That’s a headline that you read and instantly you know it’s wrong. It’s just gotta be wrong. I promise, it IS wrong. Yet, the actions of our politics and often the (in)actions of consumers send that message.
I’d like to think people inherently know that farmers matter. But you might not know just how much or all of the reasons why. So, I want to amplify two of the big ones that every single American needs to know. But first, let me also define who I am calling a “farmer.” I’m not talking about the industrial giants who run TV commercials with actors playing farmers. Those corporations certainly produce product, but they don’t farm with the vision, values, and priorities that I’m referring to. I am talking about family farmers, the actual people who live on and work the land.
We all need to support these farmers, our American family farmers, and here are two big fat reasons why:
1. Family farming is critical to everyone’s health and wellness.
Don’t roll your eyes just yet. I am not talking about organic chickpeas and tofu, although I have nothing against either. Family farmers are individual people often doing what their family has been doing for generations, working together to cultivate the land. They actually care about the food they are producing and the land they are producing it on. Their families eat the food they produce. And while the bottom line of “how-do-I-pay-my-bills” is a driver, it’s not the only tractor in the shed. And it likely isn’t the biggest.
If corporations own every single food producer in this country, and force them to maximize their bottom line irrespective of long-term consequences, food production will be driven by how it can be made faster and cheaper. If we can grow pigs faster and cheaper by standing them in mercury and ingesting human growth hormones, why not just fill their stalls ankle deep with whatever works, and watch the revenue soar? When someone notices and alerts the government, the smart lawyers and lobbyists will play word and money games until no one knows which end is up. Eventually, it will take a lot of sickness and an Erin Brockovich to force that company to stop the mercury madness. At which point, it will be way too late for many. We’ve seen this movie, and this story, in real life far too many times.
2. Food security equals national security.
For reals. Think about our country’s enemies and the warfare of the past 20 years. From the Twin Towers to cyber attacks to anthrax, why wouldn’t our food supply be a target? Our country will always have an endless supply of enemies, and the possibilities for this type of warfare are equally endless. Setting aside terrorists, what happens when big corporations oversee all of our food production down to the seeds farmers can get? The CEO seed king who controls most of the seeds for the entire world, as well as the fertilizer, and the pesticides – the modern farmer’s tool kit – holds the whole deck of cards. They can control the success and the failure of crops, can genetically engineer seeds to fail or harm us, can slowly deplete access, increase prices, or require us to rely on other countries for our food, because our food supply has dwindled or failed, and then what? You think the CEO seed king won’t entertain financial offers from our enemies? You think the CEO seed king will have an unhackable cyber network?
Look, this isn’t my idea or some crazy new thinking. Our founding fathers and mothers were farmers and they knew that in order to create a strong and independent country, they needed to develop and control their own food supply.
Now, imagine if someone or something else controlled our food supply. And here’s the thing, to some degree, it’s already happening. A handful of the world’s biggest companies are now controlling the holy trinity of modern agriculture – seeds, fertilizer, and pesticides. These are not all American companies. This is global marketplace.
So what are our action steps to support American family farmers?
Buy products directly from American family farmers, whenever you can.
Ask for family-farmed products at your grocery store and when dining out.
Support the restaurants, butcher shops, cheese mongers, and retail businesses that support the independent farmer.
Talk about the importance of American family farms; bring it up in conversation, be vocal.
Advocate for family farming, and join the many concerned farmers and activists working to change the trends, including a growing collection of non-profits trying to recover some of the seed development from the corporate giants and promote biodiversity for generations to come.
This is grassroots work, using your voice, your keyboard, and your wallet. How and where you spend your cash can make an impact.
I know I am biased. I co-own a restaurant company with American family farmers and they are some of the best partners I have ever known. In fact, I have learned everything I ever needed to know about what it means to be a good business person from these partnerships. It is also true that their interests are now part of my daily life and are intricately embedded into my own.
However, while all of this matters a lot to me, it is not my sole driver to talk, write, or share the importance of family farmers and my concerns about the current state of farming in the U.S. and the world. Nor is it because I think family-farmed food tastes better (although it totally does). Nor is it just to encourage you to support the family farmers in your local community. All are reason enough to do it. But if you’re still sitting on your “don’t-care-not-my-problem” bum, stand up and look around.
Supporting family farming is critical to maintaining your health and wellness. It is also necessary to protect the liberty and independence of the USA.
Our nation was founded with this clear understanding. A nation can build and maintain its independence and security when its citizens produce and control its food sources.
Farmer and Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, knew the importance of independent farmers: “Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bands.”