Monday, March 7, 2011

Part 4: The American Farmer's Revolution

Revolution: late 14c., originally of celestial bodies, from O.Fr. revolution, from L.L. revolutionem (nom. revolutio) "a revolving," from L. revolutus, pp. of revolvere ...

Okay, the whole idea behind revolution is that one segment of society (those not in power) feels that its only recourse is to seize the power with the vision of doing society some good. Most armed revolutions, however, wind up with the seizing of power with good intentions but quickly turning into powers for revenge. This does not describe the kind of revolution America needs. America needs a revolution where the rebelling segment of society is great in number, peaceful, and forward thinking. America needs The American Farmer's Revolution.

If you are calling for, or hopefully waiting for, a revolution in our country that will overturn the present abusive, earth killing, manipulative, fear-mongering, profit taking, exploitative power then you have already missed it. It has been working in fits and starts since the early 1960s. What is remarkable to me is that it has slowly built momentum over the last 5 decades and is now actually affecting public policy. The proliferation of locally grown farmer's markets (there's one in little ole Perryville Arkanasas population 1,750), community supported agriculture gardens, and cottage industries in many small communities shows that the consumers in America want something different than what the big box stores and our federal government can provide. They want relationships with the people that are growing their food. They want to know who to complain to if the tomatoes go bad a little too soon. They want to know that their produce is grown without chemicals and that the land is just as good or better than last year. They want to know that fossil fuels, plastics, and illegal labor were not used in the production of their food. And they want their dollars staying in the community and not being spread to foreign countries or financial exchanges in New York, Chicago, or internationally. You see, as Wendell Berry has stated, politics is no longer the question; economics is the fulcrum upon which this revolution is perched.

Recent public policy changes in Arkansas show that this "revolutionary" segment of our society is having an impact. Arkansas, one of the few solvent states in the union recently passed a bill to allow cottage industries to sell direct to the customer from their farms or at farmer's markets unimpeded. This includes bread and other baked goods, soap, jams and jellies, and produce. The bill was rushed to the governor who signed without hesitation because otherwise, local economies would suffer if the bill did not pass into law. Thank you Arkansas Health Department and Governor Beebee (Democrat) and several Arkansas State representatives democrat and republican alike!

The seemingly monlithic antagonism for small scale community based economies is being worn away, not with angry protestations, but with reasonable, measured pressure being applied by the local communities themselves. The conclusion, finally, of this study of the new revolution is a manifesto for the American Farmer Revolution.

Preamble: Whereas, the security of the American People is now most threatened by its inability to meet its own basic needs without dependence on corporations acting as "people", subsidies by our federal government, and legislation restricting commerce at the community level, we resolve to secede from any arrangements requiring interference from said corporations and government agencies by:

Personal Articles:

1. Land is our greatest assett. No action should be taken or no neglect tolerated that reduces the value of such land. It must be kept in its natural state as much as possible with natural processes and amendments.

2. Living within our means- debt is bad. debt is bad. debt is bad. It eats into the financial efficiency of your operation. Do not take the bait of easy farm loans for equipment. As controversial as it is to say : "if a farm has to borrow to buy another tractor and it already has debt in other sectors of the enterprise then it is growing too big too fast.

3. Reducing our means- do not get too big too fast. Live less expensively, not cheaper.

4. Invest in real property that will either hold or increase its value. This property must also be such that it contributes to the prior articles. This includes land but even more importantly, buy reliable tools that require little maintenance even if they are more expensive on the front end. It will save money in the long term.

5. Reduce your tax obligations this will happen by reducing your income which can be done by living within your means.

Economic Articles:

1. Buy Local- even if a piece of lumber or that leaky faucet is a few dollars more at your local hardware store, buy it! Remember, they are locked into and competing with a MEGA-economy that would love to squeeze them out of business. Besides, you'll use less gas by shopping locally and develop a local community that the big-boxes can not do regardless of what their commercials would like you to think.

2. Sell Local- only take your excess produce or goods outside of your local community. Decide what local is for you. With us it's a 45 mile radius.

3. Raise Prices honestly- Don't pull the ole Walmart - greater quantity lower prices if the quality is not there.

4. Do Not Compete directly with another farmer in your community-unless you are competing with quality. Grow something different, grow it better, develop a different skill, find a niche that fills a need. Competition is the tool of the enemy in this case. In the name of competition many local business have closed their doors. Competition gives the mega-corps an excuse to play dirty.

5. Create Interdependence Within the Community - do not be afraid to ask for help; do not be afraid to offer help.

6. Quality! Quality! Quality!- We can't preach "buy local, nuy organic" if our produce is not at the highest standard of freshness and appearance. Rather, miss a sale instead of taking sub par produce to the market.

7. Develop Farming Efficiencies that do NOT require fossil fuels- compost, use a shovel instead of a tiller, mulch with leaves rather than burning them.

8. Compost everything you can! The ultimate in recycling, this keeps your land's value.

9. Give - volunteer at the market you attend, give away your unsold or excess produce to a food pantry, take a loaf of bread to a neighbor.

10. Do not believe everything you hear or see in commercials. The product is generally substandard especially if it is cheaper. In fact, do not believe anything you hear or see in commercials. "Good looking blonde women will not faun over you if you drink their beer or drive their car. If you can get three more of something by buying now - it means "this is cheap junk and you don't really need it."

11. Do not break the law to prove a point or to challenge a practice you think is unfair. The time for lawbreakers is past. The revolution has too much momentum. We are now in the marketing stage of our little struggle. We are gaining ground. Law-breakers lend a stigma to law abiding small-holders that we can not afford to struggle against. Remember, we are the good guys, act like the good guys. The growing momentum can not be lost if we are to continue to affect change in public policy concerning the restricitions our governments have put on small farm operations (in the name of food safety).

We are winning many battles across the nation when it comes to the freedom all small-holders should have to buy and sell the products they want, without interference from agencies and restrictive laws that should not apply to the local community. In Arkansas we have many more freedoms than some states and yet there is still work to do. Next time, perhaps, we can tackle raw milk and why there is only one independent dairy left in the state.

Vive la revolution!

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