My report from this March’s Farm Labor Reality Tour was published last week by the fine folks at Grist. Here’s a preview…
Bob St. Peter and his wife, Juli Perry, farm four acres in coastal Maine, growing vegetables, herbs, flowers, rabbits, chickens, and sheep to feed their family and their neighbors. They grow food in ways that build rich soil, nurture wildlife, and nourish their community. But “at the end of the day,” Bob says, “we’ve been bewildered at how hard it is to produce food to feed people.”
Not because of the intrinsic challenges of weather, pests, or the hard work involved, but because of the colossal wall of systemic market forces stacked against the profession of farming — and especially against farmers starting from scratch who want not to grow commodity crops or sell vegetables to high-end restaurants, but simply to feed people.
Bob’s not the only one fighting this uphill battle; so, too, are the small-scale dairy farmers wondering if each day milking their 40 cows might be the last; ranchers watching their options for a fair price on their cattle dwindle as meatpackers consolidate; farmworkers making sub-poverty wages for backbreaking work in the fields; and food workers unable to take a sick day without fear of losing their jobs.