Why do we need, “we” meaning our society, my memoir “Muckville: Farm Policy, Media and the Strange Oddities of Semi-Rural Life” to be published and widely disseminated?
Allow me to introduce you to this young lady who back in 2008 testified before the Santa Cruz City Council on May 13, 2008. Much of her testimony focused on agriculture.
Please watch her testimony now. It’s only 2:35 long:
You’re laughing … I know. Stop laughing, or at least reduce it to a giggle please.
You see, if my book isn’t published and doesn’t become widely available how will people like her learn about the onion trees that I grow my crop on?
You’re laughing … I’m laughing … sort of … yes, this young woman might be equal parts drug influenced and a level of stupid of epic proportions but believe it or not … she is not unique.
Did you notice one person clapped at the end of her presentation? Did you notice you could see not one person on the floor laughing in hysterics at the end of her presentation? Yes, some, probably most, were just being courteous and nice, but I would bet not everyone was simply being courteous and nice.
I would bet there were others in the room that believed land is free and vegetables grow on trees.
As I said, she is not unique. I have come across via the internet, and in person mind you, many many many many many many many many many many many people that rival her in regards to her utter and complete lack of understanding of farming practices and our production realities. There are people that sincerely believe fresh produce is simply produced in the back room of the grocery store, the place the men and women that wear the aprons that scurry back and forth from, rolling the fresh produce out on those carts to put on the store shelf. It’s produced by magic, you know.
You see, we as a society are so far removed from farming we have lost much of our basic understanding and perspective regarding the simple facts as to how food is grown and the overall importance and impacts of farming in general.
The following is an excerpt from Muckville that discusses this:
Farming is one of the oldest, yet it is now one of the most unique professions in this country. Currently, though representing a mere 1.2% of the overall GDP for the U.S. economy agriculture represents roughly 9.2% of U. S. exports. Roughly .7% of the labor force is employed in farming, forestry and fishing and it is estimated that roughly only 2% of the U. S. population is involved in farming on some level. If you add processors, outlets and related industries the number increases to 15%. But, only 2% to 3% are really only directly employed or work on a farm. That means that every on-farm job helps create 5 – 7 related industry jobs. That is a pretty impressive positive economic impact.
Of course, in some states agriculture is one of, if not the most important industry. This includes, surprising to some, New York State, where agriculture, outside of New York City, is one of the largest and most important industries in the state. But, times have changed. In Orange County where we live, agriculture is still the #1 industry, and its economic impacts are still very important on a local and state basis.
Even as recently as 1955 between 10% to 15% of American workers worked in agriculture. Today there are roughly 3.3 million U.S. farm operators but those farms produce enough food that U.S. consumers each year spend about a half trillion dollars on various food products that are produced on U.S. farms. What we don’t always understand is that we in the U. S. have one of the world’s cheapest food supplies. U. S. consumers spend just 10% of their disposable income each year to pay their food bill. For comparison that figure in France is 15%, China 33% and the Philippines it’s 37%. But for every dollar spent on food the farmer receives about 16% of it. The average age of a U.S. farmer is 57 years old. And today each American farmer produces enough food/fiber to feed 154 people in the U.S. and abroad. These are just some of the facts folks.
If you look at the figures above, that $0.16 of the food dollar that the farmer receives generates $0.80 to $1.12 in related businesses. To put this into perspective, one of the arguments for bailing out General Motors was that its demise would have a negative ripple effect across support businesses that would be as large as the funds invested in GM. Agriculture has much less control over its own destiny than the auto industry. And its ripple effect is much greater.
What does this all mean? Our nation’s history and roots are inextricably tied into farming. Farming is still a major part of our economy, including being a key part of our export economy, and everyone has to eat. Yet, it is an industry and vocation that few people today have a direct connection to. Nor do they have a good grasp of in terms of the sophisticated, multi-faceted production, marketing and economic realities surrounding it.
(end of excerpt … back to blog)
That’s one aspect of Muckville … informing people about the production realities associated with farming. But that’s only half of what Muckville is about. Muckville is also about informing people, educating people about what is involved in formulating smart public policy. Much of Muckville is all about the sorts of things Eve and I did to bring about positive changes, from the grassroots level, to laws, regulations and general public policies connected to farming.
Why is this important, or, more importantly, important to you?
First, if people like Eve and I and other farmers don’t do it, don’t work hard to bring our voices to the table in terms of formulating sound public policy positions on various farm related issues, well, more clueless people will fill that void and do it for us.
People like our friend who testified before the Santa Cruz City Council. Sad reality, I would actually count her as a “friend” of farmers. There are people out there, many people out there, who are virtually as disconnected and uninformed as her but are not benign in terms of their positions. They are not friends of farmers and they stake out positions, or are simply manipulated by people who are not as clueless, to back positions and policies extremely harmful to our industry.
This affects you, because you eat, daily (or at least you are supposed to) and I firmly believe maintaining a healthy domestic farming industry is not just wise public policy, it’s a matter of national security.
The second reason why Muckville should be important to you is that what I detail in the book you can use as a roadmap in terms of working on any issue of importance locally to you. In other words, what we did you can do. I spell it all out.
So, Muckville is about informing, educating and entertaining … it provides a great deal “behind the scenes” details as to how one can influence public policy. It enables you to make better choices in terms of supporting to backing various issues or positions connected with agriculture.
Please, back my Kickstarter campaign. Spread the word to your friends. Help me to be able to afford an editor, to get this work polished and get it to a willing and eager publisher.
Or face the potential consequence … a loss of farms and the eventual eradication in this country of all vegetable trees. When all the onion trees disappear how will you be able to enjoy local onions?
Just think about that.