Michael Ableman has written a lovely manifesto from the 2% – the tiny percentage of Americans who actually farm:
There are far more people in prison than growing our food, more stockbrokers and lawyers than those of us who feed our neighbors. We are the 2 percent we call farmers.
There is nothing more central to our lives than how we secure our food. Yet the responsibility for this has been almost entirely handed over to someone somewhere else, to an industrial system where farms have become factories and food has become a faceless commodity. The results have been disastrous; epidemic levels of childhood obesity and diabetes, food that no longer tastes good or is good for you, polluted groundwater, soil loss at staggering rates, and most profound; an almost complete disconnection from the social, cultural, and ecological relationships that were once part of agrarian life.
One percent may control our economic wealth, but the true wealth of a nation may be in the fertility of its soils, the quality and security of its food, the health of its communities. This kind of national wealth cannot be brought to us by Cargill or Monsanto or Dupont, the corporate giants who now drive the industrial machine that brings us industrial food; it will have to come from individuals and families, neighborhoods and communities.
When the food system no longer fulfills the needs of the people, whether for economic or distribution reasons or because of concerns for food safety, or simply because people want corn that tastes like corn, or potatoes that are more than just a tasteless medium to convey ketchup and salt to their mouths, they take that responsibility back into their own hands.
As I’ve written many times, even if we didn’t have energy and environmental issues to contend with, we have a gigantic demographic crisis in agriculture – the average farmer is nearly 60 years old, and their children and grandchildren have already left the land to do other work. Who will grow our food in the future? For the very first time in human history, it will be grown by people not raised to the work. If we find, as seems likely, that growing world population, climate change and energy depletion require a larger percentage of the population to ensure our food security, this question of who grows our food may be one of the central puzzles of our future.