01 August 2010

An old farm

Death of a Farm
It was founded in 1632. I hear its sweet corn is legendary. The year 1632 is unimaginably distant. In 1632, Galileo was still publishing, and John Locke was born.

I was struck by the sheer age of the East Coast when I went to college in the Mid Atlantic. There were graves in the cemetery near the beach that had lain there longer than white men had been in Minnesota. What had been the capital of the state, had sunk into disrepair before the American Revolution. Old in the Midwest is a different scale than the East Coast.

Each year it has become harder for family farms to compete with industrial scale agriculture — heavily subsidized by the government — underselling them at every turn. In a system committed to the health of farms and their integration with local communities, the result would have been different.

This is not news to the Mid West. I'm a city girl by just about any measure, I know corn and soybeans mostly by speeding past them at seventy on the interstate. But I know how big the ADM silos on the Mississippi are, how long the trains coming in from the plains are, and how low in the water the barges sit when they are full of corn and soybeans.

I would like to think that maybe we can change this system, but it's easier for the government not to, to just let this broken system stay broken until it crashes down around us. Big agribusiness would rather things just keep humming along, and will throw money at congress to make it so. What would that "crashing down around us" look like though? The decline of the family farm? Old news twenty years ago. Undernourished overweight children in food deserts? We've got that. I would like to think that things are getting better, there is a lot more knowledge about what is healthy out there now, and a rise in a foodie culture, but what are a bunch of foodies and food nerds against agribusiness?


I gotta go figure out how to cook a big ole fennel, bulb and stems and leaves and all. Plus that patty pan squash should get eaten soon too.