Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Where to begin?

There are some things that have been swirling around in my head for some time now, but difficult to articulate.
I spend most of my time these days trying to build a supply chain from my family's ranch to consumers via farmer's markets, restaurants, and stores. I'm literally a poster-child for our local "buy local" campaign and can rattle off the arguments for buying local passionately. And yet I feel slightly hypocritical when I do so. The local food movement, the organic food movement are admirable things and I support them. But all the while I know that just buying local is not near enough. I thnk about the statistic that every farmer in the US feeds 120 people. 120. That is a heavy load to bear. I think about the producers that I know of, and the worry and frustration in their eyes. The worry is not just for our individual lives and businesses. It is about the system. We are very capable people - strong, disciplined, creative. But we can see that we cannot bear the load. That the burden is too great. That we cannot do what needs to be done with the resources of time, money, and energy that we have to offer. We can see that most people do not begin to fathom the social and physical infrastructure that makes the basic necessities of life available to them. We were all brought up to take our the necessities more or less for granted. We were brought up to work within a highly hierarchical system with jobs specialized and ranked. To get to the top of the food chain. To pick a career with the highest possibility of the highest wages. Nobody told you to think about where those wages were coming from. If it paid a lot of money then it must be important and necessary. And the necessities would be taken care of by paying other people to take care of them. Of course. So we have built a culture around the faulty premise that value will be assigned rationally. That the most important and necessary things will be valued the most. But that hasn't happened, not exactly. And so when the logic falls apart what will happen? That is the worry.

The frustration comes from the same source. Farmers and ranchers know that the more basic and necessary the food stuff, the less viable the business. We are frustrated that we are preyed upon by our own society. That none of our businesses quite "pencil out." That we bear the burden of a system that has evolved into nonsense, ignorance, and frivolity. These are bitter words and it pains me to say them. But they are true, I think.

And so what is the answer then, if buying local is not enough. It is to take responsibility at a deeper level. To help to make our world make sense again. To fight for the right to contribute. Not just as a consumer, but as a producer, a builder, a maker. And there is all the poetry and beauty in the world in that.

1 comment:

Glenn said...

True words are often too strong for most folks, yet they are true. For Hawaii in the fifites imported only 20 percent of it's ffod, now we import almost 90 percent. We chase teh CHEAP food, and our personel health has deteriated, our economy has deteriated and our self sufficiency has deteriated... we have almost not daires, no chicken farms, no duck farms, only small goat farms, pigs farms are minimal and the fish farms few.....

Our State of Hawaii Agricutlure department and DLNR have completely sold us down the river.....Matson and Monsanto are calling the tune.....
Here at Olomana Gardens we teach "raise your own" because your personel health is your own responcibility. Two years ago we were told, "we do not have the time" now with unemployment at it's highest, and the economy in the pits, our gardencing classes and are very well attended and other are experienceing the wakeup call....such as the recent master Cho calsse where 350 Big Island folks showed up....