The Greenhorns

Last night Tom, Paul and I went to a screening for the Greenhorns movie, a documentary about new young farmers. It was a decent flick overall but I felt that it probably would have been better if the movie had focused on fewer farmers and told more of their story rather than show just a little bit of each farmer. Surprisingly, a photo of our backyard (the one above) made an appearance at the end of the film.

After the movie there was a panel discussion involving a couple of farmers, a Master Gardener, and some food enthusiasts (for lack of a better term). What the panel was lacking was food activists – people that want to truly change the system to be sustainable and increase the access of healthy food to everyone. While there was a new, young farmer on the panel, getting into farming and it’s challenges was barely discussed. When it was discussed one panelist said something along the lines of:

“Farming isn’t for everyone. It’s hard work and not everyone should be a farmer.”

Fair enough except it was in response to a question about how a 20-something that is interested in farming could get started. There was no mention of WWOOF though someone mentioned volunteering on a farm, though that is illegal in California so it seemed a bit out of touch with current regulations.

The overall feeling of the evening, however, was that sustainable farming and the food it produced should be elitist and that those that can’t afford it should eat unhealthy food. While it wasn’t said outright it was definitely implied. When a young man named Xulio stood up to talk about how the immigrant laborers aren’t going to be able to afford this food he was met with blank stares and a “I don’t really understand your question.” My hand shot up because this was exactly the question I was wanting to ask.

Are you interested in sustainable farming being only a niche market or do you want it to transform the food system? And if we are to transform the entire food system to be sustainable the only way we will be able to do that is to make healthy, sustainable food accessible to everyone. How do you see that happening?

I knew that the answer would be if I had gotten to ask the question but I was ignored and others were called on to ask more trivial questions (except for one woman who wanted to know about the work that City Slicker Farms was doing). Other than the movie it was a fairly disappointing and frustrating evening and a good reminder of why I’m a food justice activist.

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  1. That sounds like a frustrating panel discussion. Farming IS hard work, and it’s one with high costs, considerable risk, and a low profit margin. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it! And the biggest, most important question to me is — how do we support sustainable farmers while also ensuring the affordability of food for the whole community? I have ZERO idea how to do this with meat, or at least poultry, due to the insanely high cost of feed… we spent a fortune raising our heritage turkeys for Thanksgiving and have to recoup our costs. But I think it is possible to do this with vegetables. Our CSA members span the economic spectrum, thanks to the work-trade and u-pick programs we have which means people can get fresh, chemical-free food for much less than they’d pay at the farmers market. The thought of the local food movement remaining in the hands of an elite few is depressing!

  2. Meat is tricky. In order for our family to switch to healthy meat or meat we’ve raised ourselves we had to cut back. Which is healthier anyway. But the only solution I see to get middle or lower income families access to healthy food is for more people to think of themselves as farmers, even if they work in another field. More and more small scale production which gives people a crop they can trade with other small scale producers or produce that is divided among others who are involved in the work—less stress for the farmer if there are more helping hands and free healthy food in exchange for labor to those who cannot possibly afford farmers market prices. This would also involve the vast amount of unused lots in populated areas as community gardens.

    • You make a good point about meat. Meat should not be the main course to ever meal of the day. It wasn’t like that until very recently because it is so expensive to produce the right way. Now with CAFOs and subsidized corn and soy it has been able to become cheap and we are now paying for that with increased obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, etc. Not only are we now eating more meat but we’re also eating unhealthy meat from unhealthy animals which just makes the problem worse.

      I think Lynda is doing something very important not only with her animals and crops but also by allowing people that don’t have the money to be able to pay for the food in another way. Everyone has time to help and I’m sure that those that help learn to appreciate what goes in to producing their food.

  3. Thank you for that documentary critique, Rachel…I forwarded it to my sis who, over a decade ago at the age of 60+, ‘retired’, left CA, bought bare land in MT. She and her husband have built TOTALLY by themselves, a thriving organic farm where they have had an ‘egg route’, been CSA’ers, etc. She has a passion for feeding others WELL, and teaching the upcoming generation the importance of the food chain. I am now in my mid-sixties and, in the Santa Cruz hills, starting to ‘get into it’ (never too late!!) I just collected a beautiful egg from my chicken coop and the thrill of being able to personally and up close THANK the chickens is something that comes very naturally, but I never thought about it when I got my eggs at the market! This is work but Oh, So Rewarding on so many levels! I love your blog and look forward to every entry.

  4. Unfortunately, the ‘attitude’ expressed in the commentary are all too prevalent today. Being
    the “60+” (more like 70+) sister in the above comment, I have lived long enough to see the ‘golden rule’ replaced by the ‘bottom line’, much to the detriment of our world. However, that being said, there is much hope in our youth of today. My husband and I are fortunate enough to be able to host and train many young people from all over the globe on what it is like to ‘farm’ and, more importantly, what it is like to eat good food and feel truly healthy. When people can experience life in this manner, they tend to want to continue doing it and there is no better satisfaction than that.

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