Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Life on the farm 10/20/09: We're dying out here

(Three thousand pounds of milk wait to become three hundred pounds of cheese)

It’s financially grim here on the farm. Really, really grim. Still no MILC (Milk Income Loss Contract) check for us, and Vermont farmers are being paid the same for milk that we were twenty years ago. For longer than we can afford to sustain. Again. And someone somewhere should be duly embarrassed about that.

The dairy industry is starting to collapse; if we can’t afford to pay our bills, our support system and vendors go out of business, too.

The way I see it, no panels, boards, investigations, legislation, loans or stimulus payments are going to be significant enough to recover what we’ve lost or to put it right.

Talking gets us nowhere; it does little but assuage those who feel their voices are not being heard, but here I am, doing it again.

Maybe it’s time to get over ourselves and stop being so Vermontery – you know, all laid-back and polite? When your family business is hundreds of thousands in the hole through no fault of your own, at what point do you have nothing left to lose, and maybe something to gain – at least, it might make you feel a little better - by being a bit naughty?

It’s rough to be in agriculture, even overseas. In France, farmers are dumping milk at tourist destinations and slowing traffic with tractors; they are burning bales on the Champs-Elysees; all to protest the low prices being paid for milk and corn, and the government’s inability or unwillingness to do anything about it quickly.

Oh, those crazy Frenchies! They do know how to do a protest up right. Forget about dumping milk in a field, or carrying a placard, it’s mischief in front of a bunch of foreigners and horn-honking commuters that gets a rise out of the powers that be.

That seems radical to us. But how else are Vermont farmers to get our point across, when the majority can’t see or hear us as we part from our livelihoods.

Will it go as far as willful disruptions, seeking national attention, and making a freaking nuisance of ourselves in front of the cash-carrying vacationers in order to embarrass the state into doing something?

You’ve heard me talk too much about protecting the cow-centric tourism industry and open land for hunting, and the “homeland security” of having a widely disbursed food system, but what about the health concerns emerging over the long-term effects of eating too much processed, chemically altered “food products”?

Here’s a thought gleaned from In the United Kingdom, food allergies have seen a tenfold increase in the last 25 years, which Allergy U.K. estimates affects forty-five percent of the population. The theory is that all the unnatural processed foods people have consumed over their lifetimes are creating hypersensitive immune systems so that they become intolerant of foods like nuts, wheat, corn, or milk. Diets high in processed food ultimately result in obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other ailments. *

There might be more at stake in the value of preserving a local food system (and farms) than we think. Put down that Red Bull and have a glass of milk, for heaven’s sake! We’re dying out here.