11 February 2006

Money Matters

Money Matters

(but not all that much)

Economy is one of a subject that tends to drive the human psyche of ‘economic man’ into, at times, fits of derision or contemplative joy. It’s components of time and labor, not to mention material sustenance and its excesses of consumption (see consumerism) is a varying vice or virtue depending on the context of the conversation or topic at hand.

It is a subject that one such aware, can devote the better hours of given days attending to its attributes or function for want, worry or in pursuit of gain.

This is a doorpost verse for us as we enter in and exit again our dwelling. It is one of contemplative care, which in tending to daily matters, economic or otherwise, we know the importance and the function it provides us in what we do and for whom we do it for each day.

It’s facets are poorly taught by either standard education, family governance, or church doctrine, as an informal “taboo” that might give cause to offend the mass of men living equal lives of desperation. It would be a remarkable understatement to say that I doubt it is something that can be justly treated in one brief post. I hope that in touching upon some various facets of this bedazzling jewel we give light to areas of our lives we have not gazed…………………

Food Economics 101: Bringing it Home

In hopes to produce a more local and sustainable food system for my family we have endeavored to look into and study out that which we consume in the food chain to sustain us. The concept is somewhat simple, buy and eat locally produce products, the process is somewhat daunting, at first.

Growing local or going local may be the single most effective thing we can do to effect a change or a shift in the economy of our households, neighbors and friends. Given the widespread havoc reaped through globalization of our food systems here in the US and abroad. The evils of such mega corporations such as Monsanto, Wal-Mart and their ilk are apparent as the noonday sun if one is inclined to remove their government issued ‘rose’ colored glasses if only for a moment. It is only through sloth and self-imposed ignorance that we can today claim or remain unaware.

One does not need the postulations of a doomsday prophet, consult the oracle of Omaha or a Wall Street wizard to know that centralization and specialization brings destruction to local economies. We only need ask ourselves whether it is realistic to continue pulling the entire global population into a single economy?

What is Localization?

Localization is essentially a process of de-centralization - shifting economic activity into the hands of thousands of small- and medium-sized commerce markets instead of concentrating it in fewer and fewer mega-corporations. Localization doesn't mean that every community would be entirely self-reliant; it simply means striking a balance between trade and local production by diversifying economic activity and shortening the distance between producers and consumers wherever possible. In a growing concern for our (not so) recent ‘addiction to oil’ here in the US, this proposal appears to be the sane and logical alternative to the growing anxiety for economic stability in our country today. Again there are other factors at play in this, but this is one.

It is not unrealistic to suggest that the first step towards localization should take place in our food consumption. Since food is something everyone, everywhere, needs every day, a shift from global food to local food would have the greatest impact of all.

Most people are unaware (or simply do not care) that the ‘lions share’ of what they spend on food does not reach or go to the producer, but to the middlemen or corporations that process and package the end product. For example here in the United States distributors, marketers and input suppliers take 91 cents out of every food dollar, while farmers keep only 9 cents. (*) With the marching aggression of global operations of companies such as Wal-Mart who price dictate their costs to the middlemen it would not be unrealistic to see this margin decline in the future. Regarding retail food sales, Kroger is currently the number one retailer in the United States, after acquiring Fred Meyer in 1999. It is estimated that 10 cents of every supermarket dollar in this country is spent at a Kroger store. Kroger’s sales of beef and pork products tie it to the Monsanto/Cargill food chain cluster. (*)

Local food systems have enormous rewards; local food is usually far fresher, more nutritious needing fewer preservatives or additives, and organic processes can eliminate harmful and costly fertilizer and pesticide residues for diseases and production not native to it’s local sources. Using non-GMO seed stock local farmers can grow varieties that are best suited to local climate and soils; animal husbandry can be integrated with crop production, providing healthier, more humane conditions for animals. Even food security would increase if people depended more on local foods, eliminating the need for such economically burdensome and intrusive programs such as NAIS and the various ponzi schemes created by the USDA and Big-AG.

From local production at home to CSAs’, farmers' markets and food co-ops, we can begin the hands-on work needed to build and fortify our local food systems and our local economy. Shortening the links between farmers and consumers may be one of the most strategic and enjoyable ways to bring about fundamental change for the better. How satisfying it is to know that by taking steps that are good for our families, neighbors and friends we are also making a very real contribution to preserving diversity, providing jobs and rural livelihoods that benefit us here in the US and all over around the globe. Now that’s a global vision.

How it Began Here

What began as a garden experiment with our new (old) home, blossomed into something that is larger that the task begun. Wife says to husband: “Let’s plant a garden this summer and grow some tomatoes.” Husband obliges stirring in him the God given desire to till and to toil. Once begun, Pandora’s Box was opened and we came to know the challenges that lay before us. Now the expanse of our plot and the introduction of new varieties of seed is one way of how we measure progress and change. The work is of benefit not only in terms of monetary economics, but also in health of mind, body and soul. After all, what is the price of a man’s soul these days?

That is my idea of Food Freedom, you might wish to stop by Liberty Farm and say hi to Joe. He’s new to the blogsphere, but a guy who likes Dexter Cattle is good in my book.


At 2:52 AM, Blogger Joe Greene said...

Great post, Scott, and thanks for the link. Twelve years ago, newly married, Jennifer and I lived on a tiny city lot. We had our first garden there. It was about 6' x 10' and we grew tomatoes and peppers. I suppose we can trace our current quest for food freedom back to these humble roots.

At 8:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Scott!

Great post! I missed seeing it when you first posted back 2 weeks ago---my loss.

I very definitely agree with your sentiments about developing local economic systems and most importantly, starting with local food systems.

Best wishes!
Let you light shine!


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