A prescient Sept. 10 posting by Civil Eats titled "Is the Second Farm Crisis Upon Us?" documents the increasing hemorrhaging and suicides in farm country, comparing the current trajectory to the 1980s farm bloodbath. The stark data presents a tragic trend, largely unpublicized, in rural America.
The fact that the average person picking up pretty pictures at Wal-Mart doesn't have a clue is symptomatic of our bifurcated and myopic culture. We don't know because we don't care. We don't care because we don't have to. We don't have to because we're still exploiting nature's wealth accumulated over millenia across the North American continent. We're drawing down the bank account (commons) but it's slow enough not to startle.
The post quotes numerous experts and I list them here in order to make a point:
Farm Aid, Farmer's Legal Action Group (FLAG), Federation of Southern Cooperatives, National Young Farmers' Coalition. As usual with these kinds of stories, the orthodox consensus paints the cause and cure with shallowness and cliches. Centralized production, big bad agri-business, free markets (actually, a change in the way government intervenes in the marketplace), lack of agency mental health support, reduced federal budgets for food welfare, yada, yada, yada.
While my heart bleeds for the problem and the issue, and especially the struggling farmers, painting them as victims in a grand conspiracy of public disrespect does not solve the problem. As usual, not one voice in all these supposedly caring organization dares to mention the fact that the robust direct farm-to-consumer commerce enjoyed pre-1967 has been largely criminalized.
Where is the person who dares to offer loss of freedom and return of choice as both the cause and cure of the problem? If my neighbor and I, as consenting adults making voluntary choices could engage in food commerce without government buzzards eating the insides out of our food exchange carcass, thousands and thousands of farmers would be able to exit the dehumanization of industrial commodity centralized agriculture.
But with freedoms gone and choice nonexistent, both producer and consumer fall under the tyranny of bureaucrats who wield paperwork and sheriff's badges to insure that Wal-Mart stays atop the food game. Am I angry? Yes, with righteous indignation. That black farmers have been prejudicially hurt by current policy and paradigm should outrage the social justice community. But no, they don't see answers in liberty; they see answers in targeted hand-outs, customized exceptions, and concessionary morsels from the public trough.
Where, oh where is the outrage over the fact that I can't sell a glass of raw milk to a neighbor or friend? Where, oh where is the outrage over the fact that I can't sell a pot pie to a friend without a porcelain-fixtured approved bathroom conjoined to a quintuple-permitted kitchen? Where, oh where is the outrage over the fact that I can't make one pound of homemade beef jerky and sell it my cousin?
Our farm crisis is a crisis of food freedom. It's a crisis of commerce, of choice, of consent. It's a crisis of personal responsibility being as valuable as government oversight, or said another way, personal ownership versus the nanny state. But nobody, not in this Civil Eats post nor in any of the organizations cited, from Farm Aid to whoever, dares to breathe the loss of food freedom as either a cause or cure to this farm crisis. Until they do, they're all bogus.
What food would you like to buy that's not available at Wal-Mart?