But Geordie is no victim. He blames no one. He recognizes he has options, even though he'd prefer to farm. We discuss how European farmers ban together to standardize high quality, protect a trademark, market and distribute their products in ways that gain them fair trade, i.e. a fair cut of the profit.
But money is precious and we shop price. Price is driving jobs overseas. Price begets manufactured food that risks lives. Big Agra has yet to lose its license over the people it's sickened and killed. So, we literally risk our lives for a cheap meal. Money over food.
Geordie informs me that there are new farming regulations to stop food contamination. Certain manure fertilizing is now restricted, for example. The regulations, born of made by industrial agriculture are making Geordie's life harder and driving up his costs.
I ask him, in the entire history of the family farm, had they ever sold food that made anyone ill. "No," he reports, "but people occasionally complain about worms in the corn." Truth is any small food business would be sunk should they cause any significant illness, much less a death.
"We're careful," he says, "We have to be."
Last year's fast food e-coli contaminations were most likely caused by field hands that didn't have access to bathroom facilities, not normal farming practices. In other words, Big Agra wouldn't spring for a port-a-john, and some desperate moments for workers picking the crop, turned into what can only be called manslaughter. Who pays the price in increased regulations that may or may not be necessary? It's not just small farmers, we all do.
Now, here's what Geordie's customer thought about the cost of Proscuitto di Parma, a product "handcrafted" from old lineage pork and cured the same slow way for hundreds of years. He retorted, "When was the last time you ate a twenty-dollar bill?"
To that I add, when was the last time a twenty dollar bill was your job? Or, your shelter? Or, your clothes? Or, your family?
My point is we have to stop shopping price and start thinking about what all this cheap stuff we buy really costs. Our coins and paper bills have no real utility except as a means of exchange.
The true cost of cheap food, or cheap anything else for that matter, includes surrendering our lives as more and more power rises to the top of Big Greed corporations who claim they are the low cost leaders. They've convinced us to nickel and dime all the people around us whose work and services and products provide authentic value and could sustain us locally.
When cheap oil ends, when all the manufacturing jobs are gone, when all the farms are overseas, and all we are left with is taking in each other's laundry, how do you think that twenty dollar bill is going to taste?
Oh, wait, no! There's always Soylent Green. It's much better than Soylent Red or Yellow. Trust the Soylent Corporation.
Geordie Kerr is the heir apparent of Kerr Ridge Farm, Pennington, in New Jersey'sHopewell Valley.
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