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.