An Open Letter to New York Times Opinion Author Gracy Olmstead

We’ve got to unpack this recent opinion piece published in the New York Times, “My Great-Grandfather Knew How to Fix Our Food System.” (Gifs to help you make it through.)

I am going to try my best here to not be flippantly derogatory for the sake of illustrating how, the next time you see this kind of writing/speaking/ideating, you will have all the tools you need to absolutely tear this argument to smithereens with a smile.

Let’s start with the subtitle.

“In the mutual aid and stewardship of an earlier generation of American farmers, there might be hope for our…

“If You Know So Much About Farming, Grow Your Own”

If you’ve ever said true facts about agriculture in public, you’ve probably come up against some version of this argument”

Of course, the boiled down version of this “argument” is captured in one of my favorite memes.

But I want to take some time to really dig into the “grow your own food” challenge, because it’s not just high and mighty farmers, who are unwilling to participate in productive public discussion, that love this line. In fact, *a lot* of people who focus on environmental outcomes and social justice also lean heavily on self-sufficiency arguments.

First, let’s consider Alan…

The Regenerative Ag Racket

This week, the Good News Network wrote about, “The First Farmer in the US to Sequester Carbon for Cash in Private Marketplace Earns $115,000 For His Planting Strategy.” The long and short of it; a Maryland farmer who owns 10,000 acres of commodity grain cropland (corn, soybeans, and wheat) sold carbon credits to a couple of major groups in exchange for planting cover crops and limiting his tillage.

Not only is this money poorly spent, it’s just the beginning of what could be a decades long boondoggle of pouring “climate investment” money down the drain while actively making our global…

A Tough Love Letter to the Equality State from a Wyomingite in Exile

So I was making breakfast on Wednesday when I heard the story “Facing a Reckoning, Wyoming Wrestles with a Transition from Fossil Fuels” on NPR’s Morning Edition. As a Wyoming ex-pat, this story hit me in a lot of different places, and in the course of it’s six minute runtime, I was equal parts disappointed, flabbergasted, deeply saddened, and infuriated.

The ($11,000 Per Person) Pool

This was the killer opening. In Pinedale, WY, state oil and gas revenue bankrolled a $22 million aquatic and community fitness center. Pinedale is home to just 2,000 people. The reporter speaks with the center’s…

I just received this fabulous mug from my friend chick, a Big Team Farm member who’s well worth the follow — she lives and works in the conventional ag world and is *incredibly* clear-eyed about what she sees.

The connections between agricultural and sexual imagery are legion. From “virgin soil” to getting plowed, from “hung like a horse” to spreading seed. The vast majority of this ag-sex word play is hyper-masculine, which makes sense only in the most outdated sense that “man’s role in farming is to seed the fertile Earth and bring forth life.”

The historical irony of this…

Evidence that consumers do, in fact, have a good idea where food comes from

Have you ever heard the idea that “consumers don’t know where their food comes from?”

Well, that’s not true. Consumers understand farming more intuitively than they understand the inner workings of many other things in their lives.

How do I know? Because our pop culture references farming constantly (often in very subtle ways), and we do not miss these references.

From the “Farmers for America” trailer I just stumbled upon (note the troubling centrality of patriotic rhetoric, and that, you know, farming =! ‘MERICA) to some obscure lines from Designated Survivor about needing to get the government back up and…

Carbon market and Soil Sequestration-mania is set to funnel big financial gains from carbon-emitting industries to farmland owners. But what does it really mean farmers?

As my friend Rhishi over at Software is Feeding the World so aptly wrote recently, “Everyone and their brother has a carbon market.”

Among the group frantically hoping to set up private markets are the venture capital darling Indigo Ag, Nutrien, the EcoSystem Market Consortium, Bayer’s Carbon Initiative, and the COMET-Planner, just to name a few. Even new advisors on Biden’s agriculture transition team want the US Department of Agriculture in on the action.

The basic idea behind carbon markets is simple; carbon-emitting companies and industries will pay farmers to sequester carbon in their soil to offset emissions, and this…

My bet for the best non-exploitative future of agriculture.

I’ve spent a decade working all over the ag space looking for the answer to that question.

I’ve traveled around the country and lived around the world. I’ve met and spoke with hundreds, if not thousands, of farmers. I’ve read and researched, I’ve hunted down experts and challenged their every conclusion. I’ve been proven wrong many times.

The world is littered with evidence that it is not possible. I’ve found one “Yes,” in all my obsessive searching. And I’m betting my career on it.

What makes a farm exploitative?

Today, I just want to talk about one small element of this question. The exploitation part.

Radically empowering employees will protect us all.

It took a global pandemic, thousands of sick workers, and a Presidential executive order to remind American’s of something we’ve known for a century.

The human cost of putting meat on the table is high, even if the sticker price doesn’t reflect it.

I won’t spend many words reiterating the dire situation meatpacking workers around the country are in right now. Severe conditions, low pay, few protections, demanding work, corporate protections that leave workers vulnerable while profits balloon for companies, rampant illness, limited information, and coverups.

The conclusion is clear. We need a different system, one that doesn’t demand that…

I heard a story about a woman whose family owns a farm in Hawaii. Despite her decidedly hippy-like life leanings, she was explaining why she is now politically conservative.

“You become conservative,” she said, “when you have something to conserve.”

What the women meant for non-conservatives to hear by “something to conserve” was that she’s a conscious environmentalist fighting to protect a fragile and disappearing ecosystem (that’s she’s a conservationist). But what she actually said was she’s a conservative — the thing she cares about conserving is her right to the land, her and her family’s wealth.

These kinds of…

Sarah Mock

Author of Farm (and Other F Words), pre-order now: Rural issues and agriculture writer/researcher. Not a cheerleader, not the enemy.

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