Monday, January 11, 2010

What is the definition of a farmer?

pic from
How about we just redefine the word farmer?

I for one am tired of calling a middle aged business man a farmer. A guy who buys produce from the produce auction in Vineland NJ and slaps his name over it isn't the guy who farmed the food. The same guy who manages a bunch of seasonal migrant workers to do the labor while he does the pricing and marketing is not a farmer either. According to the dictionary on my computer, a farmer is a person who owns or manages a farm.

I want to know how owning 30 acres in one of the wealthiest counties in NJ makes you a farmer? It doesn't. And the notion of what a farmer is has got to be changed if we are to see food growing in our county. Most of us know that agribusiness has been a big contributor to the environmental destruction on this continent, but we do not consider the notion of small monoculture being a detrimental thing. Why blueberries and cranberries are wonderful economic boosts for our department of agriculture here in the garden state! Why question that?

Farming on a small scale with diverse crops is a fading art that is wanting to be brought back to life by the youth that is waking up from the sleep of the past couple generations. Greenhorns abound but here in Northern New Jersey they are often pushed out by the politics of the day. Mainly the business men who have been around much longer and the market managers who aren't quite educated about the politics of food or what a farmer is.

What if the definition of a farmer was anyone who grows food? "Then every housewife gardener would be at the farmer's market selling her bumper crop, how ridiculous is that?" Comments one well established poultry farmer who has just entered the business of market garden management. Yes, and if everybody was at the market competing prices would go down, friends would be made, and community gatherings would ensue. Maybe people would agree to get together and take that bumper crop of tomatoes and make a bunch of sauce and give it to the local food pantry instead of just throwing it on the compost heap at the end of the day.

Maybe if we broadened our view of what farming was we wouldn't be so attached to neat rows of the same crop that require fertilizers and pesticides. Maybe the notion of bigger is better is wrong and maybe a small dose of diversity is the medicine of the day. Maybe? Maybe not?

What do you think?

Next, we redefine farm...

baseball field turned into organic farm