”Part of the problem is, you’ve got a lot of D students left on the farm today,” Joel [Salatin, farmer] said, as we drove around Staunton running errands. “The guidance counselors encouraged all the A students to leave home and go to college. There’s been a tremendous brain drain in rural America. Of course that suits Wall Street just fine; Wall Street is always trying to extract brainpower and capital from the countryside. First they take the brightest bulbs off the far and put them to work in Dilbert’s cubicle, and then they go after the capital of the dimmer ones who stayed behind, by selling the a bunch of gee-whiz solutions to their problems.” This isn’t just the farmer’s problem, either. “It’s a foolish culture that entrusts its food supply to simpletons.” — Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma
For the past two months, I have been reading and writing about the farm economy and regional foodsheds and the politics of how we eat. The more I read about and talk to small-scale organic farmers, the more impressed I am by their brains. Farming that produces high-quality food without chemical intervention and simultaneously builds soil, removes carbon, reduces use of fossil fuels, and subverts the massively destructive industrial food system requires acute observation, vast knowledge, and high intelligence. And guts.