By Jim Hightower

What’s For Dinner?

December 19, 2012 11:27 am Category: Memo Pad 5 Comments A+ / A-
What’s For Dinner?

As we enjoy the traditional holiday season of food-centered celebrations, let’s not only consume, but also reflect on, discuss and consider, what we can do to shape our food future.

We’re presented with two starkly different visions of that future: the industrialized, conglomeratized, globalized, monopolized, plasticized and heavily subsidized vision of Agri-business, and the localized, democratized vision of Agri-culture, in which sustainable farmers and food artisans practice the art and science of cooperating with Mother Nature, rather than always trying to overwhelm her. This is a fight for the control of our dinner, and it’s one of the biggest and most important populist struggles in our society today.

“Agriculture is no longer a way of life,” former agriculture secretary Earl Butz infamously barked at farmers 40 years ago. “It’s a business,” he lectured, callously adding that they should “get big or get out.”

Butz, an agribusiness apostle of full corporatization of our food economy, was wrong, as today’s fast-spreading Good Food movement is showing. It turns out that farming is a good business — literally producing an abundance of goodness — specifically because agriculturists see it as a way of life.

This spirit was recently summed up in one word by Lee Jones, a sustainable farmer in Ohio who was asked what’d he’d be if he weren’t a farmer. He replied, “Disappointed.” To farmers like these, food embodies our full “culture” — a word that is, after all, sculpted right into “agriculture” and is essential to its organic meaning.

Patrick Martins, co-founder of Heritage Foods USA, works with small farmers across the country to bring nearly lost breeds of sustainably raised cows, pigs and turkeys to market. He measures sustainability not just by environmental standards, but also by whether the animals are happy! Asked what makes a turkey happy, Martins said simply: “Room. That’s the biggest thing. It can walk around.”

Space to walk is reasonable, right? Visit one of the massive factory feeding operations of agribusiness, where the vast majority of American turkeys are raised, and you’ll find no such concession to the most basic of creature comforts. Thousands of the large birds are crammed side by side in cages, spending nasty, brutish and short lives with barely enough room to move, much less walk. To true agriculturalists like Martins, these meat factories amount to animal concentration camps. “No living creature should be forced to spend its entire life in a box,” he says.

That’s the icky stuff, but there’s good stuff, too. For starters, if you’re looking for Good Food items — from organic tomatoes to pastured turkey — localharvest.org can help you find them somewhere near your home. Enter your zip code, and this website will search for the small-scale farmers, artisans, farmers markets and other resources in your area.

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What’s For Dinner? Reviewed by on . As we enjoy the traditional holiday season of food-centered celebrations, let's not only consume, but also reflect on, discuss and consider, what we can do to s As we enjoy the traditional holiday season of food-centered celebrations, let's not only consume, but also reflect on, discuss and consider, what we can do to s Rating:

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Comments

  • http://www.facebook.com/dominick.vila.1 Dominick Vila

    The family farm is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. The worst threats, however, are the potential effects of global warming and unavailability of cheap labor to plant and harvest crops. Our climate is changing rapidly and there is a good chance that much of our fertile land may soon turn into a desert. Potable water shortages are likely within the next 4 or 5 decades. The world population is growing rapidly and serious food shortages are likely within the next couple of decades. This is the greatest threat to humanity ever.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KOPKDFAUQPIIRAFI3HEXNMSHLQ Ed

      More than one war has been fought over food!

  • ARepublicanNorthlandGrad

    The problem with your argument is that people will not pay us enough to farm the way they say they want us to. We can not buy land at the prices you city people pay and continue to raise crops or animals for the prices we get paid at the levels of production you suggest. This week I sold pasture raised hogs at 1/2 of what it cost to feed them (lets not mention labor and supplies) to the commondity market because the local market only absorbed 1/4 of what I raised. I can not compete with Smithfield when they can survive with a profit of $1 a head and bring in grain from South America during a drought and you buy their products at Cosco or Sam’s.

  • bruskis1

    We have a small farm in Southern Lancaster County,Pa. We are not Amish(only have 3 children). Each of our children raise something to make spending money. We do not give them an allowence, but we do by feed and other supplies for there projects. I raise pigs, my son raises chickens(for eggs & meat), my daughter raises Ducks(for meat), and my youngest daughter raises Turkeys.
    My son’s chickens are truely free range, they are allowed outside in the pastures, yards,evrywhere on our property. This makes the eggs taste fantastic, the yolks are orange not pale yellow, and the flavor is great. But since he does not keep them inside witha controled diet, they do not produce as many eggs as factory farm chicken eggs. His eggs are much better, but when some people see his $3.00 per dozen, they comment about how the grocery store has eggs on sale for $1.19 per dozen, or wow that’s way more then I would ever pay for eggs.
    My Daughte(12 yrs old)r raise 30 ducks this past year. These ducks are raised in an area we call our poultry pasture. We fenced in about 1 1/2 acres of pasture with chicken wire, to keep the poultry in, and electric wire to keep dogs, fox, and other animals out. There is even a barn they share with the turkeys. We even dug a small pond in this pasture, that we kept full with fresh water. The ducks loved it, they free ranged, and ate bugs, worms, and weeds all day long. She fed them corn and poultry food each evening and morning. They had very happy lives, able to swim, walk,and enjoy all that being a duck allowed. When we started to sell the fresh pasture raised ducks, we had a lot of people complain that we charged $20.00 per duck, for a 3-5lb Pekin duck raised on pasture. They told us they can buy them at the grocery store cheaper. This amount only paid for about 2/3 of the feed, and none of the work that went into them. We ended up sellingselling 20 of them for $20,00 each, and 10 of them at a local auction and only got about $6.00 each for them.
    My youngest daughter raised 16 Turkeys for Thanksgiving. She started with day old Turkeys that we purchased, the going rate for 1 day old turkey is about $4.00- $5.00. We purchased them in June, and allowed them to roam free in our poultry pasture. They eat bugs and worms all summer, but they also eat a lot of corn and poultry food. My daughter(10 yrs old) fed these Turkeys morning and night, gave them fresh water, and enjoyed just being with them. When it came time to sell fresh turkeys we priced them at $40.00 each, they weighed about 29-43lbs (butchered and ready for the oven). She sold all but 2(which we gladly kept for our own freezer. But again we heard a lot of complaints from people who said they could buy Turkeys for .49cents a pound at the local grocery store.
    I raised 6 pigs this past year, I rake there 1 acre pasture, and plant Turnips on the whole pasture. The turnips are growing when the the pigs arrive. The pigs eat the green leaves first, and then root the softball size turnips out of the ground next. We have a area that we keep a puddle for them to wallow in all summer, and we do not put rings in their nose(this cause pain when the root in the dirt, and stops them from digging up the pasture). Our pigs run and play, eat all day, We give them a lot of extra food, plus pig food. By the time they are ready to go to the butcher they weigh about 245-300lbs. We sell each pig for $350 delivered to a local USDA butcher, then the butcher cost runs about $125-175. Again I have had people tell me they can buy pork roast on sale for $1.99lb. Ours ends up costing about $3.10-3.85lb. This includes smoked bacon, pork chops, sausage,grnd pork,roasts, hams,ect… You get a lot of good, pasture rasised meat, with NO WATER INJECTED INTO THE MEAT TO MAKE IT WEIGH MORE.
    We provide great homes for all of our animals,we care for them, and really enjoy them. we also raise beef, goat, & lamb. My children understand what it is like for an animal at a factory farm. They know that our animals are raised with respect, and care for there entire life, and like I always tell them they then have one bad day(butcher day). Unlike factory farm animals that live in misery there entire life, and then have one day of relief. We do not feed any medicated feed, or feed with antibiotics in it. We do not give hormones to make them grow faster. Our animals are very healthy and happy. The people that do buy our meat, know this and do not mind paying a little more They know that they are getting a better product. But for every one person willing to purchase our animals, there are 2 that give us a hard time about cost.
    Our cost never covers the cost of raising the animals. My wife and I pay the extra so that our children learn that their food does not come from the store, it comes from a farm. They also learn how to budget their spending money, care for animals, and have an ongoing responsibility.
    When people start to learn about there cheap food, maybe then they will understand what it takes to raise good, wholesome food. You cannot compare farm raised fresh food to factory farm grocery store food. They are from 2 oposite worlds.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/HFYZP2APYPP7H6PWS2ZDQRWFEQ Hillbilly

    Another reason to support agriculture instead of agribusiness is that you are not supporting Michelle Bachman’s family’s agribusiness. Agribusiness are the ones that gets most of the farm welfare from the government not the agriculture farms. There is a big difference in the taste and nutrition value of food raised on agriculture farms from the agribusiness food.

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