A post script on supporting farmers

Given that I’m reading Wendell Berry’s arguments for appropriately supporting the people who grow our food, I was sad to read this today over at the Youth Food Movement blog:

The Australian Farm Institute released research that found only 28% of Victorian farms made enough profit to support their own families. That’s crazy!

Its even scarier when put like this: 72% of Australian family farms don’t earn enough to support the family on them.

The piece I was quoting yesterday was written in the 80s. How sad that twenty years later it’s still so appropriate an argument.

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Read the full YFM post here.
Unfortunately, access to the full study by the Australian Farm Institute requires a paid membership, but you can read a detailed report on it here.

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Food reading: Agricultural Solutions for Agricultural Problems

I couldn’t resist another quote from Wendell Berry:

“In nature death and decay are as necessary—are, one might almost say, as lively—as life; and so nothing is wasted. There really is no such thing, then, as natural production; in nature there is only reproduction.” (from Agricultural Solutions for Agricultural Problems, 1978)

Indeed.

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This essay is from a collection of Berry’s work, entitled Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food, which is available on Amazon here. (Full disclosure: I’ve got an affiliate account with them, which means I’ll make a small commission if you purchase the book through that link.)

Food reading: Stupidity in Concentration

I’ve begun reading Wendell Berry, as part of some research that I’m doing, and finding, as Michael Pollan says of him, that his writing makes so clear things that should already be self-evident, and it does so in a way that is “always patient and logical, as plumb and square and scrupulous, as well-planed woodwork”. I could share about a million quotes that demonstrate this, but this one is my favourite so far. He’s writing about the stupidity of factory-farming animals, but the ideas here could apply to all sorts of areas:

“If the people in our state and national governments undertook to evaluate economic enterprises by the standards of long-term economics, they would have to employ their minds in actual thinking. For many of them, this would be a shattering experience, something altogether new, but it would also cause them to learn things and do things that would improve the lives of their constituents.” (from Stupidity in Concentration, 2002)

What I love about Berry’s writing is that he doesn’t forget farmers in his talk of the stupidity of the overall system. While its not universally the case, so much of the criticism of our food system neglects to mention farmers — which, unconsciously I’m sure, serves to lump them in as part of the problem. In fact that problem is the overall business model — which, for the most part is something that’s as much imposed on farmers as it is on the people who eventually eat the food it produces.

“It ought to be obvious that in order to have sustainable agriculture, you have got to make sustainable the lives and livelihoods of the people who do the work. The land cannot thrive if the people who are its users and caretakers do not thrive.” (from Stupidity in Concentration, 2002)

Definitely something worth remembering.

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This essay is from a collection of Berry’s work, entitled Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food, which is available on Amazon here. (Full disclosure: I’ve got an affiliate account with them, which means I’ll make a small commission if you purchase the book through that link.)