Small Farmer Commentary: Rethinking Our Farm, Food, and Energy Future
By Mary Fund
“Don’t be afraid to start thinking!” This quip from a long time organic farmer to transitioning organic farmers could well be KRC’s unofficial motto. From our earliest days, we have prided ourselves on asking the right questions, asking the tough questions, and not following the herd.
Sometimes we get criticized for this. We’ve been admonished in the past to stick to giving farmer advice on farming practices and farm “stuff”, like building soil health or hoop houses, or marketing grass fed beef, or adding specialty crops to an operation. We were advised to stay out of the political or deeper more conflict laden topics.
After all, what does food access for the poor have to do with Kansas farms? Why do we talk about state budget revenues to provide education, transportation, child welfare, and health care for all? Why do we want to see affordable housing in rural and urban communities? Why do we support clean renewable energy like wind and solar? Why do we talk about farm and community resilience in terms of climate change? And why do we include social diversity discussions at our annual conference and weave it into our program work?
We do so because it is no longer enough—indeed it never was– to focus on just our individual, family, farm, or business, or even community’s well -being. We live within a broader economic, ecological, social, racial – and global context. So, we must broaden the conversation and our understanding of the solutions.
What happens in this larger context directly relates to who eats and how well they eat, and if they have access to food, land and resources, and a meaningful livelihood, and whether any of us will continue to have those basic opportunities. Today, to be able to respond to this larger context, our understanding of weather related extremes and response to climate change science must factor in more than shrugging these off as no different than past droughts or floods. We cannot be afraid to explore new information and data and reach new conclusions.
Some argue that the health and future of democracy is tied to how well we organize the distribution of the above, (i.e. food, land, housing, education, and health care) and to how well we respond to future energy needs and the transition to a fossil fuel or carbon free economy—or whether we even realize that that is what is needed.
Any planning for the future (on your farm, your business, or your community) must take into consideration not only the need for a big change in how we farm and how we distribute food in order to meet future needs and to preserve the ability to meet future needs, but requires a change to the energy base for that system. This means rethinking a whole lot of things and reducing wasteful consumption.
At our Town Hall meetings this summer (see story page 1), we hope to begin a discussion of our food system and farming and how these are related to climate and energy issues, and how to plan a more resilient future for both rural/urban communities. We will ask a panel of experts (and then the audience) these questions: What do you see as the future of food and farming in the context of weather extremes and climate change? What are three things that need to be addressed that will help advance that vision? And what actions or policies at the state or national level do we need to see to advance the vision? These questions can be applied at the broad context level or at the local community level, but ask them we must.
While KRC’s immediate work remains focused on practical farm and food related information and how-to’s needed to build a sustainable farm and food system, we recognize the need for this broader conversation to begin rethinking our future.
So, don’t be afraid to start thinking, and please join us at one of our town hall meetings this summer. We hope to see you down the road.
Contact Mary Fund at firstname.lastname@example.org