Archive for October, 2010

a rant:

There has been something that has been bothering me for a while.  At first I thought is was just something that I was going to have to get used to or a feeling that would fade away.  But over the course of the past year, neither of those two things have come true:  I’m not used to it and it’s not going away.  So I need to get this off of my chest.  Hold on, it might get bumpy.

I’m getting really sick of the idea that if you are farming 1 acre you are less of a farmer than the person farming 10,000 acres.  Or that if you have a ranch with 5 head of cattle you are less of a rancher than a person with 1000 head of cattle.  Look up the word farmer in the dictionary and what do you find? “A person who farms; person who operates a farm or cultivates land.”  There is no qualifier in that definition.  It does not read, “A person who cultivates X number of acres.”  Yet this is the attitude that I have seen in my time in agriculture.

I have no aspiration to farm 100’s of acres, but this doesn’t change the fact that I am a farmer.  I have chosen to spend my days as a steward of the soil, working with the earth to provide a harvest of food for myself and others.  I live in connection with the soil that I grow in.  Yet, for some reason, other farmers feel the need to disqualify what I am doing.  In their eyes, I am a hobby farmer or market gardener.  My response to this?  I ask them if they can tell me how many people they are feeding?  The response usually has something to do with a certain number of acres of corn or wheat or soy.  But how many people are you feeding?  There is no answer for this.  Once the commodity leaves the farm they have no idea if it is being used or not.  I let them know that with 2.5 acres I fed over 500 people this season.  500 people from about 125 CSA shares.  I am a farmer feeding people.

What makes these comments about acreage so frustrating is that there is a rallying cry from ag folks about the need for more farmers.  Farmers from all size farms recognize the need for more farmers, yet I am not recognized as a farmer because I’m on 8 acres of land?  This is idiocy!  If they really wanted more farmers, more people growing/raising food, then they should be talking like Will Allen: “We need 50 million more people growing food, on porches, in pots, in side yards.”  But then again, Allen probably isn’t a farmer in their eyes either, so his voice is discredited.


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