Necessary Work

We know that our farmland will not be well cared for until its caretakers can afford to care well for it. That is the economic sense and sanity that must support our endeavor for ecological sense and sanity. This is our most necessary work.

Mary Berry

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12 comments on “Necessary Work

  1. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, wise quotes just run in the Berry family. I found quite a nice article on the biography of Mary and her family. I have some mixed thoughts about today’s quote. I truly do understand about taking care of the farmland but I think the farmland was taken care of naturally by nature for 100s of years just fine until mankind came along and tried to improve it. That’s not to say I’m against any kind of cultivation for food but I’m just saying that farming has maybe gotten out of control just a wee bit. 😉 I live in the heart of large scale farm country so it’s not uncommon to see massive tractors crawling across sections (one square mile which is 640 acres) of farm ground planting crops destined have the life processed out of them. It makes me sad to think about what’s happening to land that was so fertile and filled with life just a few short generations ago.

    You had a pretty lively conversation yesterday about what eco-friendly meant. Efficiency has over ridden eco-friendly concepts. If it’s more efficient to ship the raw product far away for processing then return it to where it was grown or mined, then it’s done. The politics behind importing and exporting is a complicated mystery that I hope never entangles me. The global food market seems to be expanding when it really should be shrinking. I cringe each time I walk through a grocery store and see the produce workers removing the produce from the display and replacing it with fresh produce. Where do you suppose that cart full of less than fresh produce goes?

    So the sun rises here and another day begins. Have a wonderful Virginia market garden day. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment on my personal blog.

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    • Bill says:

      I’m in full agreement with you of course. The quote resonated with me because of her use of the word “caretaker.” I don’t put industrial farmers in that category (although I’m sure there are some who are conscientious and try to do their best for their land within the limits of what they can do and still farm that way). They aren’t having any trouble affording things these days. I was just reading one the industrial ag magazines I get (Successful Farming) and it refers to the last 7 years or so as a time of “unparalleled prosperity” for commodity agriculture. But meanwhile small diversified family owned farms using natural practices and producing food of the highest quality are struggling to survive. If the land that is being abused now is to be reclaimed by farmers using sustainable nurturing practices, they have to be able to afford the cost of farming that way. In my opinion we must educate consumers so that they’ll pay a fair price for food. If we don’t do that, the future may look ugly

      Liked by 1 person

  2. avwalters says:

    As much as I usually yield to all things Berry, I fear that mere economics minimizes the issues. Surely, it may start there, but a great many obsessions survive outside of the brackets of economic viability. There are people who dress and joust in middle ages costumes, people who re-enact things–usually wars, people who carve miniatures. In each case, those people have found and activity and an ethos that captivates them. We need that same level of obsession about caring for the land. It doesn’t take fancy costumes; it takes hard work and a commitment to place. Where do we begin?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Absolutely true. But if we want young people to take up sustainable farming, then they have to be able to pay a mortgage, send their kids to college and buy health insurance. There’s a lot of buzz in the sustainable farming community lately about a couple of articles written by farmers (one in the NYT and one on Salon) about the “dirty little secret” of sustainable farming–that it isn’t economically sustainable. I don’t agree that their experiences are universally true, but I do agree that much of what they say is accurate. That’s going to have to change.

      Liked by 1 person

      • avwalters says:

        It’s true that most of the folks I know in it are working on their second career–having already earned their ‘nest egg’ and with kids already educated and gone. In that way, sustainable is subsidized.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. bobraxton says:

    soon completing 31 years of composting at this suburban lot. The land and the soil – captivating.

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  4. Joanna says:

    It is extremely frustrating that growing food for the market has so many obstacles and hindrances. Somewhere the system has to change that it is not the growers themselves who fund the provision of food for our nations at times, especially if we do not want to rely on either industrial agriculture or an ageing population of farmers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      So true. When farmers lose money farming (as most do) we’re essentially paying people to eat our food. Meanwhile the industrial giants grow increasingly profitable, tightening their stranglehold on small farms and on consumers.

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  5. It is very hard to survive and compete in a world where the maximizing of profit is the dominant force. The more vital the service, such as medical care and education, the higher the prices climb. I don’t know what the answer is Bill, but obviously our system is not working. –Curt

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    • Bill says:

      Consumers will have to reset their priorities. These days we spend only a tiny fraction of our incomes on food. If consumers paid a fair price for food (and bought it directly from local producers) then good farms could survive. We can’t compete with Walmart if price is the only factor.

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      • I was thinking go the other end, Bill. If medical costs and education costs, etc., weren’t so high, it would be easier to make a decent living, to follow dreams more easily. –Curt

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