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Monday, October 13, 2008

Food Is a National Security Issue

I've been learning organic farming for over 10 years. When my wife and I bought a 123 acre farm my life became an episode of Green Acres.

It was a romantic decision. Move to the country. Live on the land. Commune with nature and build a dream. Some people we know had the same dream about leaving the city and having a nice quiet B&B in New England. Or a coastal winery in California.

Well, long story short, I've earned a few blisters, watched the weeds take over the fields and tossed a lot of blemished or unsold fruit and vegetables into the compost. I've been learning first hand about the farm economy and market gardening.

For us, the magic has faded some. Not because we don't love our farm or the community or the work. The magic has faded because we see the cold reality of what farming in North America has become and the difficult choices facing all of us.

*We are now living in a country that must import energy to grow food.

*We are now living in a country that is rapidly losing the ability to feed itself.

*We are now dependent on foreign markets for the energy and food we consume.

*Farmers don't make profit, they service debt and manage cash flow.

*Small family farms are unwanted by government planners and agribusiness marketers.

*The average age of the American farmer is 57.

*We know our imported food supply isn't safe from tampering or poor practices.

*We know that cheap, high fat, low nutrition processed food that sits on store shelves for months creates dietary health problems.

What we don't know is who is going to grow American food 10 years from now.

Michael Abelman showed my wife and I the way forward. A personal friend, Michael encouraged us to go for it. A few years later, we saw him at Fairview Gardens Farm in Santa Barbara. He was reading selections from his book, "Fields of Plenty". Michael discussed his experience traveling across America to meet organic farmers and discuss modern agri-culture.

He finished by saying, "If you want to eat in the future, you'd better make friends with a farmer."


If you want a longer explanation of what's happening you must read this:
"Farmer in Chief" by Michael Pollan in the New York Times online.

The free ride on cheap food is about to end. This article explains why. And I'm here to tell you, Pollan has it right.

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