President’s Address to the MOFGA Annual Meeting
January 9, 2007
by John Bunker
“The purpose of the Association is to help farmers and gardeners grow organic food, protect the environment, recycle natural resources, increase local food production, support rural communities, and illuminate for consumers the connection between healthful food and environmentally sound farming practices.” – The MOFGA mission statement
As we enter the new year, we find ourselves living in a world in deep, severe and, some would say, irreversible crisis. We in this room did not create this mess, nor did we ask for it. We certainly do not deserve it. It has been in the making for many years. It is ours only in that we inherited that which others created. Perhaps they were reckless; perhaps malicious; perhaps ignorant. Most likely they were simply doing the best they could do. In any event, we have no choice other than to accept the present as it is.
We would like the powerful international business community to act responsibly on behalf of humanity and the earth itself. But they have not, they are not, and most likely they will not. We would like state and federal government to act responsibly on behalf of humanity and the earth itself. Sadly, they have not done so, they are not doing so, and most likely they will not do so in the future.
But while the past is set, the future is not. The future does not yet exist. It is up for grabs. We will determine the future by our behavior today. Call it our responsibility, our opportunity, our privilege, or perhaps our curse. Nonetheless, we are faced with this prospect.
As we take up this task, we need not accept a vision of the future with which we do not agree. We can create a different kind of vision of the future than others offer. We can create that vision, articulate that vision and implement that vision. Some might like us to give up. It would be convenient if all of us would simply capitulate, and allow others to determine what is yet to be.
I have heard MOFGA minimized by others as a niche organization. If government had been doing its job, if businesses had been acting responsibly, perhaps MOFGA would be a niche organization, and joyfully so. I have heard us minimized as being naïve. Is it naïve to want our grandchildren to have clean soil, air and water? Is it naïve to want our grandchildren to have access to clean, healthy food? Is it naïve to want our grandchildren to live in an inhabitable world? I think not.
Rather, I say it is naïve to think that we can endlessly poison our land, water and air and never have to pay the price. It is naïve to think that agriculture utterly dependent on non-renewable energy is sustainable. It is naïve to think that driving cars and building more and more and more roads is sustainable. It is naïve to act as though the oil will not run out. It is naïve to think that economic growth is sustainable. It is naïve to think we can protect our plant world from being poisoned by GMOs.
I have also heard others say that it is not right to ask people to sacrifice our way of life for the good of the earth. But have we not already done so? I would say that we have sacrificed our air, our water, our soil, our health, our communities and perhaps even our future.
And I hear this question: “Who is going to pay to create this sustainable future? We can’t afford it. We need jobs.” To that I ask, who will pay to feed us when the oil runs out and we can no longer truck our sustenance from Chile and China and South Africa? Who will provide Vacationland’s jobs when it is no longer “Camden by the Sea” but rather “Camden in the Sea”?
We cannot afford not to act now. We cannot afford not to deal with climate change now. We cannot afford not to deal with loss of farmland and lack of food security now. We must “protect the environment, recycle natural resources, increase local food production, support rural communities, and illuminate for consumers the connection between healthful food and environmentally sound farming practices.”
Let us create a Maine where all young children have the opportunity to plunge their hands into the soil, get dirty, learn how to grow vegetables and know where their food comes from. Where our children drink milk from Maine cows, bottled in Maine dairies. Where all our bread is made with Aroostook grain. Where our meat is raised and slaughtered here in our state. Where Maine canneries pack the products of a thousand small Maine producers. Where young, aspiring farmers can find the affordable land they need to grow food for Mainers.
Let us create a Maine where all the hospitals, colleges and schools serve Maine food in their cafeterias. Where all Mainers have access to fresh, healthy food. Where our crops are not threatened by GMOs. Where farmers can raise livestock without I.D. tags. Where the food scraps in every Maine town are returned to the soil to feed Maine people again and again and again. Where Mainers can see for themselves all the contents of the food in the grocery store by reading the label on the box or can. Where farming becomes the most noble of professions and where farmers are among the highest paid workers, not among the lowest. Where our food system is truly secure because it is, as we say, “made in Maine.” Where our food system is truly sustainable.
There now exists a worldwide movement of local groups – like MOFGA – each in its own way acting to create a different kind of future. A future based on fairness, justice, respect, kindness and sustainability. A future based on collaboration and cooperation.
This is a different kind of globalism: one where humans think together and communicate with one another on a global scale, while they act locally to create local sustainable communities, local sustainable economies and local sustainable food systems. MOFGA has been a leader in this movement for the past 35 years. Or, more accurately, I should say that MOFGA has been creating this movement for the past 35 years and now finds itself among the leaders worldwide.
In October several of us from MOFGA attended the five-day Slow Food conference called Terra Madre in Turino, Italy. Attending were 5000 farmers from 150 countries, 1000 chefs and 500 agricultural educators. It became clear to me at Terra Madre that MOFGA is a part of a worldwide movement. Groups from around the globe are working to create a different kind of future. It was an incredibly inspired and inspiring event.
It is up to MOFGA to create, articulate and implement this vision of the future for Maine. The work we do will lead us towards a truly just, sustainable world. What we in this room do well here in our state will affect the future of all Mainers for generations to come.
We do not need to fix it for others around the world. Our work is here in Maine. What we do here will be noticed around the country and around the world by others. It will serve as a model for others as they seek to create their own future. It will also be noticed by the state and the federal government. It may even inspire their own courage to assist us in creating an inhabitable, prosperous, sustainable earth for future generations.
We in MOFGA are among those who will make the difference. We can lead the way. One day others will look back on what we’ve done with gratitude to have inherited it as their past. Thank you very much for all you do for MOFGA and for Maine.
After receiving a standing ovation, John Bunker completed his two-year term as MOFGA’s president after this speech, when he turned the meeting over to our new president, Amanda Beal.