No farms, food or America

Hobie Morris

By Hobie Morris

My beautiful wife Lois came up with the title of what follows. She and I are simple rural people whose best friends are neighboring family farmers. This article title should be indelibly imprinted in every American’s mind. It’s a truism that has incredible importance to every one of us.

Tough times are hardly new to farmers. Everything about farming is hard, including the often 100-plus-hour work week, with no vacation. It takes very special men and women to successfully run and manage a family farm, especially at the present time, when the gods of success daily conspire against them. The farmers we know are truly amazing people. Their practical knowledge and skills unmatched in any profession. Every day their experience and knowledge greatly

The farmers we know are truly amazing people. Their practical knowledge and skills unmatched in any profession. Every day their experience and knowledge greatly aids them in tackling the toughest challenges that are simply part of farming life. Why they do this year after year, generation after generation, is as diverse as their personalities.

One farmer friend tells me he simply loves his independence, planting, harvesting and watching the seasons unfold before him. They universally lament that few young people want to go into farming: the work’s too hard, too long and at the end of the year you are probably making $2 an hour for those 100-hour work weeks.

Sadly the handwriting is on the wall. Small American family farms are being eliminated by market conditions, inadequate markets and product prices that in most cases don’t come close to production costs. The free market system for most small farmers has been a dagger blow to their survival. Since the survival of the fittest free market dagger has eliminated nearly 20,000,000 farmers who have been dispossessed because they were deemed not efficient enough to survive. The only ones surviving are the mega-sized operations.

As my longtime friend, the great poet, essayist and rural philosopher Wendell Berry has described recently how all this came about: “In the middle of the twentieth century, think-tanks containing academic and corporate experts laid down the decree that there were too many farmers…that the excess should be removed as rapidly as possible and that the instrument of this removal should be the free market, all price supports and production controls being eliminated.”

These think-tanks envisioned farming more efficiently run by technology with farmers replaced by engineers and they, in turn, by robots, etc. The farmer ultimately regarded as unnecessary and useless.

The ultimate goal of these office experts was the cheapest production cost and highest profits.

Everything and everybody not working to this goal must be eliminated.

For decades, political leaders supporting the free market system could blissfully ignore the pressing concerns of the farmers and farm land so for 60 years our political system has quieted the farmers down by subsiding uncontrolled production, which was worse than doing nothing. As Wendell Berry has beautifully written, “…good farming is first and last an art, a way of doing and making that involves human histories, cultures, minds, hearts and souls. It is not the application by dullards of methods and technologies under the direction of a corporate-academic intelligentsia.”

Wendell Berry, John Muir and Aldo Leopold all take a deeper look at humanity’s relation to the

landscape of farmland and forest. There have to be limits on the pressure to produce and the land that sustains us all. (It’s unconscionable that America loses 40 acres of farm land to development, etc., every hour. By 2050, we’ll have lost to the same an area the size of North Carolina.)

Our obligation to preserve this land requires the highest commitment and good sense. In 1945 Leopold wrote about two competing philosophies of farm life that is still true today. The farm as a food factory and the farm as a place to live. Of the two, Leopold of course chose the second because as a work of art it was the most complete, where every part is both limited and enabled by the others.

Preserving and supporting family farming is essential to America’s future. Without them there would never have been an America that we know today. Farm families love their land and are good stewards of it because it sustains them and ultimately every one of us.

Hobie Morris of Brookfield is a simple country man.

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