and regroup was required.  Then a second trip back to reposition a few combs and replace the cover completed the ordeal.
Time seems to slow on a farm, yet in hindsight and simultaneously, the stillness of mind required to process the natural beauty of many interactions seems to double or triple the amount of life experienced in each moment.  What started out as an unplanned fifteen minute chore due to a great gift of rain, turned into a lesson that superseded any obligation to be anywhere on time.

One hour later, a last check into the nest boxes before leaving for town revealed a Barred Rock hen of once premium health, in the open and motionless, on its back with feet high in the air.  Oddly absent was the normal commotion of busy hens scratching or dust bathing under the shade of a nearby mesquite tree.  Most were huddled inside their coop as if a hawk or coyote had been threatening.

Upon approaching the dead hen a few angry bees persisted in inspecting me as the hive I had restored was not more than 30 feet away from the coop where I knelt.  Although death is not unheard of on a farm, during this summer day the clouds discouraged a killing sort of heat.  Nevertheless, the bees were still disturbed by my presence so I trekked back to the house to gather a veil with a dead hen dangling from one hand.

My confusion and frustration began to take hold.  What could have caused this?  

Looking over the bird I couldn’t find any sign of ill-health.  Without an answer I returned to the coop - now one hen short - to gather eggs when I reluctantly peered a lifeless feathered head hanging down from a nest box entrance, and a group of hens still huddled.  The persistence of a few cross bees was still present.  Opening the back door to the nest boxes revealed not one, but two more lifeless hens.

In overdrive my thoughts turned from egg collection back to the hive.  Although the evidence was hidden, for some reason the bees decided to take out their frustration on this particular flock.  Two flocks less than five steps away, but screened by a small mesquite shrub and chicken wire, remained unscathed.  In haste I removed the bodies away from the coop for close examination which revealed two or three stings each around the head.  Not nearly enough to kill an animal of that size, but chickens have been known to die from fear alone.

Occasionally, and thankfully rarely, a day comes around that defeats our confidence and ability to solve problems, and in some respects, defeats what little resolve remains to continue trying.   

In this case, three choices where obvious; exterminate or move the bees, move the hens, or leave the farm if only to recover sanity.  Knowing both, chickens would rather huddle in their safe house than run from danger, and the bees would only be further angered by an intrusion and cause more damage until nightfall.  Herding over forty distressed hens would have been unlikely if not impossible.

The uncomfortable choice of leaving, and hoping no more deaths would result was a necessary one.

That evening we took time to forget and hope over a beer and a movie showing - about the plight of honeybees nonetheless.  A plan to move the hive was made, and that plan was made whole after finding in the darkness a swollen eye, here and there, and a few stings amongst several perched hens.  My wife bravely helped me reposition the hive and warned me of the coiled rattlesnake that narrowly missed being trampled by my wheelbarrow and boot.

Only one more hen met its demise 24 hrs later after attempts to save it.  Probably from a combination of stress and stings.
Bright sunny days returned and the once moody hive has yet to display any signs of aggression in its new location.  The victims of my impatience seem to have forgiven me or forgotten the ordeal. Although they only laid five eggs today when a normal haul might have been twenty.  Looking back I could have risked the bees to ants and more rain.  I could have waited for nightfall to render the bees flightless.
Unfortunately, sometimes in our haste to preserve the total of all our investments we risk more than if we would let some things lay where they lie.

“There are, it seems, two muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say "It is yet more difficult than you thought." This is the muse of form. It may be then that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction, to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.” 

                                                                                         ― Wendell Berry

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Calling ALL Farmers

As a farmer’s business expands available time for advocacy and education may need to contract.  This is potentially one reason why farmers at every scale have a hard time with food policy work.  It's almost too much to ask of them to make meetings at a time when they should be getting ready for bed, many times on their rural homesteads, distant from where most food policy council meetings are held.
One particular statement from a food policy council member continues to stick out in my mind when she wrote about her perspective as a "producer" and her continued attendance, "...the presentations, while interesting, do not compel my presence."

Obviously it's imperative that a food policy council makes space for farmers (or “producers” as we sometimes call them, which implies everyone else consumes) to share their concerns, but we can't expect them to be involved when their needs aren't being met.  They have a hundred more urgent farm-things to attend to.
In addition, farmers aren't necessarily concerned with low-income food access or nutrition issues – we can’t expect them to be.  Discussions around food policy tend to cross many boundaries.  Maybe too many, and those who grow food are not social workers, chefs, labor organizers, school administrators, or public health educators…they’re farmers.  They're probably more likely to be concerned with getting healthy food into schools and institutions if it means they'll be able to sell more product.

If the dialogue and actions of food policy councils does not directly affect the bottom line of farming, in an economy that rewards quantity over quality, then how will more farmers become active in the national conversation around how we source our food and what’s in it.
I've said this in not so many words to various food justice and policy groups:  if there is going to be long-term success by way of food policy work, not just a "social hour" as one farmer put it - but instead the sort of success that actually changes our food landscape - those of us organizing around food issues need to go knocking on farmer's doors and have one-on one-conversations with them to identify those who understand the issues, and those who need food policy councils to advocate for them.

The experience of real farmers is needed for a correct perspective in terms of land ownership, land use, real costs, and resources.  Not reaching out for their input risks too much.  By not seeking their involvement, without having to say a word, the message of a food justice group becomes, “You aren’t farming how we want you to farm, and what you’re producing is not good enough for us.”  The foodies then become too much of the idealist who doesn't understand the business of farming, and are therefore ignored.

And what about the question of how social justice issues overlap with food justice?  Can we expect the average farmer to dedicate time to thinking about the deep history of the land they are growing on?  Can we expect decision makers to install subsidies that simultaneously provide fair wages to farm workers and farmers for what they grow while keeping the cost of locally grown food low so that low-income families can afford better nutrition?  If the answer is "maybe not", then it’s also likely we would either frustrate or confuse these actors with attempts to include social justice issues within the same conversation rather than talking about farming issues affecting their business today.

As it stands now, I would hesitate to think that real farmers (the kind supplying the basics by the ton, bushel, or hundreds of gallons) would see food policy and food justice organizers as realistic or balanced since the real economics of feeding massive populations from a more local base of growers is either not understood or not being addressed.  Until the supply and demand economics of food and resources force a change that encourages these two groups to work together - be it by shortage, war, or climate change - local food producers will continue to be stuck with CSA's and farmer's markets, and large scale farmers will continue using the short cuts that allow them to stay viable as a farm in the global market. 

A huge divide persists between those of us who farm a few acres without chemicals for our neighbors, and those of us who feed the rest of the world.  At this point very few seem to have the time, desire, and courage to cross that chasm.

There continues to be a lot of conversation amongst us (the "foodies") yet it's largely one-sided.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Language of Politics

This month marks the second year of a long wait.  The FDA's Food Safety and Modernization Act is in the home stretch of becoming law and potentially changing how we grow, process, and move our food from place to place - regardless of whether you are a tiny family or industrial farm.

Please note: this applies to both regular food and "good food" as some have officially defined.

Our local food policy council is just now trying to decipher what this means for small rural and urban farmers alike, including everyone they serve.

For the record, I applaud any effort that attempts to improve the quality and safety of our food, and encourages everyone involved in our food system to be a little more organized and cautious.  I like things to be organized - makes me feel like I'm in control of things I really have no control over.  Maybe this 2.0 version of our food system will do just that - give us the control we've been longing for all this time.

I thought nothing of the wording used to label the FDA Food Safety and Modernization Act, until I actually had to write it down for the twentieth time today.  You have to admit, it's a pretty slick and professional sounding title - FOOD SAFETY AND MODERNIZATION - one that sounds powerful and carries with it an aura of authority.

But reflecting on it a bit more I became confused.  What do they mean by the word "Modernization"? 

I thought our food system was already "Modern"?! 

Heck, I can have individually packaged slices of cheese and eat pineapples in the desert ANY TIME I WANT! 

Maybe this time around, this "act" (did you catch the pun?) will be extra-Modern, and we'll finally get it right with this super-duper, extra heavy-duty, deluxe version!  Everyone knows by now the one we have is so third-world.

I'd like to propose we call this what it is...the "FDA Food Safety and Pretending To Fix Our Screw-Up and Getting Our Act Together....For Real This Time...Act".

Yes, I admit this title's a bit long-winded.  Maybe that's why they just settled for "Modernization".

There's an unrelated issue to all of this though.  The new "act" seeks to provide "coverage" (yes, that's the word used to describe this) to food handlers in the food chain, almost regardless of size, including the ones that haven't caused illness, or who can't afford to be inspected to ensure they have a safety plan in place.  The new "act" takes a step towards widening the umbrella of who is monitored and regulated, and a bigger umbrella will undoubtedly require a larger budget to hold it up. 

The rhetoric over the last few months has already been churning to prepare us for what would have to be a new legion of federally mandated state officials to keep track of the new and improved food system.

I guess that's what they mean by "Modern".

"The times...they are a changing."

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Our Esteemed College of Agriculture

In response to this email heading and a link to an article titled "UA Partners with Saudi Arabia to Create Sustainable Farming Systems" my sarcastic enthusiasm and hope for our collective future was renewed:

Thank God for the UA College of Ag and Life Sciences....our saviors!  Where else on earth would we find sustainable solutions to our problems if it was not for them!

Fortunately for me they are still working tirelessly to "feed the people" - I'm one of those

But I wonder...if one day they see the need to look beyond the walls of academia and high technology to help the people feed themselves...to whom will they turn?  Will grassroots solutions then be repackaged under doctoral approvals with a promise of more research funding and shiny new labs?

Any day now, I'm sure, a new solution for the systemic problem of Colony Collapse Disorder will emerge out of all the microscopes and papers feverishly written on the subject.  This, without the need to change our methods.

Long-term regenerative solutions do not exist in laboratories...they're in our back yards and sanctuaries.

Unfortunately for many, the cost and profit to replicate them is extremely low by comparison.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Value of “Hard” Work

I’ve been wanting to write for a long time and the ideas are constantly overflowing.  Many times they make their way onto small slivers of scrap paper.  On the back of receipts, invoices, or junk mail.  Even scrap pieces of wood if I’m in the middle of building something to house a swarm I caught three days ago (bees start to rebel after being cooped up for too long).  Sometimes these ideas become script when driving, or while scampering from one place to another dropping off eggs, picking up animal feed, or buying irrigation materials for that project that always seems to get pushed to next week, and the week after.  And then there’s this idea, the one that I’m reading about now, that although has never been written down in some unintelligible scribble like all the others, it’s the one that I’m constantly reminded of daily.  I’m reminded of it in this way – as I sit here writing I’m doubtful I’ll even have enough time to actually complete this paragraph.  At any given time we have a few pages of unwritten chores, repairs, prototypes, experiments, cleaning projects, advertisements, and trips to check off in order to maintain a slow but steady course towards making our farm a place where a livelihood can be realized and can manifest itself by letting us work a little less away from the home.

At this very moment, I wish I was finalizing a proposal to our local coop showing all the details about how we can work together to supply them with product.  This too may have to wait since something has to finally be written about why it’s so much easier to go the 9 to 5 route and squeeze a steady paycheck than providing many families with some of the most basic uncontaminated necessities for life – "good food".  At the heart of the issue is this…we are like most farming families: it’s still necessary at this point for us to have outside income and simultaneously, not only sustain our farm, but improve upon it.  If I had the time, I’d do some solid research and add a nifty little graph of the percentage of farming families with at least one partner working an outside job to support the farm.  Alas, that will also have to wait for another time.

You see, there’s a double standard for farmers or those who wish they could farm some day.  Not only are they expected to produce more food with less inputs than ever before in history, they are expected to do it for only what it costs to produce a crop or for even less.  At a recent conference Dr. Ricardo Salvador stated that 17% of every food dollar goes to farmers for the raw products necessary to produce all the other foods we are accustomed to.  In addition, he stated that given all the other links in the chain required to make innumerable food choices available at an instant and on a whim, that percentage is justified.

Unfortunately, trying to divide the food dollar pie into ever more slices to match expectations that food and unlimited variety should be available at a moments notice strains an already stressed revenue stream.  Today's expectation that food should be cheap (roughly 10% of average income) does the opposite of keeping farmer’s at home where they belong.   When we do not value our most basic necessities and are trained by a market-economy that food should be cheap, and when it’s true production cost is constantly obscured, we destroy the potential for making a living from farming.

Here’s an interesting little story from a past weekend farmer’s market:

A man in his 50’s, possibly touching 60, walks up to our table in shorts and sandals, casually taking in our story among the informational displays.  His facial expressions and body language as he read the signs didn’t really register as cynicism or frustration at the time, until he came back some time later.  Anyway, we spent a few minutes with him talking about our peppers, squash, and eggs.  Finally, we mentioned our honey and asked if he’d like to try some.  He answered shortly with, “You ever hear of diabetes?  I can’t eat it.”  So rather than going into the mechanics of how the body readily absorbs the dextrose and levulose of honey in a benign way compared to all other sugars that tax the bodies digestive system and liver, I decided he wasn’t in a pleasant mood this morning, and by asking him if he’d like to try a sample of honey, I may have struck a sensitive nerve or two.  So we helped the man to make his purchase of two heads of garlic so that he could be on his way.  We placed the two perfect little heads into a large thin plastic bag and in exchange the man handed us $2.00.

We were happy!  We charge $1.00 for the large heads and $0.50 for the small ones.  Although we haven’t checked with all the other vendors, this is a price we arrived at by talking with a few farmer friends and by looking at prices for locally grown garlic.  But also bearing heavily on our decision was the fact that we knew how much effort actually went in to growing this garlic.  Myself and two volunteers spent an entire morning hunched over 100 linear feet of garden bed planting these little guys.  There was the prep work of fertilizing the soil with heavy compost that had to be produced or hauled.  There was also the purchase of the seed garlic from another farmer with similar growing ethics to ours.  Out of that seed we further selected one by one, the best cloves for planting, breaking the heads open with our own hands, and choosing as though each one was a magic bean and had the potential to make the most delicious gigantic head of garlic we had ever seen.

The potential of that possibility is always half the satisfaction for me as a farmer.  And then of course there was the mulching, weeding, and watering for several months from November to May before harvest.  An early summer forced an early harvest that took another several hours of being hunched over this same bed digging in 100 degree weather and carefully placing the fragile heads into darkened crates for drying.  Another month later each one was trimmed by my better half and by an unpaid volunteer who appreciated a break from being cooped up in front of an office computer.  For her effort in seeking this hands-on education, she received a cut needing a band-aid and probably numerous bruises since she arrived a few weeks earlier.  As you can see, the sweat of five people and even some blood went into this garlic.
Now, this farmer’s market is new, and small, and because it’s summer it’s also a little slow.  However, somehow the man who purchased our precious garlic was still shopping a half hour later.  Amazingly, he hadn’t purchased anything else except two other heads of garlic.  He strolled up to the same edge of our table as I was helping another customer, and widely extended his arm holding our bag of garlic.   

I heard him say as my customer continued to chatter away in front of me, “I’d like to return this.  I got two heads for fifty cents over there.”

I couldn’t help but wonder if he would have done the same if that garlic came out of his garden, or if he had ever tended a garden of his own.  I wanted to ask, but it didn’t seem worth it since it seemed to me this man may have been on a mission, and perhaps even unintentionally.  You see, we’ve all been trained from an early age to wield our power - that currency in our pockets - in a way that creates competition and drives prices down ever further among producers of Things.  That’s capitalism…the path to a “strong” economy.  In the act of returning our garlic this man believed he came out ahead by a buck-fifty and found a better deal.  More seriously, it is also possible that he may have felt confused and cheated as a result of these fluctuating garlic prices.  Afterall, garlic is just garlic, and eggs are just eggs right?  No matter who produced them.

Sadly, we are no longer trained to appreciate good work and industriousness.  Few of us can recognize it these days.  Afterall, when was the last time you made hummus in a Tarahumara bowl created by a master woodworker, or held a clay Mata Ortiz pot with a one of a kind design never again to be duplicated by the potter who trained their entire life in the pursuit of perfecting the work on which the life of an entire village depends.  Most of what we own these days is planned for the waste bin before it’s assembled and has a finite amount of useful life before it even sees the shipping container bound for the USA.  We throw most everything away eventually, and cherish little in our transient lives based in Things rather than soil.  What will you leave to your children?

Our inability to recognize good work and industriousness fooled this man too that Saturday morning.  You see the “…over there.”, our customer was referring to was another vendor who didn’t actually grow the garlic he sold.  In fact, he grew nothing on his table.  Half of his items were out of season or impossible to grow within 1000 miles without cost prohibitive methods out of reach for many of us smaller scale family farms.   Compost never touched the soil those vegetables grew in.  By the way, if you ever see grocery tags on the veggies at a farmer’s market, ask yourself, ‘who are you really supporting?’.

To many of us still, it appears that not even the food we put into our bodies is worth $2.00 of hard work to our neighbor willing to farm desert land without chemicals.  If this moral dilemma is something we are not willing to recognize and shine a spotlight on, then farmers will always struggle a little harder each year to make their livelihoods from the land they gratefully pour their lives into.  

Fortunately farmers continue to farm in spite of this dilemma, because agrarianism and the act of farming represents a hope that at some point we’ll once again value hard work and industriousness, as an expression of our culture.