Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thank a farmer

“The disconnect between the accelerating pace of life and our natural human roots is making our hunger for tradition and a simpler life ever greater. When we garden rather than buy from the grocery store, when we intentionally buy from people who have chosen a rough-hewn life in order to produce something truly good, we are saying, whether we realize it or not, that we are craving something. There is a natural human instinct to be in touch with our roots, to use our hands, to create things. And regardless of the ever-widening gap between modern life and the natural world, it is nearly impossible to eliminate that instinct.”  Foodie blogger and traveler Georgia Pellegrini in the introduction to Food Heroes: 16 Culinary Artisans Preserving Tradition

As a holiday with food at its center, Thanksgiving is a good candidate for thank-a-farmer day. We could all probably make our own list of favorite farmers, food artisans and culinarians as a fun and thoughtful exercise. (That's Patrick Hamilton from Venetucci Farm, above.)

It just so happens that Thanksgiving caps off National Farm-City Week, which has been celebrated since 1955 with the intention of building “interdependence between rural and urban citizens.” In our modern world, farmers and consumers need each other but also tend to stay in different camps. To be human is, by necessity, to be consumers of a sort and also simultaneously producers of another sort. So were we all better off in prior decades when the farmer and the consumer were one and the same? Or is better now that a few farmers can choose to farm wholeheartedly, while the majority of others apply themselves toward other pursuits, with a monetary exchange to mediate between all of these various specialized efforts?

It’s hard to arrive at a firm answer, except to say there are always trade-offs. And to suggest that our society has likely swung too far from its agrarian roots on this particular pendulum. Unfortunately, many more people would like to farm than can make it financially viable. (Same with writing and other intrinsically rewarding creative pursuits.) Thus we have people who grow their own food and read about food growing and keep their hands in it in small ways… engaged, avid consumers. And if they work hard at it, they can become models of self-reliance, the old tried-and-true formula of the farmer and consumer wrapped up into one.

All of us can be thankful for those areas in our life, those windows of opportunity, that do allow for simplicity, quiet thoughtful engagement and peace of mind and heart. We can deliberately touch our roots, use our hands, create things — and celebrate others who do — while hopefully working to make the world a place where people have the opportunity to do personally meaningful and rewarding work, where quality of life is recognized and valued by society as a whole.