Draft: new printable flyer, "An appeal to American farmers"

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Here is the draft text for a proposed new printable flyer. Comments solicited (either in the forum or in private email). This is the "Oklahoma version", the final will include a more generic version that could be customized for various locales.


WE REMEMBER. . . The taste of freshly harvested produce. . . Grandma's creek jelly made from wild plums growing along Deep Red Creek and other such places. . . the aroma of freshly baked bread. . . displays of home preserved vegetables, pickles, jellies and jams at the county fair. . . the taste of a flaky pie crust that can hardly be found these days. . . fruit and vegetable stands alongside the road and in parking lots in cities and towns. . .

WE REMEMBER. . . When farmers brought their products directly to cities to sell to stores and customers. . . . When you went to the ice plant to get meat from your locker that was raised and butchered right there in the county. . . When eggs were bought directly from farmers and the chickens who laid them ran free, rather than spending their entire lives in a tiny wire cage. . .

WE REMEMBER When farmers often planted a few acres of black-eyed peas (or other crops) for anybody to come and pick. . . When Americans ate fresh produce grown around their towns, rather than shipped in from Chile and Mexico. . . When the family farmer wasn't an endangered species. . . When "going to market" was a special day. . . And when poor people in third world countries didn't go hungry because their food was being shipping to the North American market.

WE REMEMBER The days before corporations took control of the food processing and distribution chain. . . the many avoidable tragedies and political decisions that are contributing to the decline of the family farmer and the overbearing power of agricultural corporations. . .

OUR CHILDREN KNOW NOTHING OF THESE THINGS. They think food naturally occurs in plastic shrink-wrapped trays. They don't know the full and rich taste of a freshly harvested tomato. They don't realize the risks of their parents' abandonment of the family farmer in a short-sighted unconditional surrender to the agribusiness corporations.

CHOOSE LIFE? OR CHOOSE DEATH? Many years ago, the children of Israel stood before Moses, and he invited them to choose between life and death. Do not we, the American people, stand before such a choice today? Shall we go down the path of genetically modified factory foods grown by indentured servants and then processed and distributed through a brittle and unsafe just in time inventory system by a tiny handful of transnational agricultural corporations? Should the family farm be sold for a mess of pottage, our birthrights handed over to soul-less corporations? Should the family farmer become the indentured servant of agribusiness corporations and their New York stockholders? Should we continue to starve children in Third World countries so that we can import their produce to North America?

IF YOU ALWAYS DO WHAT YOU ALWAYS DO, YOU WILL ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU ALWAYS GET. The American farmer and the American consumer have been sold a bill of goods about food and agriculture. The primary beneficiaries are the stockholders of giant corporations and the politicians, not the consumer and certainly without a doubt not the farmer. The average age of the family farmer these days is in the high 50s. If we continue on this path, the last generation of family farmers has been born.

AGRIBUSINESS CORPORATIONS ARE LYING TO FARMERS AND CONSUMERS Big corporations have paid a lot of money to convince most consumers and farmers that the time is past to do anything different. But shouldn't we take their advertising with a healthy dose of skepticism? We don't have to do what Cargill, Monsanto, Chiquita and Del Monte demand of us. We can do something different. Here's a thought: Bring your products to the cities and sell them directly to consumers. Join together with your neighbors to develop your own small-scale processing systems and brands for marketing in your region. Us city folks spend billions of dollars each year on food  but when we pay $1.75 for a loaf of balloon bread in a plastic wrapper in the grocery store, you the family farmer receive about a penny of the purchase price. We've heard the wrapper costs more than the wheat.

WE START SMALL OR WE DON'T START AT ALL! Every parking lot in a city is a potential site for a farmer's market. Get together with your neighbors and look for new places to sell your products  directly to stores and directly to consumers in parking lots. (Churches will often be receptive to Saturday markets in their parking lots.) If you farm hundreds of acres, can't you find one or two or maybe even five or ten or 20 acres to experiment with growing and selling fresh produce to sell directly to us city folks? (Maybe you could partner with others in your area to do this.) Grind wheat and sell the flour to consumers! Bring your beans and peas to the city! (Oklahoma City hasn't seen a decent fresh black-eyed pea all summer long.) Market your products directly to eaters in the city! We are hungry! We have money to spend! Isn't our money as green as the corporations? Don't we deserve to eat good food directly from the farm, and also have the knowledge that our money has gone to preserve the family farmer, not destroy him?

YEAR 2000 CRISIS In these last days of the 20th century, there appears a new threat to the nation's food supply: the Year 2000 crisis, also known as "Y2K" or the "millennium bug." Representatives of the agribusiness industry have testified before Congress. They claim "Everything is OK," even though at any given time, there are only 3 days food in grocery stores, about a week in local warehouses, and 60 days in the food processing pipeline. After that, we are down to the contents of your granaries and storage bins, and livestock on the hoof. The food processing industry clearly doesn't like the idea of Americans stocking up on food  they have fine tuned their "just in time" inventory process, and any uptick in demand throws their schedules out of whack. We'd like you to notice that if consumer demand for food products in the last months of 1999 outstrips the ability of the corporations' food processing industry to supply products, this creates a golden opportunity for you to bring your food products directly to cities to sell to consumers. You wouldn't believe the prices that your $2.00/bushel wheat is bringing in cities, when packaged in plastic buckets. I am ashamed to tell you.

As with any marketplace, the possibilities are many: conventional farmers markets and flea markets, roadside stands, selling shares of your produce crop in advance to consumers in the city, "U-pick" operations, partnerships with your employees or people from cities (you provide the land, split the costs and labor), the wholesale market (restaurants in particular), specialty crops, and many kinds of value-added processing (southern smoked and salt- cured hams come immediately to mind, an interesting use for that crop of mesquite trees and a better use than selling them to a big company somewhere, you could probably market them in advance to urban consumers, which lessens your risk and supplies operating capital), organic produce (which usually sells for a premium, as do free-range chickens and eggs), organic grains and beans, and so on.

Direct marketing to consumers and stores by farmers and local cooperatives, coupled with a return to farming practices that don't indenture farmers to giant corporations, may be the most radical  but they are the most necessary  responses to the rapidly deteriorating situation of the American family farm. As with most seemingly intractable problems, the solution promising the preservation of the family farmer stares us in the face, it is right underneath our noses. It isn't located in Washington, D.C. nor can it be found in the boardrooms of giant corporations or the laboratories of land grant universities. To these people, farmers are a resource to be exploited, harnessed, and consolidated into their finely tuned just-in-time inventory factory food system. But like the Kingdom of God, the true and sustainable solutions are found within our own hearts and lives, in community with our neighbors, manifested in the decisions we make about the big and little things of life.

"My experience tells me that, instead of bothering about how the whole world may live in the right manner, we should think how we ourselves may do so. We do not even know whether the world lives in the right manner or in a wrong manner. If, however, we live in the right manner, we shall feel that others also do the same, or shall discover a way of persuading them to do so. Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as cooperation with good. Real peace will come, not by the acquisition of authority by a few, but by the acquisition of the capacity by all to resist authority when it is abused." -- Mahatma Gandhi

If you are an Oklahoma farmer and are interested in selling your Oklahoma grown and processed food products at new farmers' markets opening in the summer of 2000 in the Oklahoma City area, please call us at 405-557-0436.

-- robert waldrop (rmwj@soonernet.com), September 05, 1999


Great idea, Robert, I'll talk to my state urban forestry friends at the Oklahoma Dept. of Agriculture and we'll get them to do the printing and mailing. On a serious historical note, the late 30's conservation movement in our country was ended after WWII when unneeded ammunition plants were converted to fertilizer plants. This assured gigantic profits (biggest business in world?) for the chemical plants and took the profits away from the farms and into the city factories. Hence the ruinous rural depopulation.

Sand Mueller, urban forestry council member, Candian, OK.

-- Sand Mueller (smueller@azalea.net), September 05, 1999.

Hello Robert! My sweetie and I live on a farm/ranch ab out 90 miles SW of OKC. We raise and sell chemical-free beef; no antibiotics,steroids,or hormones of any type. We test- marketed one animal by getting the processing done,vacuum- packaged(this is a GREAT improvement over the old days), and frozen...then sold by the piece. It is clearly too much trouble,takes too much time and freezer space. Therefore we have decided to sell only by the half-preferably in advance. For instance, we are going to have 10 animals ready in late October this year. We have pre-sold 6 already and have 4 more to sell(have been taking 50.00 deposits to hold each persons order). Our price is $1.89 per pound hanging carcass weight. Our processor also ages the beef for at least 12-14 days for extra tenderness. The price includes processing and freezing. We mostly grass finish our animals, but may use some grain at the end month, depending on the forage available. People have raved about our beef, saying it is the best they have ever had. I have a job in town, and sweetie does all the hard work here - so neither one of us has had the time to really figure out a marketing plan; that is the typical farmer/rancher's weakest point,i.e.figuring out how to market what they can produce. There is a small farmer's market in Lawton,OK but they do not have(I'm pretty sure) electrical outlets that could be used for a freezer. If they did, might take a chance on processing one or more steers and selling by the piece at a farmer's market to see how it would go. What do you think?? Is your e-mail real? I could send you one of our brochures:"Beaver Creek Farm's Naturally Better Beef" I always enjoy your posts and was glad to see that you are in OKC.

-- jeanne (jeanne@hurry.now), September 05, 1999.

-- jeanne (jeanne@hurry.now), September 05, 1999.

Well these are two really great responses! Yes, my email is real, and it looks like I have the first entry for whatever it is that we are putting together here locally in Oklahoma in terms of a "Local Food Circle". How much do you figure a half weighs, and what do you typically get from it? If you need a postal address, send me some private email and I will send it back to you.

Sand, that is a really interesting piece of historical info about the conversion of ammunition plants into fertilizer factories.

Any ideas if there is an in-state archive of government ag publications from the 1940s? I'm thinking its likely that there are some old pamphlets about making "Producer Gas" to power farm vehicles, that would date from the World War II period. Maybe at OSU?

And is it really possible that you could come up with some funding to help get this "appeal" around? I've run it past some farmers, some say it's crazy, others say "it'll work." I've also had some comment that may be from agribusiness interests which was almost hostile.

When I was in Kansas City, the U of Missouri/Columbia Dept of Rural Sociology was in partnership with some niche in the USDA and they had a couple of full-time workers giving seminars in the Kansas City area on marketing produce and farm products to restaurants, plus encouraging the kinds of direct marketing relationships I am talking about in this flyer. The Sierra Club also had a seminar on the subject, and a little market fair where producers could meet potential customers.

-- robert waldrop (rmwj@soonernet.com), September 05, 1999.



You are doing good work, sir. Your other leaflets are ready for distribution post rollover (we know the chances of them listening today).

I fervently hope your vision of the future is close to the end reality.

-- Jon Williamson (pssomerville@sprintmail.com), September 05, 1999.


1) try Cornell for the Producer Gas stuff.

2) OR you could try the OTHER OSU (the one that can't seem to beat Meee-sheee-gan in football)

jeanne: a SMALL (500 watt-1kw "vest pocket" RV) generator would run the freezer, as would a 600W inverter and a deep cycle battery.


-- Chuck, a night driver (rienzoo@en.com), September 05, 1999.

Unfortunately, Robert, my comment about the state dept. of agriculture was pretty much in cheek. I do have friends there; but I don't like them very mcuh at all because they are anal retentive as so many entrenched bureaucrats are. State Ag serves and OSU serves agribusiness here. You might try the Kerr Center in Poteau...they do give grants and are our states main sustainable ag resource. what would really be good would be if we could get a list of email addresses of Oklahoma producers. The Ag Dept. should have something like that but I bet they don't or won't.

-- Sand Mueller (smueller@azalea.net), September 05, 1999.

If anyone could figure out a cheap way to preserve meat that could be stored without refrigeration,(freeze dried, irradiated, canned, salt cured, etc.) there would be a big market for this for long term storage. The farmers may as well make the profit. Most people hate to pay $1.69 for 8 oz of spam or $9.00 for 3 pounds of canned ham but there are not many other choices. 5 pound containers of ham, roast beef, steak, pork, chickens etc. would sell well if they could sell for under $2 per pound. Even canned potatoes sell for rediculous prices that are 10 times the price of fresh potatoes.

-- Tom (Tom@notstupid.gom), September 06, 1999.

There have ben resurrections of the farmer's markets around here and they are a big hit. There are also roadside stands etc. where you can get good local produce.

Distribution will be the big problem post rollover. Feeding the teeming masses in the cities requires transport, no way around it. I don't think horse drawn carts will fill the bill anymore.

The food can be grown. Getting it there is the question.

-- Forrest Covington (theforrest@mindspring.com), September 06, 1999.

Sand, I thought that one was too good to be true. After I read your post, I went back and re-read the flyer and thought, "It's unlikely the Dept of Ag would fund this," although of course, they should. But I can print 20,000 of these as a broadside (one single sheet of newspaper), with the appeal to farmers on one side, and a yet-to-be-produced "Appeal to Eaters" on the other side. I'm discussing this on about five different lists/forums, and there has been some tremendous response, including several farmers who have weighed in with actual success stories of their own direct marketing efforts.

-- robert waldrop (rmwj@soonernet.com), September 06, 1999.

Forrest, transportation is where the "Carbohydrate Economy" comes into flower (or flour, as the case may be). Diesel vehicles can run on biodiesel (without engine modifications); with a little tinkering, they can run on straight vegetable oil. Gasoline vehicles can be powered by alcohol, and during World War II, many farms operated on "producer gas" made from wood chips.

-- robert waldrop (rmwj@soonernet.com), September 06, 1999.

PS to Sand and the other Okies listening in on this thread. There is an Oklahoma Y2k list out of onelist.com , called Y2kOk. We are having a "meeting" in Oklahoma City next Saturday, 10:30 AM, at the Jeff's Country Kitchen located at NW 23rd and Classen. Please send me private email if you are coming so I know how big a table to get. So far, 2 people have said they were coming (besides me), so we won't be sitting at the counter, hehehe.

-- robert waldrop (rmwj@soonernet.com), September 06, 1999.

Chuck, it a person uses a small generator like that to keep a freezer cold, any estimate as to how many hours per day of generator time will be required? Lindsay Books also has a book on producer gas, a reprint from the 1940s.

Jon, there's something to be said for creating self-fulfilling prophecies of beauty.

Charles, your words are true.

-- robert waldrop (rmwj@soonernet.com), September 06, 1999.

I hope I'm not interrupting. I'm new here and don't quite know the rules, but I just couldn't resist this. We are farmers on the North Dakota - South Dakota state line. My husband's family has farmed in this area for almost 100 years, and we are on the brink of putting the land up for rent to a larger corporation. Veggies on the street corner is good in theory, but as some of you said, transportation and time are a major problem. We have about 2400 acres, with barley, oats, wheat, millet, sunflowers, garbonzo beans, and half of the land is pasture for beef cattle. The whole farm is 100% certified organic. We had more rain than ever before this year and are losing most of our yield to wet ground. Profits are not there - one field as an example had a cost of $3000 for the seed - crop was worth $1500. The family farmer has no choice - we're still ok financially, but not many are. My husband is tired - for the past four years he has seen this coming - and spent hours and hours on the phone trying to work out some way of marketing that would not cost too much money and time. He calls his senators - keeps in touch with the buyers - visits with other growers - does all he knows to do. It's not enough. My personal theory comes from recent history. Ten or 20 years ago Russia owned the land, bought the seed and brand new equipment, and told the farmers to farm. They did at first - but you just don't take care of it if it is not yours. I remember pictures of burned up fields with tractors half-buried in them. My hope is that someone will see (in time) that history repeats itself and will salvage the family farm - people won't work as hard and take care of the land as well as the owner/family farmer. In the meantime, we have bins of barely saleable grain and fields of high-quality beef. We'll be able to take care of family and neighbors, but not make a living! Thanks for letting me vent . . . N.K.

-- nancy klipfel (klipklip@webtv.net), September 06, 1999.

My nephew has a "garden" from which he markets at the "farmer's market" in surrounding towns. There is great demand locally, because the garden grown stuff is ripe when picked, and tastes better.

One problem he faces is that his profit margin is small, so his mother, grandmother, and he have to spend significant time to sell what he grows, of course for no pay. This also limits how far they can drive to sell.

His dad is a dairy farmer, and wonders why he gets such a small cut of the profits of his milk. Is it price controls or a monopoly of the processing companies? When butter was over 4$ a pound, his price actually went down. How can that be explained? This unfortunately forces him to keep expanding and using technology to raise his production just to stay in business. His hours are also horrendous, by normal "full-time" standards today. He loves his cows, though.

In cities with a large population, there are enough people to patronize an organic, natural producer, at greater cost. But here, people just don't earn that much, and the few willing to pay more aren't enough to support organic farming, other than "farmer's market" type stuff, done on a small scale.

Another really big problem is the inheritance tax--it interferes with passing the farms down to the children. Not to mention that the hours are often pretty intense, so many kids get into something easier and more profitable when their parents have to retire or die.

Local farmers are hoping to get a value added ethanol producing industry going locally--bumper crops have failed to give greater income up to now, since the price just drops if they produce more, obviously--how much can people eat once they're full, after all?

There is probably enough food stored on farms (waiting for better prices so they don't have to sell at a loss?) for the US to survive for a year, especially if much of it wasn't fed to cattle (which it currently is). So it seems to me that the problem is almost entirely how to get it to the cities. And the farmers aren't likely to do it--they already have their hands full growing the food in the first place.

-- S. Kohl (kohl@hcpd.com), September 06, 1999.

Thank you 'everybody' for bringing this to the attention of those who simply haven't known. Perhaps if the entertainment industry hadn't been so busy raising funds for the Clinton's legal bills, we might have seen another "Farm Aid" campaign. :)

I question the desire of farmers even wanting to travel near cities in 2000. If TSHTF, we may be relying on NG troops to convoy our products to populated areas. Fuel will be a concern. We don't have the equipment to farm on a larger scale, but have stocked gasoline to offer to those neighbors who do. I believe we will see the return of small community road side vendors, providing people are behaving themselves.

Farmers have become forced to specialize and focus on one product. They can't stand on their own, like they used to. One neighbor grows corn and wheat. One raises cattle. One couple rents out their fields and they both commute to jobs, they simply mow their lawn. They all have electric well pumps and couldn't rinse a sponge if the power went down. Some have generators and fuel stored, some don't. We have a little bit of everything, including additional hand pumps. We can provide each neighbor with goats for milk and meat, chickens, ducks and eggs, we have several producing fruit trees. I have a wood- burning cook stove (with a propane convert). I could provide baked goods in any 'energy loss' condition that we may find ourselves in. In a dire situation, we will be forced to pool our resources and work together. Will the government focus on certain areas to work and produce for the good of all? We have concerns about loosing our 'local' freedom to work and provide for ourselves and our own community.

It is important to be exploring the plight of our family farms with or without Y2K. The stock market, war, natural disasters, or terrorist attacks could put America into this dilemma even if Y2K turned out to be a mere 'bump'. Our country has pushed their independence to a cliff's edge by allowing the destruction of the family farm. You can't eat money people.

Robert did a *wonderful* and much needed job of pointing out the loss of the LIFESTYLE as well. It is dying from a terminal case of the 'me, me, me society' we have become. Most people don't even know where home is anymore. We have become a forest of trees without roots. Thanks robert, I feel better just knowing someone like you is within a few hours drive from us. Best of luck in your crusade! Keep ringing the bell my friend!

-- Will continue (farming@home.com), September 06, 1999.

Hello Tom-Regarding Preserving Meat: I have always kept 2 or 3 freezers full at all times. However, this year I canned most all the garden things that I normally freeze - except broccoli & just a few bags of corn. Both those items are SO much better frozen. Anyway, when the weather cools off I intend to can almost all the meat in my freezer-pork and beef. I already canned almost all the chicken this spring. I will only keep the good steaks in the freezer; all in an attempt to cut down to one mid-size freezer. The OSU extension office in my county has free hand-out pamphlets on canning and one is especially for meats of all types. I already tried some pints of ground beef already seasoned with italian seasoning. I used one pint the other day to make some spagetti sauce and it was fast,easy and tasted great. You get more ground beef than any other cut out of a beef half - so I'll probably try some pre-seasoned for mexican, greek,etc,etc when it gets cooler. My grandma told me that "back in the olden days" when she had no electricity at all and cooked on a wood stove, the extension office would come to your farm and show you how to can your meats - with real cans, not jars. I can only barely imagine how tough that would be-to can an entire beef on a wood stove!! "Good Old Days"? (NOT)

-- jeanne (jeanne@hurry.now), September 06, 1999.

Thanks,Robert Waldrop for your posts. I only want to make one comment and that's about the farmer's markets that I attend locally.(as a consumer) I enjoy them and go to get produce that is tasty,homegrown>hopefully organically, and reasonably priced and to support those who choose to produce food and sell directly. But I have noticed this: if one "farmer" sells tomatoes for say,1.00pr.lb- everyone else who is selling tomatoes sells for 1.00 per lb. So, I usually buy whatever is the best(lowest) price. If one farmer sold tomatoes for $0.99 cents, I'd buy. Where I go, I haven't seen lower prices, either the same or higher. And I notice that these people go home with lots of produce that they eat or use or sell later, whatever. So who benefits from the price fixing? They've set the going rate for tomatoes at $1.00 and the supermarkets sell them at .89. Not saying that supermarkets have better produce or anything, but why spend more at a farmer's market for "better,organically grown, etc" produce ( who really knows unless you know the producer or have bought from them before and had a chance to assess quality for yourself)when they have a fixed price like the chains? Supermarkets have sales sometimes. Anyway, just a comment.

-- Barb (awaltrip@telepath.com), September 06, 1999.

Just wanted to add that consequently, I don't usually buy very much at the local farmer's market. Only if I think I see a quality item and that I can't get a comparative quality and price in the supermarkets.

-- Barb (awaltrip@telepath.com), September 06, 1999.


I can think of two reasons for spending a little more for produce at a farmers market:

1. If we're talking locally grown products, they will almost certainly be superior in taste and nutrition to the (for example) tomato that was picked while green and then gassed so it would turn red and shipped half-way across the world.

2. Abandoning the family farmer has hidden costs.

One solution to the problem of "price fixing" is "more farmers markets". But price fixing is a pretty common feature of modern economies. Gas prices rise and fall within hours of each other at almost all gas stations. And grocery stores have their own weirdnesses. See Better Times Cookbook and Almanac of Useful Information for Poor People for some articles about grocery store marketing tricks and how to avoid them.

-- robert waldrop (rmwj@soonernet.com), September 06, 1999.

On getting food from farms to cities. . .

I have mentioned the "carbohydrate economy" here and there, which as noted above can include making ethanol fuels. Another possibility is biodiesel (made from vegetable oil, lye, and methanol).

If push comes to shove, and farmers are too busy to move their products to market, I expect people in cities to organize buying/trading expeditions to farm country, perhaps utilizing existing networks (such as relationships among churches, or families, or people from the same small town area, e.g. within a few blocks of where I live, there are several people from the same small town I was raised in in SW Oklahoma, all of us have family who are farmers).

This problem also suggests that now is the time to make contacts and develop relationships with farmers.

-- robert waldrop (rmwj@soonernet.com), September 06, 1999.

The main reasons I would buy(as a smaller buyer for a family)are quality and price. The fact that I do not buy much at the local farmer's market is because there has not been an incentive to do so, i.e. price fixing. Kind of says to me that this is the price we want and the quality is all the same. In the marketplace, either one of these absolutes to me mean less interaction, less business. I'm wondering about these attitudes on a small scale.

-- Barb (awaltrip@telepath.com), September 06, 1999.

Barb- the rationale behind "pricefixing" at the farmers market is simple. If we price our lettuce or cukes or whatever the same- we won't have customers just going from stand to stand to see who has it cheapest. Rather, they will buy what looks best to them, or from an attractive stand, or a vendor they like or whatever. This avoids the problems that occur when this is not the case, and one farmer "underprices" the competition- then a price war begins. Not good for the farmers- and most of us are just hanging on anyway. If you buy vegies at the grocery store if they're cheaper, you've missed the point entirely. Local produce is local, fresher, the money goes back into the local economy and supports local farms. the tomatoes at the store could be ten cents/lb cheaper perhaps- but were picked green and hard two weeks ago in Florida or chile or mexico.....

lots of times the grocery stores get major deals on produce- or use it for loss leaders- 89 cents a pint blueberries for instance- no way a farmer can compete with that- and why should they?

I sell free-range eggs as well as produce- and often I'm sold out of eggs before the market officially opens, or 5 minutes after- my prices are very reasonable for the quality- but no way do I feel compelled to compete with the 69 cent a dozen special on eggs or something at the store- two very different products.

The whole issue of agriculture is immense- and not something most non-farmers- who are 98% of the population BTW, think about often.

BTW- what are you willing to pay per pound for potatoes? Think about that. Then- go to the store and check out the perpound cost of your favorite chips- and also french fries. Then, think about it some.....

-- farmer (hillsidefarm@drbs.net), September 06, 1999.

Maybe I should have started a new thread, but below is the draft for the "flip side" of the flyer "Appeal to American Farmers", this one directed at consumers:


Oh the joys of life in the city. . . Where tomatoes taste like mushy water, mostly because they were picked while still green in a foreign country and then gassed so they would turn red. Chances are it is a special hybrid tomato with an extra tough skin so it can be harvested by machines and withstand lots of rough handling while boxed in warehouses. It might even have been genetically modified to produce its own pesticide. Yum! I'll have seconds, you bet. Just what I always wanted, a genetically modified factory processed food product disguised to look like a real vine-ripened tomato. (It works with cheese, doesn't it?)

Oh the joys of life in the city. . . Where we buy a loaf of bread for $1.75, and "generously" give the farmer who grew the wheat and thus made the bread possible One Penny. We pay no attention to the consolidation of the agriculture industry, even though one consequence of "fewer farmers, fewer but larger processing plants, bigger corporations" is a tremendous increase in food recalls and food poisoning due to contamination. Most food consumed in the United States passes through at least 1 of 6 giant transnational corporations, which are rapidly aligning themselves into 2 monopolistic, vertically integrated cartels. Remember what happened to the price of gasoline when the OPEC cartel was organized?

Oh the joys of life in the city. . . Where we studiously ignore the plight of the vanishing farmer, even though the last generation of family farmers has been born. We willingly sacrifice the birthright of our cousins and family in rural areas on the altar of the false gods of economic rationalization and corporate greed. We eagerly embrace the politically correct economic superstitions that are encouraged by the public relations departments of rich and powerful corporations (as well as by the think tanks and university laboratories that they finance), whose deadly fruit is the destruction of rural life. The nation is currently experiencing the third massive wave of farm bankruptcies and consolidations since the 1970s, but judging from the news and the opinion polls, few of us in the city realize or care about what is happening in rural areas. The stock market may have bubbled up to historic highs, but prices for wheat, corn, cattle, and pork are at all-time lows (you wouldn't know this looking at the prices in your supermarket, especially in the meat department, hmm, what can this mean?). We have so surrounded the farmer with laws and regulations and debt that many of them feel trapped and see no way out of the present impasse. We encourage them to do more of the same, to reach for new "efficiencies," even though the price of "more of the same" seems to be "more of the same". After 3 waves of bankruptcies in 25 years, wouldn't you think we were down to the really efficient farmers anyway?

Oh the joys of life in the city. . . Where everything seems so stable and secure, even though the grocery stores only have 3 days inventory, the warehouses that supply them have one to four weeks inventory, and the entire food processing pipeline has only about 60 days in it. After that, we are down to livestock on the hoof and grain in the bins of our country cousins. Not that we would know much about what to do with a whole wheat kernel anyway. This just in time inventory corporate factory food system is vulnerable to power and transportation failures, terrorist attacks, and regularly is afflicted with food safety problems. But the corporate officers assure us, "Everything is fine, don't worry, be happy, don't ask questions. Ignore the man in the corner behind the curtain manipulating the controls!"

Oh the joys of life in the city. . . Where our tables are filled with foods from all continents, which we eat with relish and to excess. Meanwhile, we close our eyes to the hungry and starving of other lands who are hungry and starving because the food they used to eat is now being exported to the United States. Or the land that grew their food now raises cash crops for export  at the demand of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the bankers and Congress of these United States. Your own personal banker may be one of those making these demands of these poor people.

Oh the joys of life in the city. . . Where our kids think that food comes from the farm in shrink-wrapped plastic. They don't know  and most of us have forgotten  the sweet taste of freshly harvested corn on the cob, the rich taste of a home-grown and vine ripened tomato (you wouldn't think it was in the same vegetable family as its corporate-grown cousin). We close our eyes to warnings about the chemicals and additives, pesticide residues and genetically modified crops in the corporate machine food system. We try not to think about the chemical stews we are feeding our children or the tanks of chlorine and feces that "fresh" chicken is soaked in before being packaged for sale in the local supermarket. We prefer not to think about the factory chickens laying the eggs we buy  who spend their entire lives in a cage, with their beaks cut off. The chickens in the lower level cages are encrusted with the feces of the chickens above them (don't forget to wash those eggs you buy in the supermarket real good with soap and water before you crack them!). We don't think about these things because when we consider the corporate food system, we have been taught to see the Jolly Green Giant and the Keebler Elves, as though these fictitious advertising gimmicks were real! ("It's on TV, it must be real, the ad guys say it is so! And when were they ever wrong?")

IF YOU ALWAYS DO WHAT YOU ALWAYS DO, YOU WILL ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU ALWAYS GET! If we think we ought to just give in and live with this situation (the "Do as the corporations say!" option), all we have to do is keep doing what we are doing right now. We should just shut our ears to the cry of the starving poor whose food we steal to add pounds to our waistlines and dollars to the dividends of Del Monte and Chiquita, among many who could be mentioned. We must close our eyes to the tragic demise of the family farm and sell our birthrights for a handful of beads dangled before us by glib corporate PR departments. We shouldn't ask questions like: "Mr. Produce Manager, how much of these vegetables are from this area, how much from elsewhere in the US  and how much is imported from overseas?" Or, "Why isn't this produce from foreign countries labeled as to its country of origin? Manufactured products imported from abroad must be labeled, why not produce?"

WE START SMALL OR WE DON'T START AT ALL Here's the most radical thing you can do to help this situation: buy products directly from farmers. There are many options: (1) Traditional farmers markets and roadside stands. Many areas have them, but nowhere has enough of them. Look for them and spend at least some of your grocery dollars there. (2) Food circles. These programs unite urban eaters with rural farmer. They will often publish a directory or guide. Call your local "cooperative extension" office (look in the government blue pages in your phone book), such offices may be associated with a state university or the USDA, another possibility is the direct marketing program of your state department of agriculture. (3) Produce deliveries. Make a phone call, turn in your order, have it delivered right to your home. (4) Buy shares of a market garden. Some direct marketing farmers sell shares in their crops in advance to urban consumers. You pay up front, or with installments, and as the garden comes in, you get regular weekly deliveries. (5) Beef, pork, chicken, and eggs can all be bought from producers, with the butchering and wrapping done to order.

MORE IDEAS. . . Talk to your priest, rabbi, or pastor about starting a Saturday farmers' market on your church's property. Convenience is important, and religious institutions are scattered all over the urban landscape, usually very conveniently located for residents. Work together with rural churches to get farmers into the city. Help establish community canning kitchens where farmers or other small operators can prepare processed foods for sale to the public. Farmers, like other businesses, respond to market signals. If we want to do our part to help preserve rural life and family farmers  and let's face facts here, many of us have rural roots, and have family still down on the farm, so this isn't just an intellectual exercise, this is a family issue  us city folks need to start sending market signals to farmers: "We want to buy products directly from you. Our money is green, we spend billions on food, we know you are getting a pittance for your products. Sell directly to us eaters in the city. We need tasty and nutritious food but we also need to do our part to ensure that there will be many more generations of farmers and to preserve rural life." We can also grow more food in cities ourselves.

THERE'S NOTHING IN THIS ABOUT LOWERING YOUR QUALITY OF LIFE. . . What's being talked about here is increasing the quality of life and the security of your family by developing personal relationships with the people who grow and process your food. The best and most expensive restaurants look for fresh food bought from local producers, do you suspect that they know something about what it takes to prepare haute cuisine?

"My experience tells me that, instead of bothering about how the whole world may live in the right manner, we should think how we ourselves may do so. We do not even know whether the world lives in the right manner or in a wrong manner. If, however, we live in the right manner, we shall feel that others also do the same, or shall discover a way of persuading them to do so. Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as cooperation with good. Real peace will come, not by the acquisition of authority by a few, but by the acquisition of the capacity by all to resist authority when it is abused." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Robert Waldrop, Archbishop Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House, Oklahoma City

-- robert waldrop (rmwj@soonernet.com), September 06, 1999.

Just my $.02 on this subject. I have usually lived in or near a city but, every year since I was a little kid (dark ages) I have gone to the counrty to get produce this time of the year.

We travel from the Seattle area over the mountains to the Yakima area. We buy from the road side stands and I can till my hands hurt and I can stand no more. I have used my wood cook stove, the electric stove and the camp stove (when it is to hot to can inside - NOT a problem this year!!!). This year I paid $6 for a 28 lb. lug of tomatoes. $7.95 for a lug of pears and $9.95 for peaches. I got 50 lb. bags of potatoes for $7.00 and 50 lbs. of onions for $5.99, FRESH corn for 10ears/$1.00. I have been canning for the last week. Peach and pear jelly is delish!!I freeze the corn with my Food Saver.

The downside is I don't work outside the home but if I did, when would I find the time? It takes hours and hours to do it all. It took a whole day to go over and buy it and it is a fun trip, but that is a whole day. I feel better because I know what is in the food we eat. We raise emu so our red meat is always fresh and I know they get no hormones or that other stuff. We raise our own chickens so we have our own eggs and chicken "on-the-hoof". We are well set for Y2K.

I agree with you. We need to come back to our own farmers and support them, but for most people, the problem is their time. They would rather spend it in leisure and that is the bill of goods the American consumer is buying into - sold by the big corps. They want fast, fresh food - local farms can't produce enough of everything locally in the middle of winter hense our dependence on Chili plums and Mexican tomatoes etc. We have been "convinced" that we need these in the middle of winter! Nice, but not necessary.

I hope you and Oklahoma make a go of your market, and especially next year when it may make a big difference.

-- Valkyrie (anon@please.net), September 07, 1999.

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