“If a man invites you to join his poker table, but you only have $50 while he and his buddies each have $5000, Don't Sit Down.”
Our food system is that $5000 table.
If you're a farmer, someone who just wants to live in the country, grow some food, maybe have a cow and some chickens, you soon find that you're in a game of high-stakes poker. It isn't Farmville. Outfits like Cargill, ADM, Monsanto, and the bank will tell you what to grow, when to plant it, where and when to sell it, and how much you'll get when you sell it. You'll work long hours and have a big cash flow, but actually make very little money. You buy more and bigger equipment to try to get ahead. No cow. No chickens. No real choices. They'll tell you that other choices like organic farming are too inefficient and don't bring in enough cash flow, that “You can't feed the world on Organics- they're just an elitist thing.” It's a lie. They don't want you to know that theirs isn't the only, or even the best, game in town.
If you're someone who eats, and just wants good food at a fair price, you're at the table, too. Most likely you have no neighborhood grocery store, but have to travel ten miles or so to a megastore. Aside from paying a few locals near-starvation wages, the megastore sends all the money you give it far away, making your community that much poorer. The food you buy there is full of toxic chemicals and allergy-inducing engineered proteins. This is why many countries around the world will not accept US food for import. Healthy kids? Forget it. Social and Economic Justice? Ditto.
(While I was writing this I came upon an appropriate TED video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rixyrCNVVGA&feature=player_embedded. It's a bit long, but worth it. If you aren't outraged by what the “$5000 Guys” have done to our food, you aren't paying attention.)
I really don't blame people who don't want to see these facts. As Gandhi said, when a people are deeply oppressed, when hope is banished, they cease to be able to even see that they are being wronged, and accept their situation as inevitable.
But the situation IS NOT hopeless. Many people are working to “Build the Fifty Dollar Table.” Carol and I have proven at least part of what can be done. Just yesterday we had a couple from Southern Minnesota come by to talk about building their own greenhouse like ours, so they and their families can eat real food in the winter.
Here are steps you can take, some easier, some harder:
- Get our book from the library, or buy it online (http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Northlands-Winter-Greenhouse-Manual/Carol-Ford/e/9780615297248/?itm=1). Build a community greenhouse using it;
- Plant a garden, better yet a community garden;
- Get to know your Farmers Market, and your farmers;
- Demand local, sustainably raised real food from your store, not over-processed “food-like products;”
- Start a food co-op or buying club.
You Can Do More Than You Think You Can.