Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Locavores (and Wannabes) - Get Familiar with the Farm Bill

I'm a little behind in reporting this, but I just discovered it. On March 1 there was an op-ed piece in the NY Times written by a small organic vegetable farmer from Minnesota, Jack Hedin, titled My Forbidden Fruits (and Vegetables). Please, take a minute and read this articulate and concise letter (then come back here!).

Seems he needed more land to grow his organic fruits and veggies on to help keep up with the increasing demands for locally grown produce. He rented an additional 25 acres (to supplement his 100 acres) from two neighboring federally subsidized farms that normally grow corn. 

When the powers that be found out that fruits and vegetables were being grown on the land instead of corn, the owners of the land were penalized. Their subsidation for those 25 acres was taken away and they were penalized the amount of money that the crop brought in. Mr. Hedin, ended up owing the 2 landlords over $8,000 to pay for the fines!

If corn had been grown on the land, there wouldn't have been a problem. But here's the kicker, if NOTHING had been grown on the land, there wouldn't have been a problem either. It's outrageous.

The piece goes on to explain how the a certain part of  the Farm Bill  protects the big fruit and vegetable growers in CA and FL who throw money at those who create the Farm Bill. It's a jaw dropping, eye opening, powerful read. 

I'm going to be writing to my representatives in Congress and ask them to please read this op-ed piece and fix the farm bill so that it doesn't penalize small farmers for providing their communities with exactly what they want - healthy, locally grown food for their families.

For a sample letter that you can send to Congress, see this from the Crunchy Chicken blog.

I know many of you are as excited as I am about the farmer's markets opening soon. If you want to keep the farms that sell at these markets in business, if you want them to be able to sell their produce at a price you can afford, if you want to make sure that your food doesn't travel 100's or even 1000's of miles before it hits your table, please take a minute and write your representatives.

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Allison said...

Can we take this a step further and avoid buying from the large corporations that support this system?

Robin Shreeves said...

Allison -

Sure, if we were committed to being a true locavore. But any time you buy a bag of frozen corn or a package of California strawberries or a container of Florida OJ, I think we're supporting these large corporations.

Honestly, I just don't see how I could be a completely committed locavore. It would take up my whole life.

Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle really brought the importance of eating locally to my attention, but it also brought to my attention the intense time and life commitment that way of life requires.

But, I'll do my best. It will be much easier in few weeks and through early fall when there is plenty of local food to choose from.

And, I'm going to continue to try to educate myself about the problem and as I learn more, I'll pass it along.