Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thanksgiving Means Thanking Our Farmers

Giving thanks this harvest time means thanking our farmers for all the great food we enjoy every day and in every season.

Foodies and farmers must join forces says Thomas Pawlick in his new book, The War in the Country. The author of The End of Food warns that the demise of the family farm and local independent farming to "corporate farming" is a serious threat to both rural life and a nutritional food source for all of us. Rural residents and urbanites have one common enemy: the factory farm.

But before any joining of forces or bonding between the two groups can take place, some age-old misconceptions, prejudices and animosities have to be replaced with enlightened awareness and a shift in attitude.

As someone who has a foot in both the rural and the urban, I can't help but lament the average city dweller's lack of awareness (and respect) toward the rural and farming community. There is a rather obnoxious hypocrisy about the urban rush for organic or fair trade food, the general "greening" of the urban dialogue, and the concern over sustainability when indeed the most sustainable and healthy mode of life—the rural life right here in Canada—is under threat.

Unfortunately, urbanites really don't really know where their food comes from or know much about the precarious existence that the providers of that food often endure in order to preserve a way of life that is very precious to them.

There is real misunderstanding about farmers and farming. Farming is most often a choice. Farming isn't something people do because they can't do anything else. Farmers are first and foremost business people—entrepreneurs, if you will. And because they must live with risk—a constant factor in a farmer's life—they have to be astute, patient, optimistic, even visionary. It is their dedication and toil, through weather fair or foul, that ensures that our supermarket shelves are always well stocked with food.

The next time you buy a bunch of carrots, a dozen eggs, a bag of milk or a package of pork chops, give some thought to the source. Where did my food come from?

As more and more Canadians ask that question, the possibility of forging a mutually beneficial and respectful dynamic between urbanites and farmers becomes a reality for the future—and that can only be good for all of us.

More on the misconceptions and misunderstandings about agriculture and rural life in other posts. I'm off to order my copy of The War in the Country.

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