Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Trouble with Being Local Part Deux

So a couple of weeks ago I mouthed off on this blog about local product.  Then Tara Morgan at the Boise Weekly ready my blog and gave me the opportunity to mouth off to her in person.  She wrote a very good piece on Cobweb regarding my mouthiness.  I have attached the link here

I thought about what I said.  I thought about how I said it.  I laughed and decided that a little background info is in order regarding my point of view.

I grew up in Caldwell and graduated high school from Vallivue in the same graduating class as Randy King, chef extraordinare and Boise Weekly blogger.  In other words, I grew up around people who actually farmed.  Second, third and fourth generation farm families, to be exact.  These aren't small, sustainable and organic farms.  These are massive tracts of land and could easily be used as the definition of "agri-industrial complex."  This doesn't make their product any less local, and in fact, this is the vast majority of Idaho's agricultural business.

I applaud anyone who works the earth.  I've tried it.  I have changed siphon tubes.  I have moved wheel lines.  More specifically, I moved the wheel lines, kinked one, and spent the next 4 hours changing the kinked pipe while my general and specific deficiencies as a helper and human being as a whole were disparaged in minute detail by my boss.  It is a back breakingly hard, 7 day a week, 365 day a year process and in no way could I do it. 

I still have family and friends who own and work on farms around the Treasure Valley.  And it really burns my biscuits when the work that they and others like them do is disparaged or dismissed. 

I have been fortunate to work around the country and see different approaches to utilizing local product and how the industry has grown around that term.  One thing that sets the Treasure Valley apart from major cities is the fact that we are still a predominately agricultural area.  Our state's economy is transitioning towards a much more diverse base but agriculture will always be strongly present and this isn't the case in states with vast populations.

Big Ag is labelled as a devil and in a lot of ways I agree.  I don't agree with their practices regarding the water supply, unethical treatment of animals and a whole slew of other issues that don't need to be addressed right this second.  But at the same time, we need to look at our situation as an agricultural state and realize that our farmers, the multigenerational backbone of our economy, are overwhelmingly Big Ag. 

By supporting local large producers, I am not supporting all of their policies and giving them a hall pass.  I am supporting the families that I grew up around and watching and supporting them as they improve practices and transition to a better understanding of how their operations affect their surroundings.  Baby steps people, baby steps.  The Agricultural revolution won't come strictly from the small guys.  It has to come from the big boys and our local farmers get that.

B29 Streatery, still being mouthy in public.

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate the thought you've put into this, and think that I tend to agree with you on most points you make here. My biggest frustration is that the reasons people make "Big Ag" out to be the devil are actually valid ones that DO need to be addressed right this moment. I want our neighbors here in the Treasure Valley to be successful farming families, too. My vision of success has all farms using sustainable, healthy, ethical farming practices that don't require their product to be shipped hundreds of inefficient, costly miles back and forth before they even reach the market. But, like you say, baby steps. Keep up this conversation, because that's how it all begins. Thanks for posting!