Thanks to PASA for a great conference last weekend! Gabe Brown and Janisse Ray keynoted, philosophical and practical voices urging and encouraging all of us toward diverse ecologies and simple lifestyles, toward greater food independence and intensified community interdependence.
One thought that comes to our minds is that the sustainable agriculture community of the future may — perhaps should — come to include in large proportion a class of farmer that once made up most of the human race, and today is hardly on our organic maps. We mean the family farmer, the man, woman or couple who stewards a few acres very well, grows his own and his family’s food with some over for extended family, community and charity, and also plies a trade or avocation. Not just one or the other, farming or avocation, will make up his entire occupation and living, but both or either, simultaneously or cyclically.
A glance at the map of the U.S. in particular, or the world in general, will inform inquiry that, indeed, much of the habitable portion of the planet is too far from a civic center for direct-market (farm to consumer) sales to make up an entire income anyway. Is that land to remain in the hands of ‘conventional’ (and destructive) agriculture? or is it to return entirely to grazing lands, for large herds which will have to be shipped long distances to market? If areas far distant from concentrated populations of people with money to spend on responsibly, sustainably grown food, are to be regenerated and restored to deep fertility, these will have to be farmed intimately by careful stewards, at least for the foreseeable future, without the farmer deriving a full living from cash crop sales. Who then is to farm them?
Our visits to PASA and other excellent ag events suggest to us that there is an army of interested, informed and avid farmers of many ages eager to take up the challenge. It is an issue we think is going to need great deal more attention over the next few years.