the agricultural fair and why I’m not a capital F farmer

So we hit the biggest ag fair in Western Canada last weekend. What a jaw dropper.

You know, it’s something to intellectually understand that there’s a reason farmers don’t consider me to be one of them, and it’s another thing to stand next to a farming machine as big as my house that probably costs about the same.

Puts things in perspective.

The agricultural fair was full of boys and their dads, with equally wide grins, clambering all over all type of farm machinery imaginable. It was lovely, and my boy and his dad were no exception . . . but . .

In truth, I found the entire thing sort of sad.

In between tractors and harvesters and gigantic machines of mysterious purpose were chemical companies and all sorts of things that, for me, have no place in food production. Machines with weight and wheels that I can’t imagine allowing on soil . . . I went into a little panic thinking about the compaction they must cause. Who would let that on their precious soil?

And then I got thinking about the size of fields that demand machines that size . . . I duno. It was all very strange.

I also realized that there is very little space for people like me in this industry, as it stands. I found my favourite seed company and a tiny booth containing the organic certification folks, other than that  . . . holy smokes.

Eye opening.

Talking to one government agency just trying to figure out where our tiny farm will fit in terms of regulation and all that, and as soon as I mentioned pastured poultry – Ooooh you have to talk to Dr. So-and-so. You’ll have WAY more health and illness problems if they’re outside. (As opposed to a gazillion birds crammed together in their own poop? What?)

Reading some of the literature we picked up, there are conversations about “elitist organic farmers” being “selfish” in trying to block GMO’s.

Sigh.

Made me realize that I will never be a Farmer-farmer. It’s not in me.

I’m not sure what we will call what we do here, or if the Farmers will ever recognize it as farming. I don’t want to call myself a “hobby” farmer like most of my neighbours do . . . Surely there’s a space between stamp-collecting and producing nourishing food.

Maybe we’ll have to come up with an entirely different term to define ourselves.

Maybe it’s good that there’s no place for us in the capital-F farming world. Maybe it’s better to start fresh.

9 thoughts on “the agricultural fair and why I’m not a capital F farmer

  1. Paul Hughes

    On that theme of small “f” farmer, which includes those of us committed to household food security and food justice, there’s this:

    Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: Conference Board of Canada’s Food Summit

    “One’s basic nature eventually betrays itself…”

    Although the 2nd Canadian Food Summit (April 9/10 Toronto) hasn’t even started, the controversy has. In fact, the Canadian food policy world may have it’s biggest dust up ever if the Conference Board of Canada (CBoC) continues its tone deaf, stack the deck maneuvering. Rejecting an entire food movement is not a recipe for inclusion and consensus, but the CBoC’s myopia does have the elements required for a Food System Donnybrook.
    Full story… http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/paul-hughes/conference-board-of-canad_b_2583114.html

    Reply
    1. The Slow Foods Mama Post author

      Frustrating, but not surprising.

      Just trying to determine where our farm fits in terms of regulation has been nearly impossible. Mostly because everyone assumes you can’t farm on 5 acres. The system, and the farming culture, just isn’t set up to even acknowledge folks like us. Their world view says we shouldn’t exist, so we don’t. All the systems are set up accordingly.

      I don’t know what the answer is … I don’t know how I’ll find time/stamina to farm, raise my family AND fight and I wonder if that’s what they’re counting on? Doing what we do, where we are isn’t enough if we’re not challenging and questioning them doing what they’re doing, where they are ….

      Reply
  2. Deb Weyrich-Cody

    Oh YES, so many points that’ve flipped through my head at one time or another!
    If anyone deserves a capitol “F”, it’d be those who actually walk the soil they work, know it’s time to till because of how it feels in the hand, know when to cut, flip and bale their hay because of hard-won knowledge passed down from generations past – NOT leave it out standing on the ground ’til it’s grey with mildew, or wrapped up in miles of plastic sheeting and need to dose their animals with antibiotics as a matter of course… No wonder, when machinery has mammoth dual wheels front and back or balloon tires to float these behemoths across the soil, no wonder “farming” costs are so high and only the very biggest (wealthiest): can survive… Need I go on?
    You go girl – and wear that “Farmer” label proudly!
    P.S. For those who are new to the field; ) and haven’t learned these things since birth, there are SO many elders who would love to pass on their experience… So go ahead and ask an old timer right NOW – after all, they don’t call it “the hot stove network” for nothin’; )

    Reply
    1. The Slow Foods Mama Post author

      I thought a lot about the money issue, too.

      Looking at all that machinery all I could see was risk. Bad enough you have to spend 3/4 of a million dollars just to buy enough land to even hit the “hobby farmer” stage . . . Never mind what these huge machines and all those chemicals and GMO seed must cost.

      Like I said, it just made me sad. If we WERE interested in conventional farming, how on earth could we afford it? Sad and scary that no one there was asking – Does this make sense? Is this the best way?

      Anyway, we’re determined to make a go of it on our own terms. We’ll figure out what to call ourselves later. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Bridget Manley

    As a consumer, I trust farmers much more than Farmers. I’m guilty of not buying from small producers as much as I should, which is something I want to correct. I admire what you do, and hope you don’t lose faith in the crucial role you play. 🙂

    Reply
    1. The Slow Foods Mama Post author

      Don’t feel guilty – part of the trouble with our food system is it’s not easy to buy from small local producers, or cheap. I started gardening in the city because I couldn’t afford 5 dollar a pound tomatoes at the farmer’s market. Local, organic food remains out of reach of most people, for good (if unfortunate) reason. Unless government makes it easier for small farmers and food producers to bring their product to market, I don’t think that will change. Our old neighbourhood in the city did veggie and canning swaps at the local community centre, and I think grass-roots models like that are the best way forward, especially for urban folks.

      Reply

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