Articles by Jim Goodman
Jim Goodman, a farmer in Wonewoc, Wisc., was a 2008-2009 Kellogg Foundation Food & Society Policy Fellow.
Bigger is always better, isn’t it? Big cars, big houses, big businesses, big farms. If you were big, you made more money. Clearly, that is the way of the world. When Europeans colonized the Americas, they wanted more land — not some of it; all of it. Napoleon wanted more land. Nothing stopped him until […]
We often think that farmers markets are products of our times as they spring up in cities and small towns across the country. Truth is, a farmers market is the traditional way of selling agricultural produce around the world.
The really nice aspect of this transaction is that the farmer receives just compensation for his product and the eater can be assured the product is fresh, local, and grown in a manner that is acceptable to all. If these criteria are not met, the consumer can look for another farmer whose products better suit his or her needs.
After the industrialization of agriculture, farmers still sold at farmers markets, but it was just a matter of time before supermarkets were developed and farmers started selling to large companies that moved food all over the world; many Americans stopped planting gardens because it was so much easier to get "everything" at the store.
We certainly have gained something through the globalized food system: more variety, foods we cannot grow in cold climates, and, of course, cheap food that is mass-produced by underpaid farmers and farm workers. Some good news, some bad. I certainly like coffee and chocolate, but I want to know the growers and workers were paid fair wages and that the crops were grown in an environmentally-responsible manner. I would like to be sure all the food I need to buy meets those same standards, whether imported or locally grown.
We are, for better or worse, part of the land we live on. We can choose to extract as much as possible from the earth around us, the "Manifest Destiny" (or nature's in my way) line of thinking. Or we can take as little as necessary and leave as small a trace as possible, the "Seventh Generation" concept of the Native American peoples. If farming well were easy and profitable, everyone would be doing it. Farming is never easy, no matter how you go about it, but at least when we farm with nature it's not a 24/7 battle.
Everyone should take some interest in what they eat and how it is grown. Mostly people think about the price of food, and that is important (unless they make plenty of money, and then it doesn't really matter; they can buy whatever they want). The poor often have little choice: they buy what is available and what they can afford -- and lately they can't afford to buy much. Studies show that given the choice, low-income people would choose to buy fresh, locally grown food, but they seldom have that choice.