October 15, 2011

Spirit of the Young Farmer. {Bioneers}

“…The explosive potential of controlling your own food supply.”
~ Severine von Tscharner Fleming

Photo courtesy of Worldchanging Team

One of today’s Bioneers talks, ‘Growing Growers: The 100,000 New Farmers Challenge’, featured a panel of sharp-witted and spunky young farmers.  All of them came into the movement via different paths, but they face similar challenges as their respective businesses and campaigns are pitted against the agro-corporate controlled landscape of what is the national, and even global, predominant food production system.

Severine von Tscharner Fleming, director of The Greenhorns, spoke fervently on behalf of the young farmers movement as a whole.  The movement, she emphasized, encompasses a much wider range of skills than those solely used on the field.  Anything from bicycle powered pig roasting spits to radio projects to creating online networks of young farmers are included in the vision shared by many rural producers, locovores, and agro-enthusiasts.

Sarita Role Schaffer, co-founder of GrowFood, spoke of the multiple entry points into farming, based on market roles, education, and policy work.  Her organization provides viable and practical training and infrastructure to support the growing population of people looking for a way out of the current system by diligently pursuing their most basic right of deciding what they eat and how its grown.

Tyler Webb, representing his own farm in Vermont, is also an ambassador of Generation Organic, a program of the Organic Valley cooperative that encourages consumers to foster relationships with the farmers that grow their food. Ultimately, this campaign aims for consumers and producers to share a dialogue, so that both parties can have a greater role in spreading knowledge about how food can be produced with ecological sustainability and social awareness in mind.

All of these goals share a common perspective on the challenges they face; attachment to idealism can be inhibiting while working on so many levels. Not to say ideals are completely negative in every movement, but we ain’t living the American dream, and thinking only in ideals is not an effective way of changing a system built on an delusive house of cards.

These farmers, as well as those standing alongside them, know the pitfalls of the system and that grassroots change begins with a realistic and perseverant attitude.  Working from the ground up means knowing what policies need to change and how.  First, we need a level playing field (Hey, government! Time to subsidize small-scale organic farms!) Second, supporting the farmers who live near us means living within the local, or at least regional, productive capacity of your area.

This movement thrives off the realizations of your own frustrations with the system.  Showing that frustration, but coupling it with an awareness and desire to change things through restorative and compassionate action, is the most realistic approach to redesigning the dream.

See them not simply as farmers, but as eco-system managers and game changers.  As Severine aptly put it, “Don’t pity us: join us.”

Via The Greenhorns:

Via Bioneers Dreaming New Mexico:


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