Wednesday, October 24, 2018

paying the tab

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grassfed organic lamb on organic pasture

"How could you blame farmers for choosing to believe that they weren't poisoning the world, and their own children?"
Theresa Weir, The Orchard

I don't blame farmers for this belief. I think it's truly the remarkable person who can objectively look at what he's doing and realize something is inherently wrong with it. And, quite frankly, most people aren't that remarkable or willing to self-reflect, especially when doing so might threaten their very livelihood. 

Nor do I blame farm families for wanting to uphold farming traditions. There is beauty in honoring traditions, fiercely guarding the family ways, protecting the family land from outsiders and new ideas.  After all, this is what has been done for generations, and these traditions have served farm families well.

Or at least, seemed to have served them well.

Guarding tradition and passing down family rituals is the way all families work. Even those who never touch a plow or plant a seed. A grandmother teaches a grand-child how to roll out the lefse and fry it on a hot griddle; a grandfather teaches a grandson how to gauge just when to apply the next round of poison to the crop for the best harvest.

The problem is, the farm traditions being handed down today are not the farm traditions of old. Our agricultural practices look nothing like those of just a hundred years ago.

Many would argue that these practices are necessary for providing copious amounts of cheap food for the growing masses.

But are they?

Where will this cycle of chemicals end? Pests and diseases will always evolve faster than chemicals. Stronger chemicals today require even stronger ones tomorrow. We are already reading the symptoms of a system in distress.

When the soil no longer supports crops despite ever increasing amounts of fertilizers, when the pollinators die, when the super-weeds and super-pests no longer succumb under the mist of the sprayers or to the bite of the toxic-modified kernel of corn, the farmers of today, who initiated and passed along these rituals, will likely be long gone.

Their grand-children and great-grand-children will be the ones standing in the dust, wondering how their ancestors could have been so complicit in the destruction of their inheritance.

"Couldn't they see what they were doing?" they'll ask in bewilderment.

No my child, they cannot.  To see would be more than they can bear, and still toil out a living in what remains of the soil.

And the soil is all they know.  

So they choose not to see.  And I can't blame them for that.  Who among us would be brave enough to look?  Who among us is ever brave enough to look ahead to the future consequences of our actions today?

Chemical farming is like the arrogant patron at the fanciest restaurant, ordering the biggest steak and priciest wine, then leaving before paying the tab.

But somebody pays the tab. Somebody always pays the tab. 

As for me and my tiny parcel of earth, untamed by poisons and untouched by toxic seeds, it will not save the planet. It may not save the pollinators who inhabit it. It may not even save my family or those who are privileged to tend it after I am gone.

But when that day comes when my grandchildren demand that I account for whether or not I assisted or resisted the destruction of their one and only real inheritance, I will be able to look them squarely in the eyes and answer without shame or hesitation, "I chose to farm without poisons with the hope that you could have a future."

Farming without poisons isn't easy.

Then again, paying the tab is never easy.

But somebody, always, has to pay the tab.

Who will pay your tab?

"We rich nations, for that is what we are, have an obligation not only to the poor nations, but to all the grandchildren of the world, rich and poor. We have not inherited this earth from our parents to do with it what we will. We have borrowed it from our children and we must be careful to use it in their interests as well as our own."
~ Australian Minister for the Environment, 1974

~ Victoria Strauser, Wisconsin, USA, Earth

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