Last night we celebrated six weeks on the America The Bountiful tour with a group of young farmers here in Solon, Iowa. We heard stories of hope, possibilities, and love for their work. Those who have known me for a long time may be thinking I'm going soft by evoking love so much lately.
It has taken me decades to recognize the concept of love being key to emotional and physical health, and it has taken a few weeks for me to realize that it works even better when we express it. This tour has been a catalyst for my public expression of love and gratitude.
And then, there is hope. I often talk about the similarities between farmers and fishermen. There is one thing in particular that they have in common more than anything else: hope.
Every time a net is put into the sea, it's done with hope. Every time a seed is planted, it's because of hope. Every time an animal is born on the farm, it's about hope. Hope that something will swim into your net, sprout out of the ground, or grow into a healthy animal. Sure... you do what you can to nurture the process and hone your skills, but hope is key.
What was particularly special about last night was the abounding sense of possibilities from these young farmers who are banking on a future where they can feed themselves and others in their community with dignity. We have heard a similar sense from fishermen we've visited along the way.
Unfortunately, what we're also learning is that the rest of our society doesn't quite feel that the farmers, fishermen, farm and fish workers, food workers, the land, the sea, and animals are worth all the love.
What this lack of worth translates into is devastating economically, socially, and ecologically. How it's manifested is farmers and fishermen not getting paid a living wage by being literally prohibited to put a price tag on what they grow, catch, and/or raise that truly reflects what it costs them to run their businesses. They are almost always operating in the red, and as a society we have decided that's okay. We are challenging that decision.
What we've learned on this tour is that our society has signaled that giving up our food supply to corporate consolidation and takeover, privatization of land and sea, animal factories on land and sea, and mass production of what is called "food" is worth it as long as we get cheap food. We've given up our collective responsibility for our food producers and the planet when we took the bait that all that matters is mass quantities of cheap unidentified "food" objects.
We aren't recognizing yet that good food is worth its price and we must ensure the money goes to the fisherman and farmer rather than the corporations usurping all profit and power in the middle of the supply chain. Giving farmers and fishermen their cost of operation means they can in turn demonstrate to their workers, animals, land, and sea that they are worth being cared for with love and respect.
Lack of worth also means we are complicit in slave labor - past and present. If we are not willing to give fishermen and farmers what it really costs to put good food on our tables they are not able to pay their deckhands and farmhands a living wage.
In the name of feeding the world, we have also accepted that animals we want to eat aren't worth a better life. It's okay to treat them like commodities and pieces of paper our money is printed on rather than living, breathing creatures giving up their life for our love of food.
Last night's conversation around the dinner table filled with vegetables and lamb from this farm left me with the sense of hope from and for the next generation. Their work can and must increase our collective consciousness around worthiness of the people, animals, land, and sea. I heard a sincere sense of possibility in what the future can bring despite what is happening on the national and global stage.
This morning I had a brief chat with Carmen Black, the young woman who decided she was going to do whatever it takes to buy this farm from its previous owner. She and others living in this farmhouse, including Anna Hankins who invited us here, run Local Harvest CSA. I told her I was so impressed and energized by the risk she has taken, and the collective way these women (and one man!) are raising their goats, sheep, and vegetables even though everything feels dire.
Her parting words to me: there is no other option but hope.
Amen, Carmen. And, thank you for teaching me how to milk a goat! I'll keep my day job.