Farms, Food, Climate, and Our Will to Change

Reader Contribution by Steven Mcfadden
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The way we tend the land that produces our food, and the way we eat, are the key factors in our physical, moral, and spiritual survival and evolution.

My recognition of this fundamental fact is, of course, shared by many people. Among those who see this reality, and who can give the situation eloquent expression, is Jean-Paul Courtens of Roxbury Farm in Kinderhook, NY.

As it happens, farmer Courtens has recently become a grandfather. He mentioned that happy fact publicly in March when he spoke at Dartmouth College as part of the Real Organic Project’s symposium. A video of his 15-minute talk is available at this link. I highly recommend watching and learning.

Courtens said that becoming a grandfather had brought his attention to the future for his family: “What’s Earth going to look like in in 2100?” he asked. Scientists say that in addition to all the other disruptive changes resulting from climate chaos, by 2100 sea levels may rise by almost two feet.

Agriculture has a crucial role in this. Estimates of the negative impact of industrial, chemical agriculture on climate change vary – but virtually all responsible estimate agree that harmful agricultural impact is massive.

Organic, biodynamic and other soil-building agroecological farming systems, on the other hand, have a significant positive impact. As is well known, the soil built by agroecological farms captures and stores tons of climate-aggravating CO2. These systems help to stabilize the climate. Courtens’ video makes that plain in a way everyone can – and should – come to understand.

From my vantage, I see that the government is shirking its duty to protect the nation by failing to address climate change, and striving to systematically hide facts from the public. That leaves it up to us, the citizens. If we have the capacity to understand and acknowledge what is happening with our climate, and to see the role that our farms and food play, then we must summon the will to bring about change at the levels of household, neighborhood, community, and outward and onward until governments and corporations finally take responsible action.

Note that we are losing farms and farmers to the petrochemical borg of industrial agriculture. The USDA just last month released its most current Census of Agriculture (2017). They reported that the overall number of farms in the U.S. declined more than 3% from 2012 to 2017.

However, organic farming was a bright spot. The number of USDA certified organic farms grew from 12,771 in 2012, to 17,741 in 2017. That’s still a very small percentage of the overall number of farms, but because organic and other agroecological farming systems make a positive difference with climate change, it does convey a measure of hope that common sense and the will of the people is gaining momentum.

Community Farm (CSA) Conversation

Back in 2014 I had the opportunity to share a podcast conversation with Jean-Paul and Allan Balliett. Although five years have passed, our conversation about community supported agriculture (CSA) remains relevant.

Independent journalist Steven McFadden has from time to time experienced the thrill of breathing the sparkling, living airs that course through the meadows of great mountains. Otherwise he’s hard at work, rooted in agrarian cyberspace His wider work, and all of his nonfiction books, are at Chiron Communications.

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