By now you’ve heard the story of a food system in shambles. It has been tweeted, posted, blogged, and Caused. The tale continues to grow as more voices join in to tell it. If you are paying attention, you realize that one ending to this story is a crash landing so scary that it’s no surprise so many of us prefer to keep our eyes closed. If you’re like us though, your blood is boiling and you’re ready for action.
It’s okay – go ahead and throw a fit, punch a pillow, and get angry. Be irate about the fact that the fate of agriculture (and your health) currently rests in the hands of Monsanto and a powerful few. It should enrage you even more that they’ve been aided with your tax dollars by our own US State Department, despite resistance to GMOs from a growing army of amazing people concerned with the food they eat and how it is grown – people just like you. Take comfort in the fact that you are not alone. You are a critical piece of the groundswell of discontent that is gaining critical mass. Perhaps your passion to make a difference has prompted you to join the masses and March Against Monsanto.
Before you grab your pitchfork and head down to the rally, I’d like to offer you another perspective, an alternative ending to this story. To do anything less would be a violation of one of Waste Farmers’ most cherished values: don’t be afraid to take the contrarian point of view.
The food system will never be repaired by protesting and lobbying for change, no matter how noble the intentions or loud our voices.
Solutions will not be found by changing institutions. It has to start with taking direct responsibility for the stewardship of the soil and producing our own food in whatever capacity that we are able. Access to healthy food isn’t something that has been taken from us by the institution. It is a distant memory that we as individuals have suppressed in our collective quest for progress – a memory that need only be reawakened by the scent of good soil and the work of our own two hands.
Let’s take a step back for a minute. As a company seeking solutions to mend a broken agricultural system, we feel that it is important to understand our past to know where we are headed. Perhaps, like the horses in the famous Seinfeld joke, we will find that they are one and the same. Indeed, we may have come all this way just to find that where we started was the right place after all.
Starting 10,000 years ago and mastered over the last century, science and technology have “freed” us from work on the farm. Our nation’s food producers have done a superb job of stocking supermarket shelves—so much so that the majority of us have fled our farms and outsourced our nutrition to a powerful few. We’ve grown in number and moved closer together, but in many ways we are farther apart, more indentured, and less secure than ever before. In the name of progress, we abandoned the farm, lost the very freedom we sought to enhance, and displaced a part of ourselves in the process. Now we find ourselves alone in crowded concrete cities, cut off from our past, unclear about the future, and dependent upon a centralized food system to sustain us.
Maybe we run so hard because we are afraid that if we get off, the giant machine might stop and we won’t know life without it. This fanatical race, this journey, this industrial complex has led us back to the same place we’ve forgotten, but to which we’ve longed to return: agriculture.
It’s ironic. Agriculture marked humanity’s separation from nature, aided and abetted by the alluring promise of technology, setting the course for our present trajectory. But just as agriculture and technology have separated us from nature, we believe that they can help to reconnect us. The seeds of change are firmly planted and shifting winds bring with them the promise of a new season. As we move forward, let the legacy of agribusiness be a cautionary reminder to future generations that the appropriate place for agriculture rests not in the industrial system where it can be controlled by a specialized few, but rather one participated in by and for the people.
Agriculture, by its very nature, IS nature. As such, it can never conform to the kind of specialization required for industrialization. Sustainable agricultural systems, by definition, are those that work with nature. Nature’s wisdom is the interconnection to all things and diversity is its strength. Diversity requires small-scale attention, which can’t be properly fostered in the centralized agro-industrial models. An ecological approach to agriculture favors the small stakeholder and has the power to decentralize the food system once again.
So at last, there is hope. Hope resting at the heart of what was forgotten in the quest to make life better, people. On our quest to repair the broken food system, we’ve realized that it has to start in our own back yard. We need to provide each individual with everything they need to participate in their own food production at home. Food production can be personal, utilize small areas, and produce complete diets like they have for so much of our past. Armed with a new set of technological tools, like those provided through social media, it has the power to connect neighbors so people can help one another build gardens, trade produce, learn person to person, and tell stories. If we begin with the individual, the paradigm shift will naturally flow to families, neighborhoods, communities and ultimately into the broader culture.
That is the genesis of our Maxfield’s line of products. Everything we make is designed with intention to empower the farmer in each of us with tools to nurture our gardens and the earth, sustain ourselves, and share our bounty with our communities.
By leveraging technology to help change the way we look at the world, create a new set of values, and transfer knowledge from one individual to the next, we can offer new ways to empower individuals to grow more of their own food. This is not a step backward as Monsanto wants us believe; rather a quantum leap forward towards a world where food is everyone’s business and nature and people matter.
An age of abundance is on the horizon, and the pathways that will lead us there are as natural as the food systems we must depend on. Humans are creatures of story. The messages we paint on the walls of Facebook are no different than shapes our ancestors painted on the walls of caves. As fellow Waste Farmers team member, cosmic journeyman, and soil shaman Matt Celesta says,
We can create an authentic experience through food. We can tell a story through our taste buds. With agriculture we can tell a story while we are eating and living. I want to tell the story of the beet I’m eating, just like the hunter tells the story of the elk. I want my food to be sacred. We can’t just live on bread alone—we need the celebration, too. The celebration gives us sustenance for our souls.
When we grow our own food in good soil, we grow a part of ourselves. The gardens we cultivate not only nurture our bodies, they feed our souls.
No longer can we waste another ounce of energy blaming governments and corporations. They are simply the manifestations of the values that we hold as its members. Instead, let’s harness that energy and reclaim what is rightfully ours. What better place to start than our gardens?
So grab your pitchfork and head to the streets, speak your mind, express yourself. When you are done, march home, tend your garden, and celebrate your harvest. Occupy your backyard and make your statement the most powerful of all: civil disobedience through self-reliance. Let the revolution begin!
What story to do you have to tell? Connect with us on Facebook, post a picture of your garden on our page and share your story of reconnecting with us.
John-Paul Maxfield is the Founder of Waste Farmers, the parent company of Maxfield’s. The Company started in 2009 with $9,000 and a belief that idealism and capitalism can coexist. Today Waste Farmers has evolved into an innovator respected by leaders in the global community for developing simple solutions to the complex problems of modern agriculture and food security. The knowledge and experience behind Waste Farmers has been many years in the making as John-Paul comes from a family of agricultural leaders who have been pioneers in farming and ranching since the 19th century.
I’m wondering what you think of Kaytlin Kayt’s suggestion of modifying seeds by dowsing them in saliva. According to her website, Vibes Up, it customizes mass produced seeds to tailor them to our individual nutritional needs.
I was too busy moving in 2 years ago for a garden and last year I was stuck in a wheel chair. This year I’m just waiting on the rototiller man. I live alone but will share my excess with my new neighbors.
I’m no expert, Diane, and haven’t read any of the information supporting this ideas, but it strikes me as far-fetched… just sayin’…
Thank you for your comment and I am thrilled that you are getting your garden up and running again after the 2 year break! To be candid, I am not familiar with Kaytlin Kayt’s recommendations, but I am intrigued to learn more about it. I will have our team look into it and report back to you, sound like a plan? Best of luck and here’s to celebrating the harvest!
I attended the March Against Monsanto in Denver, Colorado today, and just read this informative and heart-felt opinion piece. There was a very strong emphasis at the March on the activism of organic food-production, natural-state seed preservation, and many strategies this author of this column rightly advocates as the self-reliance that will establish a new and enlightened agricultural system- redeeming us in the Stewardship of our Good Earth. And, there was another call to action very powerfully in the foreground of those speaking at the March: How refusing to buy anything containing GMO’s can reach a critical mass of consumer impact sufficient to cause a recession in Monsanto’s poisonous reach far more rapidly than we might imagine. Within the time it takes to complete one growing season, the hundreds of thousands of consumers already buying and enjoying organic food can be joined by hundreds of thousands more and all can rise to the well-researched level of awareness the speakers at the Monsanto March provided and refuse to buy GMO food and Monsanto products. Vivid examples of how small a proportion of lost sales will cause a greedy corporation to tuck-tail were offered up at today’s March. The synergy of direct activism as consumers and cultivated activism as eaters is a critical accelerant for change. These allied rivers of intentional vision in action will flow together and then outward as mighty irrigation for Agri biz change and for ever-greater yield in the Natural Harvest worldwide. Righteous Opposition to Monsanto may have a tap-root of anger for many, and that’s okay – especially for the many organic farmers, a voice heard at the March today, who are losing their enterprises and land under siege from the monolithic industrial farming machine, and for the millions of suffering sick, also heard today, who need only what is “Good” to eat to heal. Educated and civilized toward constructive intervention through activism and disobedience, Righteous Anger is tactical nourishment we need when the horrific reaches so far and wide, insists on growing, and must be stopped as quickly as possible – damage aggregates in our world so quickly, and tipping points are real. The epic stamina that sustains us toward a systemic Transformation long past the moment the anger flames out though, arises from the strong-as-the-Cosmos yearning for the splendor of a natural world and peaceful society well-fed by gloriously wonderful food produced by billions of years of the same Nature’s Wisdom that has created us and invited us to the table. A species’ desire to survive, care for its generations, and fulfill the promise of its Nature is the more powerful and more perpetual motivation. That is unstoppable – unless we fail to rise in Righteous Anger when the offense is so great that that Anger has to be the first response to break what binds us. The March Against Monsanto today was Peaceful and Angry and Promising. Thank you to those who worked so hard to make this happen. And, thank you to the author of the reflections in this column. There is no either/or between the two, I feel. The necessity is both. Let’s do something totally revolutionary, and invite Monsanto Employees, at all levels, to resplendent, organic feasts of food and fact; with love for them as our fellow humans and at tables all around the world! As we succeed, they will lose their jobs – and it is only right to offer them whatever pathways to new livelihoods the growth of the Natural Harvest can offer. I am not being facetious when I propose this. People need jobs. Also, Monsanto employees don’t have to vote as consumers in line with how Monsanto votes as producer. Your boss will never know! All are deserving of the health good food can sustain, and all are potential allies sharing the Way.
Your article is exactly what Monsanto protestors where preaching at the LA march. I don’t know why you paint the protests as grabbing pitchforks. I don’t really like that light. It was nowhere near violent. It makes it seem like the ranting lunatic conspiracy theorists and complaining activists that don’t do much. It was a lot more than that and was done with intelligence. Yes, angry at the system, but it was to encourage boycott and growing your own seed. The protest helped spread awareness and provided solutions at City Hall on how we can be self-reliant as well as expand our networking with others who share the same opinion and people who saw us march might never even have heard of GMO or Monsanto and some of them might have asked or researched it because of the march. Being quiet doesn’t help the ones who never even heard of the whole disparity and encourages the ones who are fervent to keep perservering. Marching is just as important as what you quietly do in your home.