DRAFT: new printable flyer: An Appeal to American Farmers

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Below is the draft of a proposed new printable flyer. Comments are encouraged, either in private email or publicly in this forum.


WE REMEMBER. . . The taste of freshly harvested produce. . . Grandma's creek jelly made from wild plums growing along Deep Red Creek and other such places. . . the aroma of freshly baked bread. . . displays of home preserved vegetables, pickles, jellies and jams at the county fair. . . the taste of a flaky pie crust that can hardly be found these days. . . fruit and vegetable stands alongside the road and in parking lots in cities and towns. . .

WE REMEMBER. . . When farmers brought their products directly to cities to sell to stores and customers. . . . When you went to the ice plant to get meat from your locker that was raised and butchered right there in the county. . . When eggs were bought directly from farmers and the chickens who laid them ran free, rather than spending their entire lives in a tiny wire cage. . .

WE REMEMBER When farmers often planted a few acres of black-eyed peas (or other crops) for anybody to come and pick. . . When Americans ate fresh produce grown around their towns, rather than shipped in from Chile and Mexico. . . When the family farmer wasn't an endangered species. . . When "going to market" was a special day. . . And when poor people in third world countries didn't go hungry because their food was being shipping to the North American market.

WE REMEMBER The days before corporations took control of the food processing and distribution chain. . . the many avoidable tragedies and political decisions that are contributing to the decline of the family farmer and the overbearing power of agricultural corporations. . .

OUR CHILDREN KNOW NOTHING OF THESE THINGS. They think food naturally occurs in plastic shrink-wrapped trays. They don't know the full and rich taste of a freshly harvested tomato. They don't realize the risks of their parents' abandonment of the family farmer in a short-sighted unconditional surrender to the agribusiness corporations.

CHOOSE LIFE? OR CHOOSE DEATH? Many years ago, the children of Israel stood before Moses, and he invited them to choose between life and death. Do not we, the American people, stand before such a choice today? Shall we go down the path of genetically modified factory foods grown by indentured servants and then processed and distributed through a brittle and unsafe just in time inventory system by a tiny handful of transnational agricultural corporations? Should the family farm be sold for a mess of pottage, our birthrights handed over to soul-less corporations? Should the family farmer become the indentured servant of agribusiness corporations and their New York stockholders? Should we continue to starve children in Third World countries so that we can import their produce to North America?

IF YOU ALWAYS DO WHAT YOU ALWAYS DO, YOU WILL ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU ALWAYS GET. The American farmer and the American consumer have been sold a bill of goods about food and agriculture. The primary beneficiaries are the stockholders of giant corporations and the politicians, not the consumer and certainly without a doubt not the farmer. The average age of the family farmer these days is in the high 50s. If we continue on this path, the last generation of family farmers has been born.

AGRIBUSINESS CORPORATIONS ARE LYING TO FARMERS AND CONSUMERS Big corporations have paid a lot of money to convince most consumers and farmers that the time is past to do anything different. But shouldn't we take their advertising with a healthy dose of skepticism? We don't have to do what Cargill, Monsanto, Chiquita and Del Monte demand of us. We can do something different. Here's a thought: Bring your products to the cities and sell them directly to consumers. Join together with your neighbors to develop your own small-scale processing systems and brands for marketing in your region. Us city folks spend billions of dollars each year on food  but when we pay $1.75 for a loaf of balloon bread in a plastic wrapper in the grocery store, you the family farmer receive about a penny of the purchase price. We've heard the wrapper costs more than the wheat.

WE START SMALL OR WE DON'T START AT ALL! Every parking lot in a city is a potential site for a farmer's market. Get together with your neighbors and look for new places to sell your products  directly to stores and directly to consumers in parking lots. (Churches will often be receptive to Saturday markets in their parking lots.) If you farm hundreds of acres, can't you find one or two or maybe even five or ten or 20 acres to experiment with growing and selling fresh produce to sell directly to us city folks? (Maybe you could partner with others in your area to do this.) Grind wheat and sell the flour to consumers! Bring your beans and peas to the city! (Oklahoma City hasn't seen a decent fresh black-eyed pea all summer long.) Market your products directly to eaters in the city! We are hungry! We have money to spend! Isn't our money as green as the corporations? Don't we deserve to eat good food directly from the farm, and also have the knowledge that our money has gone to preserve the family farmer, not destroy him?

YEAR 2000 CRISIS In these last days of the 20th century, there appears a new threat to the nation's food supply: the Year 2000 crisis, also known as "Y2K" or the "millennium bug." Representatives of the agribusiness industry have testified before Congress. They claim "Everything is OK," even though at any given time, there are only 3 days food in grocery stores, about a week in local warehouses, and 60 days in the food processing pipeline. After that, we are down to the contents of your granaries and storage bins, and livestock on the hoof. The food processing industry clearly doesn't like the idea of Americans stocking up on food  they have fine tuned their "just in time" inventory process, and any uptick in demand throws their schedules out of whack. We'd like you to notice that if consumer demand for food products in the last months of 1999 outstrips the ability of the corporations' food processing industry to supply products, this creates a golden opportunity for you to bring your food products directly to cities to sell to consumers. You wouldn't believe the prices that your $2.00/bushel wheat is bringing in cities, when packaged in plastic buckets. I am ashamed to tell you.

As with any marketplace, the possibilities are many: conventional farmers markets and flea markets, roadside stands, selling shares of your produce crop in advance to consumers in the city, "U-pick" operations, partnerships with your employees or people from cities (you provide the land, split the costs and labor), the wholesale market (restaurants in particular), specialty crops, and many kinds of value-added processing (southern smoked and salt- cured hams come immediately to mind, an interesting use for that crop of mesquite trees and a better use than selling them to a big company somewhere, you could probably market them in advance to urban consumers, which lessens your risk and supplies operating capital), organic produce (which usually sells for a premium, as do free-range chickens and eggs), organic grains and beans, and so on.

Direct marketing to consumers and stores by farmers and local cooperatives, coupled with a return to farming practices that don't indenture farmers to giant corporations, may be the most radical  but they are the most necessary  responses to the rapidly deteriorating situation of the American family farm. As with most seemingly intractable problems, the solution promising the preservation of the family farmer stares us in the face, it is right underneath our noses. It isn't located in Washington, D.C. nor can it be found in the boardrooms of giant corporations or the laboratories of land grant universities. To these people, farmers are a resource to be exploited, harnessed, and consolidated into their finely tuned just-in-time inventory factory food system. But like the Kingdom of God, the true and sustainable solutions are found within our own hearts and lives, in community with our neighbors, manifested in the decisions we make about the big and little things of life.

"My experience tells me that, instead of bothering about how the whole world may live in the right manner, we should think how we ourselves may do so. We do not even know whether the world lives in the right manner or in a wrong manner. If, however, we live in the right manner, we shall feel that others also do the same, or shall discover a way of persuading them to do so. Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as cooperation with good. Real peace will come, not by the acquisition of authority by a few, but by the acquisition of the capacity by all to resist authority when it is abused." -- Mahatma Gandhi

If you are an Oklahoma farmer and are interested in selling your Oklahoma grown and processed food products at new farmers' markets opening in the summer of 2000 in the Oklahoma City area, please call us at 405-557-0436.

-- robert waldrop (rmwj@soonernet.com), September 05, 1999


Excellent suggestions! I hope you will submit this to farm publications, rural newspapers, and others affiliated with farming. It certainly is a viable way of helping farmers sustain their way of life as well as providing "real food" for those not able to grow their own. I'm willing to pay some extra for "organic", too.

-- Lee (imagesun@asde.net), September 06, 1999.

Have you ever wondered why a 12 year kid is just as large as a 21 year old man is?. Why are the children so violent?. What happens to all the growth additives that we infuse into our livestock, to rush them to the market sooner. Are we not also rushing our children to slaughter?. It doesn't affect us adults, because we have already matured. ARE WE NOT WHAT WE EAT?. Food for thought, The Happy Hoarder.

-- Cross And Crescent Relief Agency,inc. (relief@coastalnet.com), September 06, 1999.

HEre is the flip side of the Appeal to Farmers, an Appeal to city consumers: (draft)


Oh the joys of life in the city. . . Where tomatoes taste like mushy water, mostly because they were picked while still green in a foreign country and then gassed so they would turn red. Chances are it is a special hybrid tomato with an extra tough skin so it can be harvested by machines and withstand lots of rough handling while boxed in warehouses. It might even have been genetically modified to produce its own pesticide. Yum! I'll have seconds, you bet. Just what I always wanted, a genetically modified factory processed food product disguised to look like a real vine-ripened tomato. (It works with cheese, doesn't it?)

Oh the joys of life in the city. . . Where we buy a loaf of bread for $1.75, and "generously" give the farmer who grew the wheat and thus made the bread possible One Penny. We pay no attention to the consolidation of the agriculture industry, even though one consequence of "fewer farmers, fewer but larger processing plants, bigger corporations" is a tremendous increase in food recalls and food poisoning due to contamination. Most food consumed in the United States passes through at least 1 of 6 giant transnational corporations, which are rapidly aligning themselves into 2 monopolistic, vertically integrated cartels. Remember what happened to the price of gasoline when the OPEC cartel was organized?

Oh the joys of life in the city. . . Where we studiously ignore the plight of the vanishing farmer, even though the last generation of family farmers has been born. We willingly sacrifice the birthright of our cousins and family in rural areas on the altar of the false gods of economic rationalization and corporate greed. We eagerly embrace the politically correct economic superstitions that are encouraged by the public relations departments of rich and powerful corporations (as well as by the think tanks and university laboratories that they finance), whose deadly fruit is the destruction of rural life. The nation is currently experiencing the third massive wave of farm bankruptcies and consolidations since the 1970s, but judging from the news and the opinion polls, few of us in the city realize or care about what is happening in rural areas. The stock market may have bubbled up to historic highs, but prices for wheat, corn, cattle, and pork are at all-time lows (you wouldn't know this looking at the prices in your supermarket, especially in the meat department, hmm, what can this mean?). We have so surrounded the farmer with laws and regulations and debt that many of them feel trapped and see no way out of the present impasse. We encourage them to do more of the same, to reach for new "efficiencies," even though the price of "more of the same" seems to be "more of the same". After 3 waves of bankruptcies in 25 years, wouldn't you think we were down to the really efficient farmers anyway?

Oh the joys of life in the city. . . Where everything seems so stable and secure, even though the grocery stores only have 3 days inventory, the warehouses that supply them have one to four weeks inventory, and the entire food processing pipeline has only about 60 days in it. After that, we are down to livestock on the hoof and grain in the bins of our country cousins. Not that we would know much about what to do with a whole wheat kernel anyway. This just in time inventory corporate factory food system is vulnerable to power and transportation failures, terrorist attacks, and regularly is afflicted with food safety problems. But the corporate officers assure us, "Everything is fine, don't worry, be happy, don't ask questions. Ignore the man in the corner behind the curtain manipulating the controls!"

Oh the joys of life in the city. . . Where our tables are filled with foods from all continents, which we eat with relish and to excess. Meanwhile, we close our eyes to the hungry and starving of other lands who are hungry and starving because the food they used to eat is now being exported to the United States. Or the land that grew their food now raises cash crops for export  at the demand of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the bankers and Congress of these United States. Your own personal banker may be one of those making these demands of these poor people.

Oh the joys of life in the city. . . Where our kids think that food comes from the farm in shrink-wrapped plastic. They don't know  and most of us have forgotten  the sweet taste of freshly harvested corn on the cob, the rich taste of a home-grown and vine ripened tomato (you wouldn't think it was in the same vegetable family as its corporate-grown cousin). We close our eyes to warnings about the chemicals and additives, pesticide residues and genetically modified crops in the corporate machine food system. We try not to think about the chemical stews we are feeding our children or the tanks of chlorine and feces that "fresh" chicken is soaked in before being packaged for sale in the local supermarket. We prefer not to think about the factory chickens laying the eggs we buy  who spend their entire lives in a cage, with their beaks cut off. The chickens in the lower level cages are encrusted with the feces of the chickens above them (don't forget to wash those eggs you buy in the supermarket real good with soap and water before you crack them!). We don't think about these things because when we consider the corporate food system, we have been taught to see the Jolly Green Giant and the Keebler Elves, as though these fictitious advertising gimmicks were real! ("It's on TV, it must be real, the ad guys say it is so! And when were they ever wrong?")

IF YOU ALWAYS DO WHAT YOU ALWAYS DO, YOU WILL ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU ALWAYS GET! If we think we ought to just give in and live with this situation (the "Do as the corporations say!" option), all we have to do is keep doing what we are doing right now. We should just shut our ears to the cry of the starving poor whose food we steal to add pounds to our waistlines and dollars to the dividends of Del Monte and Chiquita, among many who could be mentioned. We must close our eyes to the tragic demise of the family farm and sell our birthrights for a handful of beads dangled before us by glib corporate PR departments. We shouldn't ask questions like: "Mr. Produce Manager, how much of these vegetables are from this area, how much from elsewhere in the US  and how much is imported from overseas?" Or, "Why isn't this produce from foreign countries labeled as to its country of origin? Manufactured products imported from abroad must be labeled, why not produce?"

WE START SMALL OR WE DON'T START AT ALL Here's the most radical thing you can do to help this situation: buy products directly from farmers. There are many options: (1) Traditional farmers markets and roadside stands. Many areas have them, but nowhere has enough of them. Look for them and spend at least some of your grocery dollars there. (2) Food circles. These programs unite urban eaters with rural farmer. They will often publish a directory or guide. Call your local "cooperative extension" office (look in the government blue pages in your phone book), such offices may be associated with a state university or the USDA, another possibility is the direct marketing program of your state department of agriculture. (3) Produce deliveries. Make a phone call, turn in your order, have it delivered right to your home. (4) Buy shares of a market garden. Some direct marketing farmers sell shares in their crops in advance to urban consumers. You pay up front, or with installments, and as the garden comes in, you get regular weekly deliveries. (5) Beef, pork, chicken, and eggs can all be bought from producers, with the butchering and wrapping done to order.

MORE IDEAS. . . Talk to your priest, rabbi, or pastor about starting a Saturday farmers' market on your church's property. Convenience is important, and religious institutions are scattered all over the urban landscape, usually very conveniently located for residents. Work together with rural churches to get farmers into the city. Help establish community canning kitchens where farmers or other small operators can prepare processed foods for sale to the public. Farmers, like other businesses, respond to market signals. If we want to do our part to help preserve rural life and family farmers  and let's face facts here, many of us have rural roots, and have family still down on the farm, so this isn't just an intellectual exercise, this is a family issue  us city folks need to start sending market signals to farmers: "We want to buy products directly from you. Our money is green, we spend billions on food, we know you are getting a pittance for your products. Sell directly to us eaters in the city. We need tasty and nutritious food but we also need to do our part to ensure that there will be many more generations of farmers and to preserve rural life." We can also grow more food in cities ourselves.

THERE'S NOTHING IN THIS ABOUT LOWERING YOUR QUALITY OF LIFE. . . What's being talked about here is increasing the quality of life and the security of your family by developing personal relationships with the people who grow and process your food. The best and most expensive restaurants look for fresh food bought from local producers, do you suspect that they know something about what it takes to prepare haute cuisine?

"My experience tells me that, instead of bothering about how the whole world may live in the right manner, we should think how we ourselves may do so. We do not even know whether the world lives in the right manner or in a wrong manner. If, however, we live in the right manner, we shall feel that others also do the same, or shall discover a way of persuading them to do so. Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as cooperation with good. Real peace will come, not by the acquisition of authority by a few, but by the acquisition of the capacity by all to resist authority when it is abused." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Robert Waldrop, Archbishop Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House, Oklahoma City

-- robert waldrop (rmwj@soonernet.com), September 06, 1999.

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