Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Just Stay In NYC, Dude

In today's online edition of the NYT, a Mark Bittman:
 is an Opinion columnist and the Times magazine’s food columnist; his Minimalist column ran in the Dining section of The Times for more than 13 years. In 2009, Mr. Bittman, who has been urging Americans to change the way we eat for decades, published “Food Matters,” which explored the crucial connections among food, health and the environment. His most recent book is “The Food Matters Cookbook”; he is also the author of  “How to Cook Everything” and “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian,” among others. Mr. Bittman’s television series include “Bittman Takes on America’s Chefs,” “The Best Recipes in the World,” “Spain: On the Road Again” and an upcoming series based on his Minimalist column. His Web site ismarkbittman.com.
As you can imagine, he and I probably do not agree on a lot of issues. Particularly when he starts prosthelytizing about how us farmers is doin' all rong. He outlays several ideas for food policy reform, which include increasing the minimum wage for farm workers - and for farmers.

Nice. How do we apply? Since the average farmer is self employed, does that mean the .gov is gonna step in and cover the rest? Most farmers would be damn glad to average out minimum wage for the hours they put in - does this mean Uncle Sam is paying overtime?

He then proposes that spending on food stamps should increase - and they should be worth more for healthy food, oh, like a farmer's market. Bittman likes farmer's markets. Bet that'll go over big with the inner city foodstamp crowd - Sorry, ma'am, but you can't buy those Pringles with your food stamps. You're gonna have to buy some arugula.

Of course you just know the inner city Democrat congresscritters are gonna support something like this as well.

Then, he points his infinite wisdom at the Midwest farmer:
We need not only to attack the nonsensical and wasteful system that pays for corn and soybeans to be grown to create junk food and ethanol, but to support local and national legislation that encourages the birth of new small-and-medium farms. We need to encourage both new and established farms to grow a variety of fruits and vegetables, to raise animals in sensible ways and, using a combination of modern and time-tested techniques, treat those animals well and use their products sensibly.
As I've said before, we are not equipped with the necessary resources to convert to truck gardens out here in flyover country, and the land we use for beef production is largely useless for anything else. But he's not done:
In short, we need more real farmers, not businessmen riding on half-million-dollar combines. And if you haven’t seen a real farmer, go visit a one- or two-acre intensive garden; it’s a mind-blowing thing, how much can be grown in a relatively small space. Then imagine thousands of 10-, 20- and 100-acre farms planted similarly: the vegetables sold regionally, the pigs fed from scraps, the compost fertilizing the soil, the cattle at pasture, the milk making cheese ….
So, we're not real farmers out here, riding around on those half million dollar combines. Excuse me, just how in the wide wide world of sports does he expect small grains to be harvested? Since he's wanting to get rid of corn and soybeans, that leaves wheat and grain sorghum. Still gonna have to harvest that. And, as I've said before, where is the water to do all this coming from? How about the extra fertilizer? How about the extra labor that we'll no doubt be paying minimum wage for (and actually, we do pay minimum or better for farm labor around here or you won't get anyone to sit in a GPS guided tractor all summer).

But it's all there in his Birkenstock fevered dream - the small acreages, the pigs being fed by scraps, the cattle at pasture (hate to tell him, but they already are), the milk making cheese from cows that do not exist, since the average grazing cow out here is beef oriented. Sure, we've got dairies, but the cattle in there are bred for high production methods, not hippie granola farms.
The naysayers will yell, “this mode of farming will not produce enough corn and soy to feed our junk food and cheeseburger habit,” and that’s exactly the point. It would produce enough food so that we can all eat well. It’d produce enough food so we can slow the hysteria about our inability to feed the expected 9 billion earthlings. After all, we’re not doing such a great job of feeding the current 7 billion. Why? Largely because too many resources go into producing junk food and animal products.
Actually, we are doing a good job of feeding our country - there is literally no one starving in the United States. We cannot control the starvation in the rest of the world no matter how hard we try - those pics of African children dying? Talk to the local warlords who hijack the food shipments we send. Please explain to me how this grand idea will take care of corrupt governments bent on destroying segments of their populations.

And perhaps, insulated in your metropolitan paradise, you have not noticed that we are in a drought out here? Once again, we do not have the groundwater to sustain vegetable production, nor the necessary rainfall. 

And while we're at it, stay the hell out of my menu choices. I don't mess with yours and expect the same from you, whether you like it or not. Apparently, you are leaning towards a vegetarian diet - which is fine for people who are prepared for it and know about the shortcomings. Which is funny to me - if you don't wanna die from a vegan diet, it's a damn good idea to take industrially produced vitamin supplements. Not exactly the natural utopia that is paraded before us.

He concludes with:
But to get these beautiful veggies, we need real farmers who grow real food, and the will to reform a broken food system. And for that, we need not only to celebrate farmers, but also to advocate for them.
I'm all for that, but I'd prefer someone who is on my side and is informed, thank you very much.

13 comments:

Road Pig said...

He's spent a little to much time sampling his herbs in the back row of the garden.

Jeffro said...

This!

threecollie said...

That million dollar combine thing got my goat too. Let's send him out with scissors and a bucket and let him look at a grain field and see what he thinks about harvest methods

Jeffro said...

But we'll pay him minimum wage.

Earl said...

The Pol Pot had ideas about good life and farming fantasy, and killed millions of nay-sayers trying to get it his way. You would be more impressed if he had ten acres and worked it like he wants the peasants to do for the clergy and nobility. And then along come the Normans.

drjim said...

AMEN, Jeff!

Jess said...

But, you don't understand. He knows all the best restaurants in New York City, so he's an expert on farming.

Jeffro said...

Silly me. I suppose that farming experience and trucking make me an expert on food critics in NYC, so I propose I smack him a la Jethro on NCIS in the back of the head. We'll call it even after that.

Chas Clifton said...

Yeah, I really hate the argument based on the mythical all-purpose "acre of land."

Jeffro said...

Thanks, Chas - what you just said there summed up what it took me a whole post to say!

CGHill said...

Bastige probably thinks it's a terrible waste that I live on a quarter of an acre and grow nothing but trees, flowers and crabgrass.

KurtP said...

Then imagine thousands of 10-, 20- and 100-acre farms planted similarly: the vegetables sold regionally, the pigs fed from scraps, the compost fertilizing the soil, the cattle at pasture, the milk making cheese ….

So, where is he going to get these small freeholders to intensively farm those acres for little to nothing in return?
AND he want's us to return to being afraid of trichinosis from undercooked pork too boot?

Bob said...

Great post, Jeffro! By the way, I read somewhere that the guy who invented Pringles passed away not too long ago, and asked that his ashes be put in a Pringles can. Remember that the next time you go to Wally World.