Farms and politics

Wayne County farm

Wayne County farm

Yesterday at a membership meeting of Slow Food Bluegrass, our one-year old convivium, I heard for the first time that activists who promote sustainability and other aspects of Slow Food's "good, clean, and fair" values intend to lobby for changes in the federal "Farm Bill." This legislation comes up for renewal every five years, and 2007 is the next renewal year. Today in an opinion piece in the New York Times, chef and sustainability educator Dan Barber lists many ways the bill should change to support sustainable agriculture instead of unsustainable industrial agriculture. Among other things, Barber proposes rewarding farms that grow a wide range of crops, improve nitrogen fixation in their soil, subsidies that support regional agricultural strengths, and local or state-regulated abbatoirs that cater safely to small scale producers.

Read a couple of quotations from the article.

Barber say, "This is a sweeping bill, omnibus in every sense, nutrition, conservation, genetic engineering, food safety, school lunch programs, water quality, organic farming and much more. It's really a food and farm bill. If you're a chef or a home cook or someone who just likes to eat, it affects you, because it determines what you eat and how what you eat is grown."

He opens the article by suggesting that the main problem with the present system is that it offers us bland tasting, poor quality food: "Now, after the uprooting of a thousand years of agrarian wisdom, we chefs have discovered something really terrible, no, not that the agricultural system we help support hurts farmers and devastates farming communities, or that it harms the environment and our health. What we've discovered is that the food it produces just doesn't taste very good."

Good, clean, and fair sounds like enlightment in contrast.