RANTS, stink bombs & bouquets
by Lynn R. Miller of Singing Horse Ranch
Fifteen years ago I penned these thoughts below, buried in a less than successful essay and published on the pages of the Small Farmer’s Journal. Looking for something else entirely, I found myself stopped and reading wondering how it could be that, though so long ago, these observations, cautions and critiques still seem entirely applicable today? Fifteen years ago was at the beginning of this new century, and it has brought us myriad changes. But as concerns farming, aside from genetic engineering and the surgical advances of chemical warfare in agriculture, little has changed politically. You might argue that organics have hit mainstream and that young people are returning in volume to the garden ‘notion’ of farming. You might also observe that interesting new technological advances are being wrought for an advanced appropriate technology approach to farming. Though true to varying degrees, these things and more do not negate the underlying societal problems which continue to make of good farming a risky business at best.
Hope you’ll forgive an old man his natural inclination to argue with himself in this fashion. What is italicized is 15 years past, what is not are my arguments of today with self.
Today the simplistic suggestion that profitability eludes the small farmer because he or she is ignorant of “good” business practices fails to give due importance to the crippling (even deadly) maneuvers of monster corporations and their scummy henchman in state and federal government; maneuvers aimed at either robbing the small farmers or placing them at crippling disadvantage in the marketplace so that the power and advantage of big business is protected. It is impossible to deny that some of the most effective small farmers are clever outlaws. They have to be.
With GPS systems, constant government surveillance, and the nastiness of electronic interconnectivity, we have seen over this last decade and a half the steady diminishing of essential human rights – an evolution which plays into the hands of those monster corporations which continue to work to control land, food, and human dignity. We have every reason to fear big brother in his horrid worship of money and power. And, each of us peasants who insist on maintaining a measure of control of our farming, families and closely held existence are a threat to the march of big business and big government. There is a paradox in here somewhere, and methinks it rests with the observations that mankind could destroy the earth or save her. But to save her requires curtailing industrial excess, lessening the human footprint, and criminalizing overt acts of arrogance. I will always believe that individuals on the land practicing the best farming methods point the way forward to saving the earth. But…
Farming has suffered a cruel structure for eons. A cruel structure not of the haves and have nots but rather of those who create and those who rob. For to plant a handful of seed and care for the resulting plants, to care for the soil and to harvest a miraculous tenfold production is to truly create. Whereas to control and seize that produce or that capability by edict (taxation and jurisprudence) and to award the same to huge sterile entities who provide only token recompense (if that) is to rob.
Pope Francis is dangerously accurate in his suggestions that governance has wed itself to profits at all costs, and that the world worships money now at its peril. Speaking and acting in these ways he places himself within the camp of the world’s small holders, of the landed innocents, of the working workers, of the parents, of the small farmers forced to poach from their own fields in order to feed themselves. ‘Our father in heaven give us this day our daily bread…?’
For the dead and destroyed family farmers who gave themselves to farming how dare we suggest that the sole reason for their demise was either market realities or poor “business administration?” If a syndicate, consortium, bank or corporation chooses to back out of a contractual purchase agreement or production credit arrangement (without just cause) the family farmer is left helpless and flapping raw and bleeding in the wind, death be the reward. If that same farmer were to attempt to back out of same contract (with just cause) the store-bought judicial system would, in behest of ‘business’, destroy same farmer. North America is permanently stained by the blood and guts of thousands of independent, intelligent, hard working farmers who were excellent managers, ‘team players’, and business management course graduates. They died and their farms died because they believed in governmental representation, their business partners, the market place, fair play, justice, laws against usury, and their country. They were cheated. They stood on their porches in a combination of faith and disbelief while Monsanto, Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, Clinton, two Bushes, and an Obama allowed them to be (in essence and actuality) executed.
We watch today’s carnival of presidential hopefuls and lament that there is NO one of intelligence, capability, vision, passion, conviction, courage and justice offering to lead. We lament that the very concept of leadership, as it has morphed to be nothing more than a token position over results-driven board management, is laughable at best. Justice belonging as it does to those with the most to lose, freedom as a notion – as in the freedom to farm – simply no longer exists (not out in the open). For us to be free to farm we must first find ways to insist on the right of justice for all.
“Before being free, it is necessary to be just.” Alexander von Humboldt
Political movements are about gathering up power, about wrestling power from the adversary. They may begin centered on an altruistic idea or notion of some thing or things which are felt to need correcting but they evolve out of necessity into the next level of “affecting” change and move rapidly to the gathering up of power. Individuality is death to political movement though it be the sauce of any movement’s birth.
We teach our children, or used to, that what is logical is right – and what is right is just and vice versa. But have adults ever truly believed these things themselves? “Don’t do what I do, do what I say.”
Last time we looked in that special place we look to, logic was subject to context and interpretation and had no direct fertilizing value.
Our living planet exists in a swirl of intangibles defying our attempts to understand all of its workings. Yet, the human species in its modern form has devolved to the point where it has bought into the big business notion that ‘returns on investment’ come only from tangibles, only from things we can know, understand, drill for and mine.
The concepts of business finance ala Dun & Bradstreet or extension MBA courses have less than no value for the farmer who worships his work and fertility. Because those plastic concepts scream out “there is no Return on Investment from Worship!”
There is a universal math and our living planet lives or dies by that math. The base equation for that universal math has it that all things, to continue, must be in a balance born of constant flux and tied to undeniable (and unfathomable) molecular patterns of life and death. And worshipfulness fuels fertility, fuels work and fuels gratitude.
Success IS desirable. Money is one medium of exchange. Having plenty of money (or medium of exchange) to pay the bills and build on the future of a farm is a darn good thing. Making a tremendous profit (so long as no one else suffers) is a worthy goal. Any one who says otherwise says otherwise, and ought to be made to pay for their own meals. Socialism is the corporate ethic modified only slightly to apply to poor people with the single goal of keeping them quiet and off the streets.
Here I take issue with myself, and offer to continue to pay for my own meals. Tremendous profit, no matter the trail, is NOT a worthy goal. It is a road to internal strife and unhappiness. It becomes the prayer robe of the arrogant, as in ‘with this money I can now save the world from itself, I can right wrongs and make dreams come true’. What can a small farmer do with unlimited monetary wealth that wouldn’t tear at his or her motivations and gratitudes? For that matter what small farmer can hold fast to his or her values if time was always in plentiful supply? Pockets brimming with coin we don the cap of disdain and follow our own hollow footsteps to meddlesome fatigue.
Money is a consequence. Time is a carousel.
Oh and by the way, Birkenstocks are out. I read where the new Roccoco Marxists will only don footwear made from the skins of windfall fruit!
“The apple, if you skin it does it not turn brown, the pomegranite does it not peek out at you, the grape does it not weep. How darenst you not see the interrupted life in such scenes?” Boswell Adroit
The preposterous idea, that the American landscape is wasted on farming and has some higher use as a natural resource and development base… should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the development of that spurious so-called scientific discipline “agricultural economics”. A discipline which continues to trip over itself in its ludicrous and sinister efforts to justify the ugly march of monstrous corporate entities into the realm of food production and rural development(?). Ag economists are no fun at parties either.
“How many ag economists does it take to harvest a 5 acre field of pumpkins? Now that’s a silly question, You might as well ask how many vegetarians does it take to eat a 16 ounce Porterhouse steak?” Boswell Adroit
The notion that we’ll all be better off when Unilever and Monsanto produce our food, stinking cheap, in India, Botswana, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and China then ship it to their own processing plants and supermarkets in the U.S. where the price must go up considerably… to reflect a proper return on investment to offset the research and development costs (much of which our Gov’t. funded through corporate welfare). Doesn’t that sound like something pharmaceutical in nature, I mean aren’t we fed the same line about the cost of our prescription drugs? But the ag economists rush to counter that the prices will be determined by competition in the marketplace. Ha! What competition? Unilever owns Monsanto which owns Unilever which owns Cargill which owns Monsanto which owns Dow Chemical which owns Unilever which owns Cargill… Check it out, the major stock holders and subsidiary relationships and board member affiliations have most of the major food and chemical corporations washing each other’s underwear! Competition! Ha!
The planet earth is a living entity. All of its elements including its geology, hydrology, and biology constitute an interconnected web of myriad factors and forces which have for millions of years balanced themselves in vitality and existence. To our collective knowledge no entity or force has been able to throw the planet off its balance except for modern man. There are those of us who work the land and feel the humbling effects of nature’s force who know that this grand and wonderful planet will take the demise of the human race as a small challenge. For me to continue to say that we small farmers can save the world is arrogant shorthand for the truth. What I should be saying is that the ways of we small farmers, as with the ways of honey bees, butterflies, elephants, dolphins and snails, might reasonably allow the continuation of nature’s harmonic balance. Might I suggest in closing that we need to step up the tempo of our struggle with others of our species by making of ourselves the brightest, strongest and most elegant of examples. LRM