By Lisa Griffith--
It’s easy to feel discouraged when listening to stories defining the problems facing farmers and ranchers across the midwest and northern plains. Everyone, it seems, is fighting some sort of behemoth – Smithfield, Monsanto, Walmart, oil and gas corporations, water shortages, shamefully beholden politicians, low farmgate prices, rising land prices, feelings of isolation, pesticide drift, long-gone infrastructure, soil infertility, or high energy costs.
Consolation arrives, however, in the form of hope and inspiration from the same farmers and ranchers. Everyone shared an idea or practice that could be applied somehow, somewhere: electing legislators who give a dam about their constituents, passing local health and cottage foods ordinances, forming food hubs to connect local farmers, food and eaters, selling shares to an on-farm market instead of a CSA, building straw bale greenhouses for year-round growing, raising earthworms for vermicast tea to apply to soil, noting the succession of wild grasses and other plants to measure soil health, establishing baseline data for ground water and other indicators, combining potlucks with campaign planning sessions, listening to people even if you disagree with them, engaging youth and those from communities outside your own, fighting restlessly for fair prices and wages, being willing to get arrested in the right situations, focusing and filtering your goals, having at least one four-legged creature as an ally, considering New Economy Coalition and Slow Money concepts, planting cover crops, (somehow) bringing back local meat processors, growing heritage breeds of livestock and crops, taking the step to ask for help when it’s needed, and remembering that "empathy transcends psychology, every time."
Hearing farmers describe crumblier, richer soil; selling products at prices they set; and staving off CAFOs or pipelines is more than heartening. There are many reasons for hope, and we must celebrate them.
To the FARMERS, RANCHERS and STAFF of Missouri Rural Crisis Center, Dakota Rural Action, Powder River Basin Resource Council, Northern Plains Resource Council and Western Organization of Resource Councils who shared their time, homes, food, concerns and wisdom – thank you!