Read this article by Chris Newman of Sylvanaqua Farms for democracy in food and agriculture. An excerpt with some of the nitty gritty:
While other nations adopt quotas and other imperfect systems to moderate the supply of food with something more humane than unregulated free markets, the U.S. is still stuck in a Butzian hellscape of planting fencerow to fencerow just because we have the land for it. Amid chronic oversupply, during national/global emergencies or complete calm, we continue to bail out farmers, most of whom are near-millionaires (including our vaunted “small family farmers”), year after year after year. Agriculture and Defense are the only industries in America that enjoy a perennial, unconditional bailout. And they get it because they are, together, the foundation of American Imperialism.
Chris Newman is an ehakihet (farmer/land-protector) in the Northern Neck of Virginia. Acts of kindness to continue this work are always appreciated on Venmo @sylvanaquafarms
For more on the issue, listen to this episode of 1619 from the New York Times:
The Marxist Education Project is delighted to host the launch of Rob Wallace’s new book, Big Farms Make Big Flu (Monthly Review Press).
In Big Farms Make Big Flu, a collection of dispatches by turns harrowing and thought-provoking, Wallace tracks the ways influenza and other pathogens emerge from an agriculture controlled by multinational corporations. With a precise and radical wit, Wallace juxtaposes ghastly phenomena such as attempts at producing featherless chickens with microbial time travel and neoliberal Ebola. Wallace also offers sensible alternatives to lethal agribusiness. Some, such as farming cooperatives, integrated pathogen management, and mixed crop-livestock systems, are already in practice off the agribusiness grid.
While many books cover facets of food or outbreaks, Wallace’s collection is the first to explore infectious disease, agriculture, economics, and the nature of science together. Big Farms Make Big Flu integrates the political economies of disease and science into a new understanding of infections.
We tend to take it for granted that nature—being basic to everything—is the place to begin when we try to understand regional economies. The given natural attributes of a region certainly do explain much about subsistence economies: why some people eat seals and caribou while others eat dates and goats; why herders in some places stay put beside their fields while others traipse back and forth between summer and winter pastures; why some people shelter in thatch and mats while others build with stone and timber; why some spin wool, others cotton, and so on. But interesting as such economic travelogues are, they don’t go far to explain even subsistence economies. For one thing, they don’t explain why these are subsistence economies instead of something else.
The Community Economies Collective (CEC) and the Community Economies Research Network (CERN) are international collaborative networks of researchers who share an interest in theorizing, discussing, representing and ultimately enacting new visions of economy. By making multiple forms of economic life viable options for action, these diverse, engaged scholarly and activist efforts aim to open the economy to ethical debate and provide a space within which to explore different economic practices and pathways.
These projects grew out of J.K. Gibson-Graham’s feminist critique of political economy that focused upon the limiting effects of representing economies as dominantly capitalist. Central to the project is the idea that economies are always diverse and always in the process of becoming. CERN and CEC developed as ways of connecting and coordinating the work of researchers and activists who document and theorize the multiple ways in which people are making economies of difference and in the process realizing their interdependence with others.
Our work aims to
produce a more inclusive understanding of economy
highlight the extent and contribution of hidden and alternative economies
theorize economy and community as sites of becoming
My friend Ryan Patrico, a doctoral student in history at Yale, noticed something curious while studying the German nuns whose convents wound up in Protestant regions in the early, bloody days of the Reformation. He focused on those nuns who refused the option of relocating to Catholic areas where they could practice their faith more freely. They understood their vows as being not only to certain kinds of prayers and allegiance to a pope, but to stewarding a certain plot of land and shepherding the surrounding economy. “Their Catholicism bound them to a place,” Patrico writes. They felt their salvation was tied up with caring for the land.
These nuns are a reminder that Pope Francis isn’t coming out of nowhere with his often perplexing “small is beautiful” form of ecological economics. He calls for urgency in confronting the climate crisis, while declining to put his trust in modern technology and markets for the solution. His sources of inspiration are seemingly lost causes: the remaining vestiges of indigenous agriculture, cooperative business models, and a call for the mass rejection of consumerism.
The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program has funded a number of projects evaluating ways to extend the growing season and crop options for high tunnel farmers in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties; photo: Michael Davis, Willsboro Agricultural Research Farm.
Can cucumbers, basil, ginger, green beans and zucchini be more profitable crops for farmers than tomatoes, the king of high tunnel produce? The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program has released the results of a project evaluating the economic potential of the non-traditional tunnel crops.