Local, organic agriculture. Environmental education.

Land and Food for the People

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhether the tractor is turning a far too wet field, only just now beginning to dry or the farmer is putting in a third crop (peas yield to radish who yield to spinach) in a much used farm bed, the need to grow food, and hopefully with an organic bent, is more than necessary these days.

One does not have to look very far to read or hear or see that the world population is growing and the availability of fresh vegetables and fruits is in high demand. In many parts of the country, scientists and engineers are developing and testing modified seed that can feed the masses. But there are other efforts, though small and Sisyphean, that are to be heralded and repeated. For the sake of local food sovereignty and the worldwide movements which also attempt to grow and provide equal access to healthy, sustainably produced food, there are efforts to provide alternative means for healthy food.

The principles for food sovereignty, which were discussed in a workshop I attended at the Northeast Organic Farming Association’s 40th Summer Conference in Amherst MA, are not about putting a Wal-Mart in a food deprived area or trucking in tons of canned food to a food pantry. The principles stem from a meeting that farmers from around the world had in Mali, Africa in 2007, as well as the fact that there has been a back-to-the-land movement for years. The task of making land available for growing food for the people and the paradigm shift of producing democratic and fair control over agricultural systems.

Young Farmers HHFWhere and how does all that food in aisle 4 originate and arrive there? A farmer’s market, with a variety of growers, brings food to people and certainly Massachusetts is right in sync with the growing trend hosting farmers markets in nearly every town. Many community gardens where residents can pay little or no costs to host a plot and perhaps even donate fresh produce to the local food pantry are also slowly increasing. But are we not entering a time when there needs to be more food grown, with sustainable practices, that can better feed and nourish our neighbors nearby and neighbors in other countries where food is scarce?

This belief that people ought to have the right to quality food is evident in the folks who mow the grass. A landowner has the means, and the right to own property and thus hire a landscape company or sit on his or her own ride-on mower and mow the (of late) brown grass due to little rain and over used well-water. I will have no success telling kids who visit the farm or adults who attend workshops or folks who kindly read this column that “they must become farmers and growers”.

seedling closeupI can introduce new perspectives of how food is grown, processed and shipped to our grocery aisles. I can expand the purpose of community gardens so that chemical fertilizers are discouraged and food yields are brought to those less fortunate. I can see grass land at a senior center, a town common that is both plush, cared for and vastly underutilized which could in turn help solve the problems of malnutrition and hunger. Land for the tillers.

As the small family farms and small organic growers seek to provide a small percentage of conscientiously and responsibly grown food, why not expand that effort as the need clearly grows? Trade in the lawn mower for an Alice Chalmers combine? Open a corner of the common to show local compassion for a global issue? There is no immediate action, other than to begin to think, start to sow seeds and see from where food grows and goes.

© 2014, Jon Belber. All rights reserved. Friends of Holly Hill Farm

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