F.A. Farm

  (Ferndale, Washington)
Postmodern Agriculture - Food With Full Attention
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Who Will Grow My Food?

This is the third in a series. The first two were, "What Will I Eat?" and "Where Will I Get My Food." For this installment, the obvious answer is, "I will grow my own food." However, that is not too helpful for those of you in condos, city apartments, who are shut-ins, or even in a fortunate situation where you have more cash than time.

In point of fact, the dividing line between growing your own food and paying someone else to do it for you is your time. If you have time, you can grow food and thus turn your labor into food capital. You don't have to be a Marxist to understand surplus value, which is simply adding value to the products owned by someone else by putting your time in, for which you are paid less than the value you added. Nor do you have to be an economist, nor a Marxist, nor a Marxist economist to understand creating new wealth - or new capital - from the soil. Simply put, you can take your labor, add some soil and seeds and water, and grow something you can eat or trade or sell. [Sidebar: This is probably a better explanation of how farming started in the first place 10,000 years ago than complex theories of overpopulation, abundance of water, etc. - all part of the anthropological view over the last 100 years.]

If you don't have time, but you have cash, you can pay a farmer (or even your neighbor) to grow your food. Notice that this idea is entirely outside the modern business model of someone farming as a business, someone else processing food as a business, someone else transporting the food to a market, and someone else selling the food to you. It is simple and direct and cheaper.

As I have asserted many times in public over the last several years, a good target for feeding ourselves in the post-peak oil future is for 20% of the adult population working as full-time farmers. At present, 1-2% of the US population are farmers and most of these are only part-time. Obviously, whether or not you buy into my rather conservative estimate of 20% full-time farmers, we will need a massive infusion of people growing food. How is this going to happen? Well, it certainly won't happen if we continue expecting farmers to work at less than minimum wage! So . . . it would be to your advantage, if you have more cash than time, to pay someone to grow food for you that has more time than cash. Simple, direct and cheaper than buying from a supermarket. Once again, this does not require buying into the modern business model, nor does it require re-forming modern society and the oil economy. It works because someone takes individual action.

If you are a shut-in or disabled, the cash/time equation is not applicable. However, here is where basic human charity comes to the fore. Those of you who have disposable income should betithing at least 10% for those unfortunates around you. Also note that tithing does not require a complicated system that gives you a tax break (hah!) for participating in a quasi-philanthropic system that has an incredible amount of overhead so that only a small percentage of gifts actually go towards helping people. You can help those around you in a direct manner. Expecting low-income farmers to take care of it while those of you with disposable income shirk your responsibilities is certainly not fair and assuredly won't work. Yes, let me say it again. If you have a good job and disposable income, you have a responsibility to take care of those around you who are not as fortunate. Forget this nonsense about "I've earned it by my hard work." I have seen and heard a lot of this over the last 60 years and I have yet to find someone who has a comfortable life who did not get some advantage from their society that was withheld from others. So just accept that you got lucky and do the right thing. Tithing is easy.

For those of you who do not own land, there is an awful lot of it available in vacant lots, rooftop gardening possibilities, container gardening, community gardens, adding a greenhouse/solarium to your house, buying shares in a farmer's enterprise, etc. Some of these alternatives require some cash, but a lot of them can be had for just labor. I work with community gardens and a food bank farm and we always give people food when they come out to do volunteer work. There areplenty of opportunities out there, especially in metro areas. You just have to get off the couch or out from behind your computer screen and do the searching.

To recap, first make a decision about time versus money. If you have plenty of time, you have time to research the possibilities. You also have time to help someone else who already has a functioning garden or farm. If you have plenty of money and not much time, there are a lot of farmers and gardeners and gardener wannabees who could use a little capital to get going.

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