Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

I live in Oklahoma, USA, immortalized in musical culture by Rogers and Hammerstein's musical, in which performers belted out lyrics that would become the state's official song "Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plains...," as well as performers asking "why can't farmers and cow-men just be friends?" Oklahoma is still a predominantly rural state with a high Native American population, significant rural poverty, and depopulation of the country-side as rural youth move to metropolitan areas seeking work. That's a fully modern story.

In the US, since 1940, the rise of mechanized, industrial agriculture has made possible significant migration from rural areas and an economic transition for most US citizens from farming to manufacturing and service sector jobs. By taking advantage of his possibility, industrialized agriculture has become entrenched as an American lifeway. American agriculture is highly productive, highly dependent of fossil fuel inputs, on highly toxic pesticides, and rapidly becoming highly dependent of GMOs (Roundup-ready corn, soybeans, etc). The only farmers who can afford to participate in this industrial agriculture model are those with access to significant sources of credit and willingness to carry large amounts of debt for capital machinery and operating expenses. As a result the family farm is virtually extinct and with it the know how to feed oneself.

I teach history and geography. I was raised on a share-cropping cotton farm. It surprises me, though it shouldn't, that my students have no practical knowledge of the processes or supply line that stocks the shelves and freezers of the grocery store. They don't know how the items they buy in cans and frozen packages are produced. They have no idea what goes into them. So many rely on pre-cooked foods, they don't even know what the ingredients are or how they are put together.

In a coming food crisis, whether born of infrastructure failure, ecological crisis, or one corporately engineered by international food brokers (Arthur-Daniels-Midland for instance), I am not sure that many could survive if left to themselves. They have no idea how to garden. If they did understand how to grow plants, they'd be hard pressed to know how many to grow, which ones to plant when, how to tend a garden out in nature, or how to store food for use at times outside the growing season.

Further exacerbating this prevailing urban ignorance of agricultural systems at any scale, is the lack of available space to grow even supplemental food sources. Suburban architectural styles that focus on large houses with steeply pitched roofs on small lots leave little room for insolated ground space on which gardens of any size can be grown. Vertical cities leave even less.

One bright spot is that in a number of midwestern cities urban livestock ordinances are being revisited with an eye toward allowing households to raise small flocks of chickens for egg production and community gardens are sponsored by a few local churches and synagogues, which lays a cultural foundation for using semi-public urban and suburban grounds for food production.

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Sep 25, 2020
Sophie C. commented on Asger Jon Vistisen's blog post Stinging Nettle
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