When I went to Williston, North Dakota to report for the Century on churches in the oil boom, I had dinner at a place called Banquet West, a free meal on Sunday nights. At my table on that stormy March evening were people from around the country.
It’s farm bill season again. That’s right: time for our divided government to get together and reauthorize the five-year omnibus bill that affects everyone who grows, sells or eats food—or at least to go through the motions for a while before punting again like last year.
Critics of the food movement's emphasis on organic, smaller-scale and local/regional agriculture tend to point out that feeding the world requires large-scale, conventional farming. But we're already producing more food than we need. The problem is drastic inequalities of access.
A new report from Oxfam (pdf) highlights one particularly egregious force behind these inequalities: foreign speculators buying up farmland in poor countries.
My favorite book of the summer is Turn Here Sweet Corn, a memoir by organic farmer Atina Diffley. Her husband Martin started delivering vegetables from his family’s land to co-ops in Minneapolis in the early ‘70s, when co-ops were a new idea in Minnesota and few outside resources existed.
I'm as down on big organics as the next guy who makes homemade sauerkraut out of cabbage grown by his farmer wife. As Stephanie Strom details, the standards of organic certification could be much stronger, and most national organic brands are owned by the very mainstream companies they're standing in implicit objection to. Not exactly a recipe for systemwide reform.
Still, I think Tom Philpott's right: Michael Potter of the independent holdout Eden's Organics, Strom's primary focus, goes too far in slamming the certified-organic label as a "fraud."