"farm life"

Happy Earth Day!

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature - the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” ~ Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

The snap peas are up! (...and I may have gotten irrationally excited when I saw these!)
Happy Earth Day, everyone! Treat everyday with respect for others and the planet, but be extra nice today!

Headline Harvest: A sustainable Passover; watching the greens grow; saving the bees

Spring has sprung, the weather is balmy (well, getting there...) and SWYF is ripe with the latest food and farm news. Take a read:

In consumer news:
In bee news:
Bees on borage, Hunts Brook Farm, 2012 - A.Gross
In farm justice news:
And, to make you feel even more paranoid about your food, you might want to check out the Food Fraud Database from USP (U.S. Pharmacopeia Convention).

To end on a lighter note, here's really cool time-lapse footage of tomato seedlings:


Tomato Seedling Time Lapse from Dave (Splat) Le on Vimeo.

Addressing that farming commercial

My inbox was flooded - OK, more like, three or four e-mails - from friends asking if I saw the commercial. You know, "the farm one!" I promptly played it, and here it is (again) for your viewing pleasure:


I'll admit, I was moved. The voice of the late broadcaster Paul Harvey pronounces, 
God said, "I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper, then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board." So God made a farmer.
I mean, come on! It celebrates the farmer, his rugged, weathered exterior, how he (notice the dominance of males...) hauls hay, drives combines, works countless hours, and is the master of his land. For a Super Bowl commercial and a car company, not bad; thanks for drawing attention to an iconic American hero and profession.

But, that's where my elation stops. The commercial is just that - antiquated, emotion-driven imagery of the farmer. Before you call me a buzzkill, here's my reasoning in brief:

Farmers are not quite the masters of their own destinies, or at least operations. Considerable consolidation of the livestock and commodities market in recent decades make farms bigger and place farmers under contract with large processors and companies. They must continue to produce and expand to stay viable and avoid succumbing to debt. Independence is not quite a part of the mainstream farming vernacular. Further, farms are no longer quaint family establishments or passed down generationally. According to a recent NPR report, the future of farms may not include many families.

I know, I know - commercials involve suspension of disbelief; yet, I am a farmer and am also in the midst of getting my graduate degree in sustainable food systems. This commercial was ripe for scrutiny! And just so you know, I'm not cynical. I have the utmost respect for fellow farmers; it's a lifestyle that constantly tests you and you have to truly love it. I just want people to be aware of what it really means to be a farmer today, including magnifying some sad statistics. I strongly believe that reform of the food and farm system is possible, if it's not already occurring; this new food paradigm, among other features, will truly celebrate and respect the farmer. Perhaps next year we can see a few greenhorns, women and other individuals that reflect the wider landscape of American farming. (Hmmm, but what company will use this in its advertisement?)

I'll end on a hopeful note and give a shout-out to that other thing people were watching yesterday - Downton Abbey. Daisy gets it: "No farmer's his own boss. He takes his orders from the sun, the wind, the snow and the rain." 

Headline Harvest: Monsanto doubles profits; kids offer hope through gardens; the quinoa problem

It's colder than usual outside, so bundle up and pretend it's warmer with these freshly picked headlines (I know, I know...)

In GMO/Monsanto news:
  • "Monsanto's Earnings Nearly Double As They Create A Farming Monopoly" - Charlotte Silver, for Al Jazeera, as published on AlterNet.org
    • From the article: Monsanto knows that consumers won't voluntarily buy their products - a lesson learned in Europe when GE foods there were required to be labelled as such. In America, the company and its allies have spend millions to defeat local labelling initiatives, most recently in California. But if the company successfully crowds out conventional farmers, Americans won't have a choice - with or without a label."
In consumer demand & awareness news:
  • "Can Healthy Eaters Stomach the Uncomfortable Truth About Quinoa?" - Joanna Blythman, The Guardian, as published on AlterNet.org
    • From the article: But there is an unpalatable truth to face for those of us with a bag of quinoa in the larder. The appetite of countries such as ours for this grain has pushed up prices to such an extend that poorer people in Peru and Bolivia, for whom it was once a nourishing staple food, can no longer afford to eat it...In Lima, quinoa now costs more than chicken. Outside the cities, and fuelled by overseas demand, the pressure is on to turn land that once produced a portfolio of diverse crops into quinoa monoculture. (my emphasis added)
  • "12 Disturbing Facts About Farm Labor Conditions" - Roque Planas, Huffington Post
In farmland news:
In kids-are-cute-and-full-of-hope news:

(From GOOD.is; to support this project, click here.)