Chapter 2: A Rural Autopsy
“The city writes the country”
Chapter 2 of Stuffed and Starved by Raj Patel discusses “the forces that are destroying rural communities across the planet.” Crushing debt is leaving farmers in a hopeless cycle that leads to suicide in too many instances. Rural communities are emptying out as younger generations look for a more reliable way to make a living. With all of the pressures and demands, and seeming little reward of being a modern farmer, it’s a wonder any one would do it at all.
From the city we see “the country” as the idyllic and pastoral “America”—I know I do. Even growing up in Sacramento, in the heart of the central valley, I imagined the rural life as a simpler way of life. In the city, we are fed this image anytime we go to a farmer’s market or the grocery story. Most food packaging shows the rolling rows of crops, the barn, the silo, the windmill, and the rooster on top—the graphic language of farming. If we city folk do make it out to the country, we can find “farms” that fit our mental image of the rural lifestyle. We can stay for the weekend, have a country breakfast prepared for us, and not check our emails for a little bit. Chances are, these farms are not earning money through farming.
It’s amazing to me that something we can’t live without—food in this case—can be so far from our day-to-day experience. Most people don’t think twice about the source of their food. Those who do, are satisfied with the weekend trip to the farmer’s market where all the farmers are so happy and carefree. I think that this lack of knowledge of farming is interesting. How do we connect farmers and consumers in a real way? What conversations would result in these two groups coming together? When consumers and farmers come together, what kinds of effects would that have on the way our food is produced?
This post is a reflection on chapter 2 of “Stuffed and Starved” by Raj Patel.