Tuesday, November 10, 2009

An apology and retraction

Rock Creek in East Block of Grasslands National Park

I would like to apologize and retract most of what I said in my last posting here on Grass Notes. After receiving an email from someone who is helping to put together the Balancing the Bottom Line conference to be held next week in Saskatoon, I realized I had been far too harsh and dismissive in my remarks. The fact is, I don’t really know exactly who is going to that conference or what will be done and said there—I was just guessing, and being far too free with my opinions, which I based recklessly on the sponsoring organizations and the language being used in the promotional material.

When I got the email, I looked again at my posting and I could see that my remarks may be easily misinterpreted as blaming our unsustainable agriculture industry on conventional farmers. Right away my mind went to Troy Roush, an Indiana corn farmer who is featured in the documentary Food Inc. At the end of the film, after giving his humble assessment of the bind he and other farmers find themselves in, he makes a kind of pledge and it is the most moving statement in the whole film. “People have got to start demanding good, wholesome food of us and we’ll deliver, I promise you. . . That’s about all I’ve got to say.”

Troy Roush, Indiana corn farmer featured in Food Inc.

That is the real truth—until we begin asking (and paying) for healthy food grown in healthy ways, our farmers cannot be blamed for choices that we make first in the food aisle. If there are villains, it is our own government and the big agribiz corporations who profit most from the system—the rest of us, farmers and consumers alike, are victims of our own choices. All us are morally compromised to the degree that we benefit from a system that is unhealthy for people, rural community, and the land itself.

Most long-lasting social change is incremental and so it is encouraging to hear that farmers will be going to this conference and discussing how they might find ways of growing food that are better for people and for the environment. I am sorry if I in any way discouraged anyone from attending the conference and if someone attends and would like to send me a report of what they saw and heard, I would be happy to publish it here in this space.


  1. Trevor: I think we all see frustration with the system, and feel passionate about changing it. I admire your honesty and your hard work. Now we have the gov't with the coyote bounty, whose running the asylum anyway? Neil

  2. You are right, and the Iowa farmer is right--until we stop patronizing the big-box grocery stores with their destructively-made produce, we will perpetuate the system as it is.

    When we lived in southeastern Manitoba for 3 years, we got to know a number of farmers. It's worth pointing out, too, that being a farmer is part of a spectrum of belief, opinion and practice. There are the spray-the-hell-out-of-it people, and those quietly agonizing over the destruction to the land, but feel they have little choice these days. And everything in between.

    I didn't raise my voice against your posting, because I saw plenty of that kind of thing going on even then. It sounded like the same-old, same-old was going on.


Share this post

Get widget