Farmers are People too
Sarah Mock

By the last Census around 1% of the population is employed in agriculture in the U.S. That means that 99% of the population depends on someone else to feed them (you and 98 of your friends are hoping one person will somehow get the crop in). I have long connections with agriculture. I know the deep rewards of the work, and the costs. I would never be a farmer.

Unfortunately the problems in our food system can’t be fixed from the producer or the consumer side. There is a long-entrenched infrastructure that is in between. Some of it is necessary, much of it is about supporting industrial and economic models that have little to do with food, and nothing to do with a sustainable, healthy world. At this point we can only try to understand how it got this way.

To me it comes back to the sense that farmers have been historically dismissed as a type of unevolved or underdeveloped class, culturally inferior and of limited horizons. It has been perfectly acceptable to continue to exploit agricultural workers with wages far below the inadequate minimum wage established by law for other workers. The idea that farmers are self employed and therefore able to negotiate for better compensation is simply a fantasy. Corporate interests and a deeply flawed system of subsidization make for a market that is unpredictable and remote from producers. The mystery is why this has always seemed acceptable to the workers themselves. In truth, many have no other choice. Some are bound by lack of other opportunities, some by the tragedy that it is a life they love.

Climate change will inevitably change all that. The system we have in place is not nearly nimble enough to adjust to increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather and remain profitable on an industrial scale. We will unavoidably require more human scale alternatives , and that means more creative and knowledgeable people on the ground and in the fields. We are not moving fast enough in that direction.