Happily Ever Laughter

| August 12, 2009

Unintended consequences are just that – unintended.  Sometimes the best intentions lead to adverse results. For example, the U.S. market-oriented agricultural system seems to be a natural result of Keynesian economy…let those who can compete compete and the weak will simply fall by the wayside…or is it a perpetuation of elite dominance?

Let’s look at the market economy and our farmers. In 1790, farmers used to make up 90% of the labor force. In 1990, farmers made up 2.6%. What happened? Is the decrease in farms a natural result of the market economy? Is it the role of the government to prevent the destruction of all farms? Which types of farms get help and which ones don’t?

On the one hand, farm bills and subsidies that “help farmers” sound wonderful, but what type of unintended consequences do they have on on whom? Government subsidies (and some would argue, natural market competition) have favored large companies such as Mansanto and Cargill. The growth of these businesses have changed the industry: aspiring students of agriculture study agribusiness, not farming. As consumers, we tend to still reach the prepackaged chicken nuggets because of ease and convenience and price rather than the fresh, locally-grown whole chicken.

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Meanwhile, federally-funded programs that aim to help preserve farms do not always result in their (original?) intentions. According to Timothy Egan, up to $20 billion a year of federal money goes to farms, yet these farm subsidy systems often go to the richest farmers who are industrial farmers. These subsidies also go towards large commodity crops such as corn and soybeans to help produce more corn syrup and processed foods, rather than to small farmers who grow fresh vegetables and legumes.

Who is responsible for real change of our current food system? Is it a political issue? Economic? Social? Does it ultimately fall on us as consumers? As it is said, we pay with our feet.

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Two new friends of mine, Sam and Will, have decided to not get caught up in the politicking and fighting about this bill and that bill, and act. Several months ago,  Sam (who is not a farmer) decided to purchase a house and some land, invited Will (who is an experienced farm manager) to join him, and started the Ever Laughter Farm. I remember the first day I saw it, there was a lot of grass. Lots of grass. 7 short months later, the Ever Laughter Farm has an abundance of greens (known for their leafy delicious lettuces that defy the oppressive Southern heat), chickens, goats, and even a few large pigs. They sell their produce at the South Estes Farmer’s Market in Chapel Hill, NC and the Eno River Farmer’s Market in Hillsborough, NC.

I am thoroughly amazed at their determination and their focus to walk the walk. There are others too. Recently, some folks from Crop Mob, a group of small farmers and farmer-wanna-bes, went to Ever Laughter for a day to support Sam and Will’s enterprise. In return for a day’s worth of work, a communal dinner and a date to help a neighboring farm.

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With the world’s population pushing past the limits of the earth’s capacity, our food and people crises are very real for all living creatures. Climate changes, desertification, and lack of fresh water are all symptoms of a world in danger. Malnutrition is occurring under many forms, from overfeeding processed (and unhealthy) foods to cooking leather chairs as ‘lamb stew’. Using these crises to promote political interests – be they conservative, liberal, national or foreign – seems extraordinarily and dangerously short-sighted.

There will always be unintended consequences to even the most well-intentioned policies. But folks like Sam and Will at Ever Laughter remind us that sometimes, it simply takes real human beings to act and effect change through action, and perhaps then, we can move ever closer to Happily Ever Laughter.

More on FarmBill and subsidies.

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Category: Communities, Featured Articles: Food Politics, Food Politics, Piedmont NC, Travel & Culture, US & Canada

About the Author (Author Profile)

With a flair for spontaneity, pizzazz, creative excellence and her own unique sense of aesthetic grace and perspective, we have our very dear friend, Belinda (or B, to some of us). Although an incredibly accomplished professional and career woman, B’s down-to-earth approach and demeanor transcends all scenarios, communities and people. She manifests, in her day-to-day, the essence of the word “Zomppa” as demonstrated by her extraordinary commitment to creating sustainable and positive change for us and future generations to come. She’s asked for a dog every year since she was five. Check out Belinda’s work on global education research and coaching: www.hummingbirdrcc.com or more about her portfolio www.belindachiu.com.

Comments (1)

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  1. TY says:

    Sam and Will’s story is such an inspiration. B..your piece is so thoughtprovoking.