From KATHERINE DALTON
Front Porch Republic
[…] The word “farming” means something, and its meaning is not “gardening,” and it’s not “puttering,” and it’s not “edible landscaping.” As small farm advocate Mary Berry Smith likes to emphasize, farming must mean (among many other obvious things, like real work) putting equity at risk.
Years ago my friend “Dan,” who has farmed all his life, including running a dairy as a teenager and raising tobacco, took on a second job of selling real estate in order to bring in some extra income. Everybody knows what you’re doing in a small town, and it wasn’t long before some neighbor at the coffee shop twitted him about being a realtor and not a farmer anymore.
It was an unfair remark, but it showed how country people feel about anyone they can accuse of lack of seriousness. To call yourself a farmer without having earned the title is, in this small community at least (and I suspect in many others), not done. My husband and I have made plenty of social mistakes in Henry County, but we have never insulted our neighbors by calling ourselves farmers. We have run cattle, and we have lived on a farm, and my husband has done plenty of tobacco work, calf pulling, and haycutting; but the semantics are important. Rural people don’t appreciate the pretentions of those who want to wear the mantle of Berrylike back-to-the-landedness without sweating for it—physically and financially…
Calling our gardening hobby a “farm” and ourselves “farmers” is a way for us to fool ourselves that we are doing something more socially significant than we are—that we are part of a movement towards national self-sufficiency and greener living. But four tomatoes will not improve your global footprint very much, and a few square feet of vegetables will hardly feed one person even in July. You who grow a large garden are probably not feeding more than your own family, and if that garden requires real work and earns your neighbors’ respect (and mine), it is still not a farm. Calling it one encourages us to imagine that we aren’t terribly short of farmers after all–when we are, and when we should be doing something about it…
I hate to say this, because I sound like the Vogue editor I heard on the radio in 2008, who like our former president believed we had a moral obligation to shop our way out of recession, but you will do more for American farming by patronizing your local farmers’ market regularly than by any personal effort at “urban farming.” My comfort is that many patio tomato growers know this perfectly well…
Complete article here
[A commenter to the original post counters… What do you think? -DS]
This is the dumbest essay ever posted on FPR. Apparently if I mortgage my grandchildren up to their heads I can start “farming” hundreds of acres of the same two crops every year, operating factory-like machines that will be obsolete just as soon as gas hits $6 per gallon. Then I can be a farmer. Of course, when gas does hit $6 per gallon, I won’t be “farming” for long.
What about that rich history of small family farms that operated more for self-sufficiency than for the marketplace? Were they farmers? I guess since they were not being patronized at the farmer’s market they don’t count. Especially since many of them did a whole variety of work in addition to working their farms, they just don’t deserve the title. Who did they think they are, calling themselves farmers, when they sometimes picked up jobs for extra income? How many days per week were they getting dirty? That’s what I want to know!
In any event, yes, let us discourage people from becoming increasingly self-sufficient. Because, as everyone knows, if you can’t transition yourself into full-fledged farming overnight then you shouldn’t bother. Just buy the stuff at the store, stupid, for that is the patriotic way.
This country is going to need a lot more farmers in the future. Current agricultural practices exercised by mainstream “farmers” are untenable. To even bother trying to distinguish between what counts as “true farming” is a tragic distraction from the core issue: we need more people working in agriculture, period.
Next time instead of writing this crap just go outside and plant something. Call yourself whatever the hell you want. You won’t hear two peeps out of me. ~Tom