By Nicole Bluh
The conversation around small farming and its profitability is clearly out now. It is out in conversations between the growers and in articles spotted circulating through the Board and stakeholders of GA Organics. Small Farming in the “Local Food Movement”, the definition of which is debatable amongst the organic growing community, is not necessarily a sustainable situation. Issues of land-ownership and subsidies in industrial agriculture keeping that sector afloat are all being considered as we decide how we are shaping this food system. How do we enter into this conversation without addressing the history of agriculture in this country?
Have we been consuming cheap industrialized and highly subsidized food in this country for the past 60 years, or have we been consuming “cheap” food since this country’s inception? Have the laborers of this country been the subsidizers, the workers, enslaved, indentured growers offering the food at cheap prices to people who are not willing to grow? The people who have been the workers of the land, the geniuses with the soil have been the subsidizers for the food that others are unwilling to do the labor for.
Food is so vital to life it is so priceless that it is expensive, and also, so regular it must be affordable for us to continue to eat. The true cost of the food includes labor, emotion, supplies, production, inflation, economics, land-control and ownership, subsidies, distribution, time, and health. The inclusion of just some of these factors addressed together have created a boutique market situation: High Priced “Good Food” for customers that are willing and able to pay the price.
Small farmers who do happen to be in a place to steward, lease, or purchase land must sell food at boutique prices in order to make back the investment, to break even. This leaves us with all of our food sold to a community willing to purchase the food at high prices. What then about our own families and communities?
If the laborers who are willing to do the work to grow food, not the managers or the farming organizations well represented at conferences and in the public light, were able to have sovereignty of their own land, what do you think they would do?
Would the growers form communities and diversify efforts? Begin to live off the land again, and leave behind the customers? Leave behind the “Local Food Movement…?”
If the growers, the laborers are the ones making the least amount of income in this food system, does that mean that we are least respected? If reading that seems untrue to you or offensive, or unfair? Why is that?
How can land owners expect to continue to sit on land while the stewards and workers continue on working, even at a “living wage”? Could what we call a living wage ever get a grower on their own land? Even if we got our own land would we be able to create sustainable farms to supply the Local Foodies? Will any amount of new Foodie Customers create a sustainable situation for our growers?
If we are truly part of a Local Food Movement TOGETHER, how do we show our love and care in the work we do? Is the best way to show Love to Share?
Is it possible for the “Local Food Movement” to together, create our own subsidies, by pooling resources, for the Small Farmers, the Food Growers, the people who actually doing the WORK?
These questions are meant to elaborate on what transpired at the GA Organics “Food System Alchemy” Socratic Seminar and to inspire creativity in those of us working together. We invite you to contribute your comments and questions in the section below or stay tuned for the next ‘Food System Alchemy’ workshop!