First, read this article about a recent speech made by Delegate Todd Gilbert in Woodstock, Va., to a Farm Bureau Young Farmers’ Summer Expo.
Now you know why I was impelled to rant about this latest example of a divisive political strategy designed to create a wedge between an elusive underdog farmer and an indefinable elite. The reference to the “wine and cheese” crowd was interesting too. I am pretty sure that the ones drinking local wine and eating local cheese know very well that the local growers and producers — the small farmers who till most of the farmland in this state — are not the ones polluting their own land and water.
My first reaction to Delegate Gilbert’s specious argument was to wonder exactly which farmers he felt were threatened by any attempt to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. Certainly not the farmers I know who use the waters that flow into the bay for their irrigation and for their own drinking water. Certainly not all of the young farmers I know who are working so hard to make a living without subsidies and without chemicals. And certainly not the small farmers who cannot afford to use chemicals beyond what it takes to get a plant up and growing — not after the fruit or vegetable appears.
So I wonder which farmers would be threatened? I am guessing that it would be the farmers whose farms are so large that they can afford to use chemicals, farmers who do not live on or raise their own families on the land they destroy, and farmers who are not using or drinking the water they pollute with their chemical-based farming methods. And I am also guessing that the people who own those farms aren’t farmers at all.
We are never going to solve any of the problems we face if we let our so-called leaders pit us against each other in order to advance their own agendas. Somewhere along the way in recent years we have forsaken the Preamble to our own Constitution — where the common good was touted as the reason for founding a new government in the first place.
At least Delegate Gilbert was rebutted, however, by another delegate who obviously represents small farmers in Henrico who are more like those that you and I know. Delegate A. Donald McEachin accuses Delegate Gilbert of “doing his best to create misplaced fear with false accusations.” McEachin contends that “cleaning up the bay will protect farmers by ensuring they have a clean water source for their crops”. It helped me feel better about losing my mind again to know that someone out there actually agrees with me!
Then I read the coda — the New York Times Sunday editorial about the possible loss of one of the oldest farms in America. The short piece deals with the death of the Tuttle Farm in Dover, N.H., and the letter the Tuttles posted on their website announcing their decision to stop farming. According to the Times:
What killed it was the economic structure of food production. 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 the local communities, the result would have been different. In 1632, and for many years after, the Tuttle farm was a necessity. In 2010, it is suddenly superfluous, or so we like to pretend.
So here we stand in our local communities, working hard to help save our own small farms and having to deal with politicians who want to drive another wedge between two groups who in reality share a common goal — and we aren’t pretending. Remember that the farms that benefit from the absence of regulations and those that continue to pollute our land and water are the big commercial farms, that “industrial scale agriculture.”
Supporting your local food production chain — which includes our entrepreneurs and chefs who are committed to locally sourcing their products — demonstrates better than any words that we know the real story. We know better than to believe that we cannot save our planet and the small farmer at the same time.
See you at the market!