Yesterday, I manned a booth at the Dorset Farmers’ Market for the farm I work at. Dorset is a small market made up of an eclectic group of people. Being VT, you have you fair share of hippies, NYC weekenders and visiting skiers. I had some amazing conversations both with the customers and the vendors but at the end of the day I walked away with one nagging question: When did we declare war on food?
As I mulled over the question on the drive back and quite literally all night in my dreams and even this morning when the alarm sounded, I realized that it’s not really just a war on food – it’s become a war on farmers. Yes, this sounds dramatic, but I believe it to be true. If you are a conventional farmer you are evil. You feed grain to your cows, you plant big-business corn, you spray your crops, etc. If you are a conventional farmer you are exploiting the environment and the livestock that supports you – or at least this is the perception so many people have.
A woman came up to the booth and purchased some pork. She was elderly and asked about the farm’s heritage. How many generations was it? One. “Ah, I ask because my maiden name was Waite. We have a long tradition of Waite’s being farmers in this county”. In her youth the woman helped run the family’s dairy farm. When she got married her husband took a job with the phone company instead of the dairy but she kept on. At the end of the conversation she looked up and said “I’m happy we got out when we did. It makes me so upset – this whole factory farm business”.
I was shocked! I’d told her that my family owns a dairy farm, but I didn’t say how large or small it was. My response was this: you don’t have to be a dairy farm and have a factory farm. In truth, there are very few “factory” farms in the northeast and 99% of dairy farms in New York State are family owned.
I’ve been wanting to do interviews with friends who are young and involved in agriculture for some time, soon I’ll bring the interviews to you. This nagging question, this war on food and the people who produce it – why? how? and what can be done? That’s what I want to find out.