Farm Photos

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Situation

Our nation’s food situation has been getting a lot of attention, and for good reason. The food economy is one of the world’s most monopolized and secretive systems but one thing is quite clear: industrial food is entirely dependent upon a disappearing supply of fossil fuel. Another thing that’s been clear since time began but is easily disregarded in a land of plenty: food affects every person, everyday.
Initially it would seem that there are arguments coming out of unrelated corners. On one hand, “food banks across the country have seen a 25% increase in demand” – (Bill Moyers Journal; PBS; Feb. 5th, 2009)…most of those people being middle class families, so there is a lot of hunger. On the other, you’ve got an environmental force calling for less agribusiness and more local, small, organic farming. Though at first they appear disconnected, as if in a time of hunger people want smaller farms. In fact, smaller farms, which are less dependent upon fossil fuel and have less of a stake in oil politics, will create greater food stability. This is what TIME Magazine author Michael Grunwald said in a 2007 article about U.S. Agriculture Policy:
“It contributes to our obesity and illegal-immigration epidemics and to our water and energy shortages. It helps degrade rivers, deplete aquifers, eliminate grasslands, concentrate food-processing conglomerates and inundate our fast-food nation with high-fructose corn syrup. Our farm policy is supposed to save small farmers and small towns. Instead it fuels the expansion of industrial megafarms and the depopulation of rural America. It hurts Third World farmers, violates international trade deals and paralyzes our efforts to open foreign markets to the nonagricultural goods and services that make up the remaining 99% of our economy.”

So, our government subsidizes industrial farms. Farms which heavily pollute to produce a product mainly used in high sugar foods and as animal feed for fatty meats. There isn’t any more room to argue about whether this system has its consequences. Americans are suffering from chronic illness abound and at the same time people in the same neighborhoods are going hungry for nutrients. That’s where we were in 2007, since then Michelle Obama planted the White House Garden under urgings from popular voices in the food field like author Michael Pollan. Urban neighborhoods across the nation have started community gardens, Permaculture instructors are popping up in the corners of the country, sustainable farmers are slowly becoming rock stars, the food movement has gained momentum. Congress and industrial agriculture, however, seem to be chasing their tails.

In a recent NY Times article, Michael Pollan talked about California’s proposition 37, saying “what is at stake this time around is not only the fate of genetically modified crops; but the public’s confidence in the industrial food chain.” On November 6th, 2012, proposition 37 was defeated. Californians lost their right to choose what they put into their bodies, and faith in the system grew dimmer than ever.

Food production is becoming divided, and perhaps not for the better. Industrial farming, hand in hand with biotechnology, are fighting to survive in a peak oil and soon post oil economy. While biotechnology makes a lot of promises, producing more large scale monocrops isn’t necessarily the best goal. People need more diversity in their diets, gardens and markets in order to achieve a high quality of eating. Greenpeace, at their website for a “support sustainable agriculture campaign,” writes:

“Proponents argue that genetic engineering is worth the risk because it helps alleviate the global food crisis.  However, globally speaking, lack of food is not the cause of hunger.  Political challenges and failures are the cause of world hunger with an estimated one billion victims.  In other words, more food doesn't necessarily mean fewer hungry.”

I like to reflect upon British horticulturist Robert Harts famous sentiment that all the world’s problems can be solved in a garden. With a well-planned, diversified garden you can feed people healthy food, process waste, reduce your carbon footprint and live in a low stress environment. There is a bubbling cauldron of innovative techniques, philosophies and ideas, which I hope to talk more about in my blog, for a gardener or farmer looking to become independent of fossil fuels and therefore free themselves from a sinking ship. We will also learn about food issues, policy and what is happening around the world of agriculture. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm excited to follow your blog, Mikalyn...