Tag Archives: farms

Basic Farm Bill Economics: The Beginning

My maternal grandparents were homestead farmers in Oklahoma and I remember my grandfather talking about how participation in the Farm Program required him to “lay some of my fields fallow”. That’s about all I remember of his speaking on that topic. Except I also remember thinking, well, that doesn’t make sense. Then I studied agricultural economics and policy in graduate school – after my Granddaddy Scott was gone – and I learned the concept behind price control. Everyone knows the basic law of supply and demand, right? Simply put, as supply rises and demand decreases, then prices fall. So, to stabilize prices on a commodity like wheat, for example, you PAY your farmers to reduce the amount of wheat they are growing, you reduce the glut on the market, and your farmers receive a better price for the wheat that they DO grow and sell, which stimulates the economy all round. And, to further control the price, you store a big bucketload of it in your “emergency food stores” to ensure the “health and safety of your country”. It’s exactly the same as controlling currency. Simply put.

It was brilliant. It helped my grandparents survive – I’m sure of it. So what happened to us as an agriculturally rich country? Why are we blaming rural farmers for lack of local food and, even, for GMO? Somewhere along the line Big Ag got mixed up in farm programs. Enter GMO. Oh so simply put….

Neither my grandfather nor any of his neighbors could have foreseen what would happen by accepting the benefits of the Farm Bill. Why would they? There was no harm in laying a field fallow because they, and all of their neighbors, grew their OWN fruits and veggies for their own consumption. It would never occur to them that they needed to provide peaches, lettuce, tomatoes and more to their neighbors or to the nearest city. Everyone was a City Farmer in their own right and they farmed to provide COMMODITIES to a broader market: the city.

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Food: it’s always the best we can do

Making 4-pallet modular compost systems with Will Allen & Growing Power

You know, I love what my friends have done for local food.

I want some of that.

But now, as I make plans to go visit my mom and dad for the holidays, I think about how that will be. I imagine myself telling them “You can HAVE this fat, but you can’t have THAT fat.” And it all just gets so complicated. How ironic is it that I should have to tell my own parents – people who came from farms – what to eat and what not to eat?

How is it that my own parents don’t know what’s good for them when it comes to food?

It’s because they left the farm. And even if they hadn’t left the farm, they would still be the generation that was fed a load of lies by the media. Enter television. Enter advertising. Enter Big Ag and the end of my parents’ simple diet.

My parents left the farm because they were tired of being poor. And because they wanted to make a difference for their families. It had nothing to do with food. It is not their fault, necessarily, that I grew up with macaroni and cheese from a box and bread from a plastic bag. They did the best that they knew how to do, with what they had.

And that’s all we, all of us, know how to do. So, you out there, wondering what to feed your families and how to go about it: Listen, you are doing the best you can. Follow what’s true and what’s local… and we’ll all be alright.

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