How to Occupy Our Food Supply…or in Other Words…How to be a Farmer

I am a farmer.

I am a farmer’s daughter.

I am a farmer’s wife.

I am a farm family’s mother.

I am a friend to many farmers.

I eat, sleep, breathe, and dream farming.

All day long, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

It is what I do.

It is what I love.

It is what I will be doing until the day I die.  And I hope, like William’s Great-Grandpa and my own Great-Grandma that I will be able to work hard until my body just wears out and they lay me in the ground that I have labored on.

I farm because I love the lifestyle, I love the animals, I love the land, I love the sounds, smells, sight, and feel of the farm.

And I love the food.

There is no way to describe the absolute sweetness of freshly picked fruits and vegetables.  The flavor is beyond good.  You consume the living food and suddenly you feel more alive, it’s as if you were eating health and well-being.   Anything canned, boxed, bagged, or processed tastes like perfume to me these days.  It smells good, but tastes like a chemical when it touches my tongue.

Yesterday a blog post from “Almost All the Truth”, which is written by one of our farm members, caught my eye and sent me scouring the internet for more information.    She mentioned the “Occupy Our Food Supply” events that are going to be taking place on February 27th.

It was the first I’d heard of it.  Here’s a link to the group that started it http://ran.org/occupy-our-food-supply

I’ll let you do your own research on it and make your own decisions.  As for myself, I think that they are working for something good.  I have no great affection for, and more than a little disgust for the new worldwide “superpowers” like Monsanto, Cargill, and ADM that claim to “feed the world” but leave a wake of human and environmental destruction behind them.  But in my reading I’ve come across some thoughts from the “Occupy” side that make me worried, make me leery of stepping into this movement full force politically, and has me checking my gear to make sure we’re not just tilting at windmills like Don Quixote.

One of the things I read, from another group that is supporting “Occupy Our Food Supply” was that they believe that “food is an inalienable right”.

As a farmer, one that is well acquainted with growing what I eat and eating what I grow, I cannot in good conscience concur with the statement that food is an inalienable right.  As a farmer I know that statement to be false because as far as the land and the resources are concerned…you have no rights, you have no promises, you have no guarantees.   To paraphrase a popular sentiment of my youth “Nature’s ornery and she only tolerates us.”

If that’s the truth that I’ve come to realize over the last 20 years of being intimately involved in working with the land, why oh why do so many people believe otherwise?  Why do we think food is a right rather than a privilege?

Well…here’s my 2 cents.

The reason we think that food is an “inalienable” right is because Cargill, Monsanto, and Archer Daniels Midland have made our food so easy to get.  It’s easy to get corn/wheat/rice/sugar/etc., because they’ve made genetically altered seeds that aren’t anything like nature made.  They don’t die when you spray them with chemicals, when bugs bite them the bugs die, they don’t rot, mold, or go bad.  That makes it easy to get a harvest.

Does anyone really understand anymore how difficult it is to raise ALL of your food supply?  We don’t use those “miracle” seeds that can’t be destroyed here on our farm.  We use the old-fashioned varieties that need to be tended and cared for by hand and it takes an amazing amount of time.  We spend a lot of time looking for and fighting bugs, weeds, molds, slugs, mice, gophers, and blight.  We work hard at it because it’s not just the way we make our living…it’s our food supply.

I watched, listened to, and read the news when all of the Occupy Portland events were going on and I heard the comments one of the “occupier’s” made.  I’ll have to paraphrase here because I’ve forgotten now which radio program I heard it on, but the gist of his statement was “We should have more comforts of life, we should have more food.  The earth is our mother, she provides us with food, we should be able to eat for free.”

And… that’s where the Occupy Wall Street movement totally lost me.

The earth provides our food?  For free?  Really?  And I thought, rather sarcastically (which I abhor so I apologize) “Yeah?  And when was the last time you grazed for your breakfast?”  If you’re religious then you’ll remember the last time food sprang forth freely without sweat and blood occurred some time ago.  Like before Adam and Eve went out for Friday date night.

There is nothing remotely “free” about raising food.  The Big-Ag, GMO, super-ultra-mega-subsidized crops come nearer to “free” than anything that we’ve ever raised in our garden.  They are bug-free, disease-free, and weed-free, which makes it easy to raise it with very little labor cost and a great deal of government paychecks which equals a nice profit margin.

But if you are committed to truly responsible farm husbandry practices you come to realize, after years of labor, that nothing is free.

And why isn’t it?  Because you have added human life value to it.  You have worked for it, with it, and on it.  You have spent your time, tears, and blood to make it beautiful and productive…how could that have no value associated with it?  We love and value what we labor for.

The things that we get for nothing are worth nothing.

Why?  Simply because they haven’t changed us or shaped us.  We haven’t sacrificed for them, cared enough for them to work with them, or to express gratitude through our labors.

We value all life here on the farm.  We treasure it and work for it.  The farm is absolutely pure joy for us.  All the labor, loveliness, work, stress, discouragement and bounty of it are joy, but let me tell you: joy has a price that it demands for its services and it’s called work.

Hard work.

It is a testament to the success of “Modern” agribusiness that we have the luxury of debating whether or not food in an inalienable right.  Why?  Because there aren’t many people in this country who have experienced true starvation.  And thank God for it.  If we were experiencing true hunger we wouldn’t be arguing over “how” the food was raised, or the kind of seeds it was raised from, we’d just be glad to have something to put in our belly.  It is also a testament against large agribusiness that we have to resort to crusade tactics to effect change because they have been so irresponsible in their pursuit of global trade domination that they have shown no consideration for the health, well-being, or happiness of the people and land they work with.

Please do not misunderstand me or my intentions here, I know that there are thousands upon thousands of families and individuals in America today that are homeless, hungry, poverty stricken, and hurting.  I know that there are children that go to bed hungry at night; it makes me sad, it spurs me on to work harder, and I do everything I can in my small part of the world to help alleviate that suffering.  I myself have been in the difficult position of having to choose a healthy salad for two meals, or hot dogs for the whole week.  I’ve been stuck in Green River, Wyoming with $2.00 to my name and uncertain of what I would eat the next day.  But even with those experiences I, just like most American’s, have never experienced true hunger.  Hunger that persists day after day, year after year, so that it stunts the body, robs the mind, and weakens the soul.

My brother, a family doctor back in Minnesota, goes on medical missions to South America about twice a year.  After the last one to Guatemala he came to visit my husband and me here in Oregon and when he saw what we are doing with C’est Naturelle Farms he said “Man, I hope you can take this to those people someday.  It would really help them.  They are so busy just surviving from day to day that they are too tired at the end of that day to contemplate how to make it any better.  Some people in our rescue group went down about 20 years ago and helped them build a fence and a roof over their community water supply.  Something really simple, right?  Well, the fence kept the animals out of it, so the animal waste wasn’t going into the water that they used for drinking, they built a small wash area where families could wash their laundry so poopy diapers and filth from their clothes weren’t going in the water, and now, 2 decades later, the life expectancy in that village alone has increased by 10 years.  Just from one roof, over one water supply.  Think what you could do if you took your method of small-scale but full-production farming to them.  Just the simple act of creating separate pastures to rotate the animals into would break the parasite cycle that makes so many people sick.”

What he described to us was “survival” which is not a picture of success, prosperity, or liberty.  Survival says “how will I feed my children today?” and can’t see anything past that.  Prosperity says “How will I make the world a better place today?” and has the time to contemplate and act.

It is an amazing position of power to be in.  As participants in the greatest experiment in liberty, prosperity, and happiness ever embarked on (I like to call it “America”) we have had that position of power handed to us by previous generations and I think that the invitation to do something good with it is a noble one.

So what will we do with it?

I believe, as I ponder this “Occupy Our Food Supply” idea, that if we are careful of our direction, resolved in our commitment, and dedicated to our decisions then we really can make a difference.

What I hope is that it becomes so much more than just another gripe-fest.  I don’t want to see it turn into another “My life is pitiful!  It’s has to be somebody’s fault, somebody save me!” romance novel dialogue on one of the most serious problems facing the world today: politically driven famine.

There is enough food produced in the world today to feed everyone on this earth, and feed them well.  It isn’t drought, crop failure, or flooding that is causing the suffering of millions of people; most of them children.  It is the politics of greed, power, and control.

What I really hope is that we choose to “Be” somebody who takes a stand and makes a difference instead of “Blaming” somebody for what we don’t like.   Because I don’t personally believe that big government can save us anymore than big-agriculture can.  The problem with anything that “BIG” is that it has no mind of its own and no heart to feel.  How can anything good come from something that is brainless and heartless?

I’m grateful that Brenna wrote her Almost All the Truth blog yesterday and again this morning to bring attention to one of the largest problems we face.  I love that she is so committed to sharing the information she has discovered about keeping our world healthy, beautiful, and vibrant for the sake of our children.  I love knowing that Brenna isn’t a finger-pointer, a complainer, or a whiner.  She’s one of the “doer’s” who not only sees a problem and points it out, but commits herself on a personal level to live her life based on principles, not just persuasion.  I really admire that.  She has offered some great suggestions for what you can do today to make a difference.   Check out her website here: www.almostallthetruth.com

Here is my hope for the “Occupy Our Food Supply” movement.

  • That people will commit to buy from a farmer for more than one day.  I hope that they will commit to it every day.  If you plan to eat it, plan to know who grew it.
  • That our society will see work as a privilege, not drudgery or a punishment. The ability to labor is a gift…we need to start unwrapping and using it.
  • That everyone who believes that good food is important will “occupy” their own space and plant a garden.  Whether it’s in one little terra cotta pot in the kitchen window, a plot in a local empty lot, or in your own or a friends backyard, plant some seeds, get your hands dirty, and add some human life value to your land.  You’ll reap a harvest greater than good food.  The ancient Greeks believed that the real harvest of the soil is the human soul.
  • That everyone who is opposed to the strong-arm, bullying tactics practiced by some of the Big-Ag corporations will stop buying their products.  Just stop.  If we refuse to buy it, maybe they’ll stop trying to shove it down our throats.

One day of Occupying Our Food Supply is a great start, but it won’t change our current system.  If we don’t want our efforts to be wasted we have to commit to a principle, and to a way of purchasing and eating that is less convenient but better for our environment and our society.

Find a farmer, buy his food.

Plant a garden, tend it, and eat your food.

Join a community garden, work together with your friends, and eat your food together.

Have fun, eat well, and increase your life value.

Occupy your own life, take control of your choices, and reach out to help others.

That’s the farm fresh recipe for occupying your space here on Mother Earth.

And if you’d like, come to the farm today, February 27, 2012, and Occupy Your Food Supply at C’est Naturelle Farms.  Monday is our busiest day of the week; it’s when we get everything organized for the work we plan to accomplish in the next 6 days.  But we’ll take the time to walk you around the farm, you can see where we grow your food, where your animals are raised, how they are cared for and how you can support local, environmentally responsible farming.  We’ll show you how we intend to labor to support you and your family in your goal of having the freshest food you can eat brought right to your door.  We’ll make the time to show you because we believe in your worth, we believe it’s our job to support you in accomplishing whatever great thing it’s your goal to do.

You” are why we farm to feed 100 families.