Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Call to Farms (not arms)

I just got home from the Ecological Farming Conference in Asilomar. I haven't been for a while and I return refreshed and inspired. I attended workshops on soil carbon sequestration, community supported agriculture (surprise!!), biodiversity on farms and many others.

There are always many successful farmers at the conference and this year there was a pretty large population of young farmers. I felt hope for the future (there seems to be a lot of that going around) especially after meeting an enthusiastic young couple of California farmers. These two are excited to be starting up a new CSA farm in Solano County called Shooting Star Farm. The young man is a returned Iraq war veteran. He is filled with optimism and has this infectious smile. Farming is giving him this and he is sharing it with whomever he meets.

I also met a young woman who is a farmer and a film director/producer. She farms in New York's Hudson Valley and is full of creative energy. I am hoping to be able to present her film at Los Medanos College this year. She and her collaborators have a great blog called The Irresistible Fleet of Bicycles that can be reached at her film website. it out, I think you'll understand some of my hope.

We need new farmers!! The population is aging and not many kids have been choosing farming as a vocation. These, and many like them, are taking up the call to farms.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sustainability and Compassion

Sustainability is a tricky thing.

In agriculture, it is often easier to be environmentally sound than it is to be either economically viable or socially just. Someone, somewhere, inevitably gets the short end of the sustainability stick.

With the start of a new era of hope in our country, I want to talk about sustainability and compassion. Compassion is what it takes to make an endeavor fully sustainable.

Economic disparity leads to dissatisfaction. The gap between the rich and poor continues to grow globally and locally. This lack of fairness is not sustainable because it is not just. Want leads to instability and dissent. Free markets do not ensure social justice: it seems the wealth just never trickles down quite far enough. As individuals we need to accept the responsibility for creating social justice in our small ways. Through compassion, we can move toward becoming a more sustainable society. We all need to try to understand the plight of farmers who are struggling to be economically viable and farm workers who deserve social justice.

When I hear a relatively wealthy person complain about the high cost of spinach, for example, I ask them how long it would take them to plant, nurture, grow, harvest, pack and transport that spinach. The inputs are huge for a pound of spinach and the rewards to the farmer are small. The rewards to the farm worker who actually does most of the back breaking labor are even smaller.

So, how much is a pound of spinach worth? Is it worth ensuring that we will have farmers growing spinach in the future? If so, then we need to purchase our food with the compassion that comes from knowing who is growing it for us. We need to be willing to seek food grown with the concept of social justice embedded with each seed. The choice will help to make our food system sustainable.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Wow another blog?

Hi Eaters!
It's 2009 and time to start eating outside the box again. This year, I will add blog postings every week. These will include informational and educational posts and will allow for all members to comment. If you would like to post on the blog, just let me know and I will post your additions.

This month I am planning an informational meeting for all prospective and current members. I hope we have a large turnout. Last year's meeting led to some great improvements. I hope to see you all soon. Stay tuned!