Thursday, June 21, 2012
On A Side Note...More About Me
I read a lot of blogs. I love hearing about what other people have to say on a wide variety of subjects. It renews my sense of hope for the future to read about people promoting change in small, sane, steps. I do admit that I stick to reading blogs written by people who share my views. This morning I read http://leftcoastvoices.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/its-ok-to-be-food-secure-roger-ingalls/#comment-1533. I suggest you do the same. It. Is. Brilliant. Below is the comment I wrote for Left Coast Voices. I cut myself off because I felt that I was writing too much on someone else's blog. At the end, I have added the rest of what I wanted to say.
(Beginning of Comment)
What Cuba has done is incredible. I would love to see something similar happen in the United States, especially in places like East St. Louis or Detroit or a small town like Cairo, IL. All places deeply effected by urban blight. In the U.S., we have CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) but, I think to implement what Cuba has done, we would need to have American farmers move away from the idea of 'profit only' farming.
Here's what I mean; several members of my extended family are farmers with contracts to supply corn, soybeans, pork and beef to industrial food processing companies. Their attitude is that they produce a product and sell it to those companies for income. They have no contact with the people they feed and feel very little connection to the land they farm. It's a job to them, nothing more, and they feel just as trapped as the person shuffling paper in a office, somewhere. Most of them don't even bother to garden for their own household, even though they have more than enough space and experience to do so. They are completely mentally invested in the idea that to make growing crops worthwhile, someone must be handing out a check for the effort.
Yet, CSAs are profitable. I have volunteered on and used several to supply my household needs over the years. A conversation with one about money was an eye-opening experience. The woman earned a profit(!) that is 3 time the average income in America and only worked six to seven months a year. She spent her free time and extra money indulging her love for traveling all over the world. Not a bad way to live. The downside of the CSA system, as it is, is its dependence on volunteer labor. There is a legal loophole that allows CSAs to not hire workers (and pay for labor), instead they use volunteers. Every CSA I have seen takes advantage of that loophole so while the owner/operators often makes a very comfortable profit, they are not required to share that profit with the people working for them. Most of the labor is done by students earning an academic credit or people interested in starting their own CSA someday. This way of procuring labor heavily favors owner/operators. The system grows food but, doesn't create jobs.
I am not sure what the first steps would be, for us as a nation. I am sure that there are people working on this issue who are far more knowledgeable than I am. I do my part as a consumer, buying local and organic whenever possible. I live in an urban community that makes it very easy to do so. What I would like to see happen is city/state/federal sponsored CSAs appear in urban areas with those farmers getting paid for their labor. I would also like to see farmers across the country supplying produce to their local schools, hospitals, prisons, military bases and anywhere else where the government is feeding people on a daily basis.
Cuba is showing us a way to do both.
(On a side note, I apologize to Left Coast Voices for the length of this comment. This is a subject near and dear to my heart and it got away from me. Please feel free to edit this down to a more manageable length.)
(End of Comment)
You might be wondering how the hell this can possibly tie to my job as a PSO. Here's how I do it. I have created a character named Julie/Julia (I have written about this before) who grew up on a CSA run by her family. Therefore Julie/Julia is very knowledgeable about organic farming in the United States and can talk a caller's ear off on the subject, if that is what he wants. If anyone is wondering, yes I am very well read on the subject and have a great deal of 'hands on' experience. This is another way for me to promote local organic farming with a bunch of people who have never heard of the subject or have dismissed it at hippy bullshit.
Because this is not just about food or food security. This is about national security. As a nation, we are too dependent on foreign products, especially foreign oil. Our current system of food production is heavily dependent on petrochemicals and sees no reason to change because we, as Americans, are unaware of that dependence. So they go trudging along; raking up huge profits (partially through taxpayer subsidies), bankrupting actual American farmers with a system of indentured servitude that is appalling, and feeding us crap that is not only nutritionally suspect, it is actually making us sick. Industrialized food productions costs us more than most of us have ever imagined at every level and we just keep paying and paying and paying. At the national level, we dance around the subject, never able to confront it head on because the agribusiness lobbyists group are well funded and very aggressive.
This is where the American people have to step in. We, as a nation, have to promote local organic farming in our communities because our politicians cannot do it for us. They need to see our desire for change before they can really take on big agribusiness. They need our support and we need to do this for our safety and our future. Think about this; if an enemy really cut us off from our oil supply, not only would we not be able to drive, we wouldn't be able to eat. An enemy could, literally, starve the United States into submission by cutting off the flow of foreign oil.
Talk about a reason for change.