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09 October 2005

local agribusiness

There was an interesting commentary in the newest Patagonia catalog... yes a clothing magazine, but none the less interesting article on surviving off of locally made substances (food, beer, and I am sure mary jane as is expected by Patagoniacs). To think that almost everything we consume has been on a 16 wheeler touting down the highway polluting the earth with emmisions and high levels of gas consumption (or is it deisel?) is frightening. Agriculture is an interesting business. Politicians hand out paychecks to farmers to leave their land un-plowed while other farms have increased their productivity a thousand times over due to fancier irrigation systems, updated machine technology and of course the poison that is regularly sprayed over our crops to keep the bugs hungry (lesser-beings we might deduce have no right to food - bugs, starving kids in Africa and the poor Americans in Louisiana). These increases in production have lessoned the man hours needed to produce our crops and perhaps lowered the amount of laborer jobs in America.
Farming is no longer a profitable business. When you can fly in a plane full of roses from Ecuador for the comparitive pennies that you would pay for land and labor in America, why grow roses here? Why should Americans support local farmers when we can support the deforestation of Brazil for our Starbucks coffee beans? Personally I would prefer a cup of fresh hot apple cider brewed at my local "pick your own" farm than Starbucks' lattes whose ideas of fair trade are exploiting the workers and paying the middle man more (thats a whole separate rant). I would love to have my own Alpaca farm in the Appalacians. Spin and dye wool and sell yarn (and of course handmade socks and sweaters) in a small corner store. However, even buying the land let alone livestock and a house to live in would put me in debt I could never repay. Good luck to the naturalists who do not get a family farm handed down to them. Perhaps I could make my fortune in the stock market and convert my winnings over to land 20 years from now. The idea of being self-made in the agriculture business is increasingly harder to accomplish.
Imagine throwing out those frozen pizzas in the fridge and instead using wheat, stewed tomatoes and fresh cheese from the local farms and daries. Sounds delicious to me. Fresh food not only tastes better but it does not contain the preservatives that are needed for mass-produces store bought food.
Maybe eating local food will even help to reduce the obesity epedemic that has Americans by the balls. McDonalds and Denny's would not be on every street corner making those hang-over breakfast mornings a little harder for us all, but better for the rest of the us now eating acorn squash for dinner instead of that quarter pounder and fries. Perhaps I would be craving fresh blackberries now instead of pad thai. Don't get me wrong, I love international foods! But for heavens sake, shall I bring up the 18 wheeler to your house to eat straight out of?
Maybe our problems extend from the Texan's "bigger is better" theory. Our super-farms are producing enough food to feed far more people than we have on this continent. Why then are people going hungry? The bigger farms must package their product in such a way to be transported across the nation to our local deli or Giant super that even the trash for the food we consume is incredible. Take a look at how much plastic is used next time you shop at the super. I see those little blue plastic bags we carry our milk home in floating in the harbor almost everyday.

Everyday I walk to my office I want to call up UTZ and protest their packaging materials. Why do our potatoe chips have to be stored in such hard plastic? could they use a recyled paper product instead? The bag of salt & vinegar chips you just ate with lunch are now floating next to my office increasing the lovely black sludge mess that resides 47 feet below me on the floor of the Patapsco. On a good day I can see 3 feet down into the Harbor, but after a good rain the trash from your lunch comes floating down the sewer grates from the city streets where you decided it was more convenient to non-chalantly throw your trash to the curb instead of the recepticle all of the way down the block.


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