Like most folks in this country, I grew up giving so little thought to the elaborate process of how food appeared in the grocery store chain that I may as well have believed it were miraculously grown, raised, killed or harvested right there in Kroger by the checkout girl herself. Like so many of us, I grew up on frozen pot pies, canned green beans, macaroni and cheese, and bologna sandwiches on Wonder bread.
Recently I have begun to understand the challenges and rewards of producing some of our own food. This Thanksgiving, after only eight months here, we would be able to serve our entire dinner from food raised right here on our property. It would not be a traditional meal, but it would be delicious: wild acorn-fed pork, sweet potato pie, garden fresh salad of arugula, tomatoes, broccoli, and 3 kinds of peppers, and a fresh green bean and spaghetti squash casserole (this last dish would be thanks to our closest neighbor’s more successful fall garden). For dessert, well, perhaps a melon medley could suffice, since our fig and pecan trees have died. Other fall garden failures were the Brussels sprouts, cabbage, beans, and romaine. All this was grown (and not so well-grown) without the use of pesticides or herbicides or chemical fertilizers. We could feed our family this Thanksgiving, but what about the rest of the county, let alone the country?
We hear how tough farmers have it and that is no doubt the truth. Still, as a society, we separate them physically, economically, and sometimes intellectually from our mainstream world. Our pop culture relegates the farmer to silly, stupid roles in shows like Green Acres, or that ridiculous reality show with Paris Hilton. We villainize him for needing to make a decent living at his work, without stopping to think why those providing our very means of survival deserve to make a fraction of what your average NYC stock broker might earn. Do you have any clue who works harder? We criticize the farmers for everything from pesticide use to land erosion issues without any effort to first try to see realistically into his reality. So few of us have any clue at all of what the farmer’s world is like that we don’t realize most young farmers today have college degrees, and advanced degrees are not uncommon.
In truth, life’s not any easier or simpler out here than it is anywhere else, but it suits some of us. Does the farmer tell the stock broker how to do his job if he knows nothing about the market? So why do we all criticize the farmer when we are clueless about growing food? We need the farmer more than we need any other single professional, even the blessed President of the U.S.A. That’s the plain and simple truth.
Thank you, all you farmer families, for providing for us, even while we continue to relegate most of you to the lowest rungs of economic and social status. We need you, we are slowly learning, please be patient with us.