I see a lot of memes floating around the internet along the theme: Thank a Farmer. It’s feel good kind of stuff. The motif is, Hey, farmers work really hard to feed you, so you should be grateful to them. But I want to inform you, you should carefully consider the kinds of farmers you thank. Some of them have your interest and Earth’s interest no more in mind than do Alberta’s tar sands developers.
Farming is hard work, and I say that from long experience. I’ve been growing, hunting and foraging my family’s food literally as far back as I can remember, except for a brief stint in college and grad school when I lived in a small city. But some farmers are doing it because they love it, and some farmers are doing it because it’s business, and some farmers do not care how they turn a profit. There are, sadly, more of the last than you might imagine, too.
See, over the last couple months I’ve been very involved with some farming advocacy causes. The reason is simple: Nova Scotia’s crooked Minister of Agriculture, Keith Colwell, is a firm believer that corporate farming, mega-farming, and big business battery/GMO farming are the way of the future. He believes in it so much that he is trying to ban, bit by bit, small farming in the province of Nova Scotia. He claims it’s for food safety, but the real reason is simple: Nova Scotia government through its history has always catered to big business interests. Look at the Northern Pulp Mill in Pictou County, which emits as much as 10,000 times over the UN limits on carcinogenic particulate matter but which our government has refused to mandate they clean up or shut down. Look at Nova Scotia’s history of mining: the Sydney tar ponds which had to be cleaned up at the tax payers’ expense. Colwell seems more hellbent than most of our fool politicians on phasing out small farming in the province through abuse of the archaic Natural Products Act (anyone else smell a kickback?). Colwell has absolutely refused to speak with any constituent or knowledgeable person about his actions and their ramifications, too. For over a month, I have sought among thousands of concerned people for confirmation of a meaningful communication by Colwell, yet not one single person has confirmed receiving any more than meaningless Trust us, we’re really nice replies.
As I’ve been in contact with farming groups throughout the Maritimes about preserving their traditional ways of life and the consumer’s right to choose wholesome food, you would not believe the amount of hate mail and venom that come in reply from mega-farmers and those invested in the food monopolies Colwell supports. Oh, it’s not the majority of those group members. Most of those members are either supportive, concerned or just want to live in peace without this new government drama. But within each of these groups is a certain and constant subset that will screech endlessly that GMO is harmless, burning the topsoil with fuel-based fertilizers is okay, turning over food to mega-corporate/big business farms is a wise choice, and consumers are not smart enough to make their own choices regarding where their food comes from. The worst of these groups has been based on FaceBook called Farming In the Maritimes, which is a hub for several thousand persons with agricultural interests around the Canadian Maritime provinces. While it has many progressive thinkers, its moderators seem to want numbers and are as happy to entertain the worst of battery/GMO farming as they are responsible/ethical farmers.
I’ve been told, Why can’t you just peacefully accept the other side (you know, the GMO/mega-livestock kinds of operations). The reasons are simple. The most important reason is what they do is vicious to the land and to the wildlife and it makes people sick. (Did you know that farmers who engage in GMO/chemical/battery farming suffer markedly higher incidents of poor health?). But the other reason is as important: Because that side wants to hide the GMO products in your food (look at Monsanto’s current lawsuits against Vermont and Hawaii to force them not to label GMOs despite voter resolutions), force conscientious farming out of existence (the NS Turkey Board’s ban on private small farm turkey husbandry despite regulations stating small farms can sell up to 25 out of gate), and create monopolies to force consumers to shop from them (did you know there are plans to shut down your access to many foods available in farmers’ markets?). You can’t make peace with persons who operate like that, or who think that sort of thing is okay. Somewhere, you have to draw a line.
So, the next time you are contemplating thanking a farmer, take a moment to be a little more specific. Thank an organic farmer, a permaculture farmer, a free range farmer, a small farmer. Thank the people who are doing their best to get good and real food to you, because increasingly they are having to fight for your right to choose it.