07 April 2014

F is for Family Farms: An Art That Needs Saving

…"every man is called to give love to the work of his hands. Every man is called to be an artist." The small family farm is one of the last places - they are getting rarer every day - where men and women (and girls and boys, too) can answer that call to be an artist, to learn to give love to the work of their hands.
~ Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food

Back in January, I began the One Page a Day Challenge and immediately threw away my quill.  Now in April, I’m participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge and prepping for a Wilderness Writers’ Retreat.  I need ink, a stiff drink and therapy.


F
arming as art. 

Wendell Berry’s definition makes sense.  I know when I’m creating art ~ of any kind, I enter an almost-Zen state.  And this is especially true when I’m gardening.

From planning the layout, to choosing the seeds and transplants.  Even the mundane chores of cleaning out last year’s plant debris (with echoes of “Bring out ya dead!” sounding in my head) and stirring the compost heap brings me peace, the tension draining out of me.

There is something about playing in the dirt.  And sadly, it’s fast disappearing.

F is for Family Farms
I’ve forgotten the girl’s name, but I’ll never forget what she thought: that food comes from the grocery store.  I thought she was having me on.  But no, she had never visited a farm in her 20 some years.  Had no concept of planting, wedding, harvesting.  Everything that goes into growing food.

I should have immediately taken her to my home and put a rake in her hands.

Because each year, it gets tougher and tougher for small farms to make it.  And although I believe in smaller government involvement ~ the less, the better ~ something needs to be done to help ease the crazy tax and insurance burdens of the small farmer.

One charity I support is the American Farmland Trust.  Recently, they sent me the following letter, that I would like to share with you:

State funding to protect family farms is down 39% from where it was six years ago. This means that family farmers often have no choice but to sell their land to developers who transition their local farms into urban sprawl – shopping malls, McMansions and parking lots. 
Farmland protection funding programs provide states with money to purchase development rights to protect fertile farm and ranch land from unchecked development. When these funds are slashed, we all lose.
AFT is leading a ground game to advocate in capitals across the country so that governors and state legislatures don’t slash our family farms. Please donate to support this work
One example of our work in action is the urgent campaign we are spearheading in Maryland. 
Maryland has the third highest rate of farmland loss in the country—losing nearly 20,000 acres of farmland a year to hungry developers.
Last month, Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley proposed to cut funding for farmland protection in half – by $23 million dollars. In response, we are mobilizing grassroots support to urge state legislators to restore full funding for family farms in the budget before it goes before the Governor.

Two of my neighbors are thinking of selling their land to developers ~ the taxes are simply too much for them to carry anymore.  It breaks my heart.  One, because I hate to see all that beautiful land get swallowed up in the maw of suburban sprawl.  And two, and quite selfishly I might add, I don’t want to lose my precious privacy. 

I have always hated suburbia and barely tolerated it when I lived across the river from DC.  Now, I loathe it with a passion.  It’s soulless and draining and encourages the Keeping up with the Jones’ lifestyle that so many people get sucked in to.  That’s bad enough taken alone.  But factor in the loss of farm-able land, and where does your food come from?  Huge, industrial farms that use GMOd seeds and plants? 

Oh, that’s convenient!  And very fishy.

 
Image Credit: Mikaela D'Eigh, 2014

Supporting Local Farms
So other than donating money to a charity like AFT, what can we do to help small farms continue to survive and thrive?

Stop buying the majority of your food from the grocery store.  Most of it has come so far from the farm where it grew or was raised, that it’s not as fresh or nutritious as it was when it was picked/slaughtered.  Not to mention, you have no idea whether it truly is organic, was grown sustainably, or was fed GMOd grain or not.

But if you can meet the farmer face to face, you can ask him or her about their farm.  What practices they use.  What they feed their animals.  Some will let you visit the farm and a select few will even let you work on the farm.  Or you can be like me and go one step further: Become the farmer.  You won’t regret it.

It’s very Zen.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

Do you support local farms?  How? CSA? Co-op?

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