Growing really is a rollercoaster ride, except prolonged, the thrills are unexpected and exhilarating, but the twists and turns visible and unavoidable. The end of the ride might be in years instead of minutes or seconds but there is an end. By the end of the seventies, farm foreclosures were commonplace. I saw a PBS documentary about the desolation of a generational family farm. The patriarch, whose family owned the farm for a century, was turning the operation over to his son. At the same time however, the son was realizing how these huge mono-farms subsidized by the federal government, because of the size of the factory farm acreage, had surpassed his ability to get what was needed to stay afloat. His wife worked at an office job to bring home income. Off farm income if that rings a bell.
Corporate farms are what is ruining the ecology and making consumers sick. Story after story of fruit, vegetable and animal product recalls are as commonplace today as never before in the history of food. Okay, early homosapien might have had more recalls but the record keeping back then is sketchy. Corporations are the future of the United States and the one percent of the population that holds the greatest amount of wealth is associated with those corporations. Who do you think owns Monsanto, Haliburton, Wal-Mart, IBM, Cargill, ADM the list goes and goes. But, the constant is the one percent, sure you and I might have stock in a company, therefore we are owners but not like the large stockholders, the board of directors, the CEO’s and VP’s and all the other titles that generate seven and eight figure incomes, we are not included in that one percent.
I was giving a tour this past weekend during which, I talk about how the cost of ecological sustainability is in our prices and that the prices you pay for food from the industrial food complex (IFC) does not. You do however subsidize the IFC because ultimately the taxpayer picks up the tab for policing and cleaning up the ecological ills caused by the IFC. We had ambled over to the layers and I pointed to Amazing and told the crowd of her story, how she survived a bear attack to live out in the woods for three weeks before Coadee found her.
Whenever we go over to where the layer pen is, most of them come running. Rhode Island Reds are a very curious group. When Amazing got near I reached over the fence and she hunkered down for me to pick her up, I then went on to explain to the group how to tell the color of egg by the chickens ear. I put Amazing back in the pen and continued to talk about soil resting and rejuvenation when out of no where Amazing jumps up and flies onto my shoulder. She steadied herself and perched on my shoulder. “Well we do call her Amazing,” I told the group. Thinking back, I was not even startled, on my periphery I could see she was getting ready to jump, when she did and landed on my shoulder I stretched my arm out so she would get a better purchase and I continued to talk. Everyone’s eyes were popping at the sight, of what this chicken just did.
When it was time to move away I leaned over the fence, dipped my shoulder down and she flew off into the pen. I had never experienced anything like that. One of our staff saw what had happened and mentioned it at quitting time. To me it was a sign that points to the benefits of our work and unknown simple pleasures. The look on people’s faces when that happened was electrifying. It was crazy, unpredictable and simply amazing from everyone’s perspective. The first question was “How did you train her to do that?” well I wish I could say I did, but this is the first time this happened. That made it significantly special for the group because it was not staged as originally thought. Talk of humane farming and proper treatment of animals creates an environment where something this odd has the potential to happen. It also enabled me to talk about the difference between humane farms and those of CAFO’s.
That night I was telling the story to my wife, she was skeptical at first then realized I was not joking. She asked what I did. how did it feel? Moreover, did it scare me? “I stood there and helped her get a purchase,” I said, I saw that she was getting ready to jump I just thought it was going to be out of the pen. It was one of those ah ha moments, when you seem connected to nature more than you really are but still connected. It was a good feeling and affirmation that humane farming does make a difference. It was as bizarre as unexpected, yet thrilling all in one. When she landed on my shoulder and settled in, my first thought was “do not look at her, she will peck your eye out,” and was followed by oh I hope she does not relieve herself on my back. None of which happened, "So how did it feel?" my wife asked again. The only thought I had was its like popcorn exploding inside me.
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