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.

Comments

13 Responses to “How to Occupy Our Food Supply…or in Other Words…How to be a Farmer”
  1. 1
    Brenna says:

    Those hopes that you have for this movement, as it begins to coalesce into something greater than its individual parts? That is exactly what I want. I think that supporting a farm like yours and sidestepping the grocery store altogether is the best kind of occupying our food supply there could be. I think making the choice to grow your own food, opt for local farms, and taking the Big Ag completely out of the equation is the way to go.

    These corporations talk a good game about feeding the world and the hungry, but they are destroying the land where there is real hunger to support a business of profit.

    I hope I am misunderstanding the quote about food being an inalienable right. We ALL must work hard for our food system to work without Monsanto, Cargill, Tyson, etc. We may not all be farmers, but we must all work to support them.

    Thank you for all the work you do. It is truly changing the world.

    • 1.1
      Vernie says:

      Thank you so much for your inspiration Brenna!

      I think to clarify I should point out that I have a fundamental belief that food is a direct result of labor. Whether the labor comes from a direct relationship with the soil, or in some other venue that translates into a food purchase the labor is the same. Like my brother Aaron, the doctor, he really loves farming, but he loves healing people more, so he can’t take the time to grow his own food when he’s out saving peoples lives in the ER, or doing his country doctor rounds to his elderly patients’ homes, he needs to trust that someone else is growing his food in harmony with his own beliefs.

      You’re absolutely spot on, it will take the efforts of everyone to overcome a system that is corrupt and is, in a very real way, starving the poorest members of our society of health and quality of life. I also believe that it is the responsibility of those capable of laboring to help those who aren’t able. But when I hear people who are physically, mentally, and emotionally able to serve ask to “be” served instead…it makes me feel very frustrated.

      I am one of the 2% of American farmers that feeds the remaining 98% of our society. I am happy to do it, I want to do it, and I consider it my life’s work. I don’t utilize government subsidies because I don’t think it’s the government’s job to support my farm. I believe it’s my job to work hard and support my local community. I don’t take government grants because I don’t think it’s sustainable to get operating money from the government every year just to keep going. We absolutely depend on the investment of our community to keep going. We are 100% grass roots. Our first year in operation we had a man visit our farm for a tour. He loved what we were doing, he loved the idea, he loved our methods and our beliefs, but at the end of the tour he said to us “I think this is great and I’ll probably be back in a couple of years. I just want to wait and see if your model will actually work before I buy into it.” That one really stumped me; how can you believe in something that will benefit you, want it to benefit you, but expect to do nothing to attain it? That is my contention with the “inalienable” right mindset.

      I believe that the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness do not guarantee a chicken in every pot, a car in every driveway, and a paycheck. I believe that they guarantee us the right to pursue those things through the labors of our hands. They guarantee us the right to speak our mind and vote our conscience. They guarantee us the right to share with our neighbor, to take care of our families, and to find joy in our life work. I believe we have an inalienable right to utilize the tools that grow the food, and an inalienable right to eat what we have invested our time in. When companies like the ones you mentioned in your post (Cargill, Monsanto, ADM, Tyson) follow legal, but reprehensible practices that threaten our right to utilize those tools then we have the obligation to speak up and change it. The tools I depend on are clean air, pure water, healthy soil, and unadulterated seed.

      Your efforts to make people aware of what is happening to their food supply is just as important and necessary as what I do to raise healthy food. That’s why I love what you do. You bring an awareness to the atrocious human cost to the cheap food (water, clothing, cosmetic, etc.) supply that these companies offer. We eat cheap food at the expense of our children’s children. To use an old farmer’s statement “We are eating our seed corn.” If we continue on in our current food system, what will our children reap?

      Keep up the good work Brenna; making good choices for your children, sharing your choices with your neighbors, and changing the world to make it better. Each little choice to move in the right direction creates a groundswell of momentum that I believe is unstoppable.

  2. 2
    Sally says:

    AMEN Vernie! You are my girl!
    I’m so excited for the full diet farm in July! What a great service! you didn’t really talk about all the nutritional benefits of eating real food but I hope everyone is putting that puzzle together by now. There is nothing better than fresh raw milk, butter, cream and cheese! we love Havarti but don’t forget Gouda with it’s amazing Vitamin K2 a hard vitamin to get (also found in abundance in notto but not many people like it!) did you see the article on http://www.rodale.com/?cm_mmc=TheDailyFixNL-_-826774-_-02272012-_-home today? It’s why women should not eat Factory Farmed Chicken. I don’t think anyone should! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being my farmer and working so hard for me and my family. The love you have for farming is undeniable!

    • 2.1
      Luana says:

      AMEN AGAIN! I cannot wait for July!!
      I too am more than a little excited for everything to get going full swing. And it really hit home in the post above, the one statement – about the guy waiting for a year or two to see how it goes first… That thought went through my brain that day touring your farm with you, but I thought, you know, if everyone sits and “waits” for it to be done by others, it will never happen – then and there I knew, I would put down our money on a dream of better eating for my husband and I and on your values and skills as farmers. I tell everyone about this awesome concept and I can only hope others will follow.

  3. 3
    Chauncy says:

    Sure enjoyed your blog today, Vernie! How in the world did we every find you guys?

  4. 4
    Mishawn says:

    Hello Vernie,
    Thank you for your email and passion. I look forward to meeting you Saturday at our home for our farm meeting.
    Health and Happiness,
    Mihsawn

  5. 5
    Jeanie Bruder says:

    ! Hola Vernie! I am very impressed with your knowledge and dedication to “naturel”, sustainable farming. I am beyond annoyed and outraged by the plans to poison the planet one farm, one country at time by the Big Ag and the pharmaceutical demons at large with their greed for $ and more power. I would like to come and visit your farm soon when the rains stop. Your pictures here brought me great joy. Esp. the white geese! So sweet. While i live in an apt. which has very little light, i am going to ask a friend if i can grow a garden on her property this year. I am clueless. But i think like you poetically described, there is something wonderful about working with your own hands and labor in the dirt. To plant and care for something living and hopefully it grows into something many can enjoy. It sustains us energy wise, health wise,satisfying. I would LOVE to work the land, and care for animals to a degree. I love all living creatures and as Proverbs states:” A good man( or woman) takes good care of their animals”. They are sweet gifts from our Creator. I am still trying to figure out how to do the survey form you sent me on over the internet! Life in the city is so busy. So unfulfilling. So frustrating and meaningless some days. The true riches of God, family and helping others is all that matters to me the older i get. It’s Not about us. It’s about God and others. I hope to continue to make a difference here in the dirty, crowded, ever increasing violent city… Your friend Jeanie :)

  6. 6
    Sheila says:

    Thank you for your thoughts. I agree with you. You are living the life I can only dream of, but I grow some of my own food, purchase more from a local grower’s CSA, and the farmers markets,
    and search out local sources of meat, fish and eggs…. I even buy wheat and oats from a huge grain sale once per year. (Milk is the only thing we can’t get here from the farm… of all things!!!)
    I think that we should put our money where our mouth is. I will fight with my dollars.. and if everyone did that? The big boys would have to fold up their tents and go home. :)

  7. 7
    Richard says:

    I think you make a lot of good points, but I must disagree with you when you say that food isn’t a right. How can it not be when it and water are two of various things we need to survive as a spices. Nature will only give us exactly what we give her, or in other words, if we know particular methods or growing food, then we can have good healthy crops year round. You could build a green house for the winter time, or get thoses utra-violet lights and grow some inyour house. We are not slaves to the land any more. With all the knowlege and tech. we have now a days growing organic food and having a basic plant garden is now easier then it ever was before in all of human history.Let me know what you think :)

  8. 8
    Richard says:

    You soundlike a really good person :) Keep up the good work :) If you find it ok, I would like to keep up conversating with you :) Do you have a faceboo, myspace, and/or yahoo? If so, let me know what you think? But if you feel to uncomftorable doing that because you do not know me, I under stand :)

  9. 9
    Richard says:

    Sorry, Iment to say in my first comment “Metods OF growing food” not “Metods OR growing food :)

  10. 10
    Julie Vasquez says:

    Hello Vernie,
    Thank you for your inspiration! I dream of having a farm one day. I’m a firefighter’s wife and homeschooling mother of six kiddos, saved by my Lord and Savior Jesus. I live in the mountains of Southern California in a town called Running Springs. We’ve been praying for years for God to open a door for us to move out of California, somewhere more affordible and where the people are like minded. (More conservative)

    I’m always trying to instill in my children that nothing is free. We all have to be hard workers in this life. After Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the earth was changed. Genesis 3:17- 19 says…”Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you shall return.”
    A lot of this generation of people want a free handout and expect our government to support them but the government gets its money from the hard workers. So Ironic. Okay I’ll stop there. 😉

    Anyhow, it’s awesome to find your blog. Thank you for sharing farm life with us that only dream of it. May God bless you, your family, and your farm!

  11. 11
    Craig says:

    Vernie,

    I just discovered your farm’s website and blog and have enjoyed reading your posts. You are a great writer and communicate your passions very well! And what I love even more is that you do it in a way that is respectful without compromising your position.

    I’m in Tennessee, and can’t support your farm directly, but what I can do is grow a lot of our own food, which we do, and what I can’t raise, buy from a local farmer, which we do.

    Thank you for what you do and for all the hours and hard work that your family puts into raising good, clean food. And for taking the time to write posts like this one! I pray your business continues to grow and prosper.