Baxter Black: Farming Dreams
November 13, 2014
In the land of Nod a movement sprung up to build houses without the use of power tools. The advocates of organic construction (OC) supported the movement because it prohibited the recovery and use of the carbon coal and oil.
To be OC any lumber used must be hand-hewn, saws must be manually operated. Mule power is approved. Machine made tools must be made by a blacksmith and made from stones, dug and formed by hand.
Electricity must be generated by wind power or water wheel. Those who live in the OC Stone Age houses glory in their contribution toward low environmental impact. They expect the government to give them tax breaks (think Al Gore) and to subsidize the craftsmen who do the grueling everlasting sawing, shimming, pounding and digging to build their houses under OC rules.
Well, we don't live in a land of Nod. There is no movement to build houses like the Native Americans before Columbus arrived. But that thought occurred to me when I read a newspaper article titled, "Don't let your children grow up to be farmers." It was written by a Connecticut man who, according to his story, was inspired by what is being called today, "The Food Movement." He threw himself joyously into the cause!
The government and many private entities have established foundation grants or donors to support "small farming." He was given financial help to encourage his venture. As he cleared his small acreage and learned first hand the effort it takes to farm, he avoided anything with the word "chemical" in it. No fertilizer unless it was from an organic source; no antibiotics, medicine, anesthetic or parasiticide to care for his sick animals, no insecticides, GMO's, no herbicides for his crops, he didn't even use rat poison.
There was a market for his expensive products; specialty grocery stores, "green" restaurants, and farmers markets. But over the years he was never able to cover the cost of his specialty products.
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From the beginning it was necessary for him to support himself with a side job. Oddly enough he had competition from "hobby farmers." They were often retired hedge fund managers or tax lawyers who could claim their two acres as agricultural and lower their property taxes. He also competed with non-profit farms whose purpose was for social, penal or therapeutic benefit. Customers always complained about the price. Ten years down the road he is broke and bitter.
But his solution to his failure is for the government to take money from farmers who make it and use it to pay organic small farmers a decent wage with insurance benefits, and protect their market from real farmers. He, somehow, doesn't get it. It's sad. Farming is real life, ask the Amish. It's not someone's dream of a "Camelot Food Movement." And as to his solution, it didn't work in Russia or China or North Korea and I don't think it will work in Connecticut.