There’s something about the sustainable food movement in all its various incarnations that brings out the fanatic in people, both pro and con. I admit that I am just as bad as anyone.

Yet, there is an underlying problem with that fanaticism that undermines the whole attempt to improve the way we feed ourselves, and it finds its voice in purity tests voiced by some that demand things that are unrealistic or downright impossible.

Among the worst of these tests are calls for laws that threaten the livelihoods of the very kinds of people trying to make change happen. For example, there are those who want to pass laws that would require sustainable farmers and vegetable producers to get licensed before they could produce.

I understand the motives that drive such calls because I experience them first hand. I also know they only serve to threaten the very undertaking we’re all supposed to be working together to achieve by making it harder to do what we are doing.

Perhaps, instead of calling for laws, boycotts, and bans, if we see a problem, we should be working extra hard to solve it and let the chips fall where they may. All that effort spent trashing others could be used in a far more productive way, and in the end, that properly applied effort might just produce something better than what we already have.


What’s in a name?

Our farm experience is undergoing a lot of transitions right now. One of them is discovering that the name we’ve been using–in fact the name my in-laws have been using for decades–has been the registered trade name of another farm in Ohio since 2010. Needless to say, this created something of a moment of existential crisis for us, especially given all the other transitions we’re undergoing at the same time.

So, we’re kind of in limbo right now. We think we’ve found a new name–one that gives credit to the old while also not breaking the law–but we’re not going to tell anyone what it is until we’re sure. Then, it will be time to change a bunch of things in order to make it all legit.

But what’s in a name?


Web roundup

Want to know what I’m reading about agriculture, food, and sustainability? Well this periodic post is the place to find out:

  1. Kajabi on the old wise farmer
  2. Treehugger on exploding pig barns
  3. The New York times on the rise of the artisanal food producer
  4. Scientific American on the impracticality of the cheeseburger
  5. Foreign Policy Magazine on commodity induced food price inflation
  6. Popular Science on how feeding antibiotics to pigs is helping to create superbugs
  7. The Guardian on Monsanto being found guilty of poisoning by a French court
  8. Gene Logsdon at The Contrary Farmer on the need for secret crying places
  9. Wake Up World on bus roof gardens
  10. Treehugger on Seattle’s attempt to create the world’s first public food forest

You can also get these kind of links in real time by following me on Facebook or Twitter.


The one thing everyone can do

This morning, I read about a bill under consideration by the US Senate that would, if the language in it holds true, essentially criminalize local food producers by forcing them to register with regulatory agencies in the same way that industrial food companies must.

Reading about this bill once again struck home for me how far Americans have drifted from simple, elegant truths about life. In this era of high unemployment and ongoing economic instability, the one thing that everyone can do is grow their own food. I know this is a remarkable idea to millions of Americans, but it is also true.

Anyone with a patch of grass or a place to set up a few pots of soil can grow their own food, sometimes amazing quantities of it if one does it right. A seasoned garden grain farmer can grow enough wheat on a 100 square foot patch of ground to make 100 loaves of bread from the resulting harvest. That’s a 10×10 or 20×5 foot patch of wheat that can provide bread for a family of four for a year.

Unfortunately, most Americans recoil at the idea of providing their own food. They recoil at the labor. They recoil at the dirt. They recoil at the insinuation that growing their own food implies they can’t buy it.

So, what they get instead is 100 little emperors crafting a law that will force them to buy their food from sources approved by a federal agency, sources one can never visit, whose processes are industrial secrets, and whose products are dubious as food at best.

Meanwhile, the 20 percent or more of Americans who are un- or under-employed continue to depend on the same government to let them go to the imperially mandated food sources to get their daily allotment of government inspected and approved foodstuffs never realizing that, in the time it took them to go to the unemployment office and the grocery store, they could have cultivated a wonderful, nutritious garden for another day. Plus, they would have gotten some badly needed exercise and exposure to sunlight along the way.

I understand that, especially with the interstate transport of industrially produced food, the government needs to regulate the safety of what industrial food producers manufacture, but what does that have to do with small food producers whose products often travel less than 100 miles and usually not out of the state where they were produced? I understand that growing one’s own food may not pay the bills, but if the law is passed, even if one is good at it, one won’t have the chance to try because Imperial Washington has decreed one cannot.

Of course, they way to fix this problem is to contact one’s senators and ask them to scrap this terrible legislation then, if one really believes in the idea behind why it is bad, go home and plant, cultivate, and harvest. Everyone can do it, even if the government does not get the idea.