Peas at Elderflower Farm table at the Lincolnville Farmers’ Market. English photo.
By Jean English
Editor, The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener
In Good Food for Everyone Forever, Colin Tudge, writing on behalf of The Campaign for Real Farming (“a people’s takeover of the world food supply”), says that the key to success in taking over the food supply is “merely to identify the enterprises and ideas that are truly helpful and to bring about some degree of coordination.”
Tudge defines real farming as “farming that is expressly designed to feed people, well and forever, without wrecking the rest of the world.”
And we can feed people with real farming. As Tudge points out, “… traditional farms, generally small, mixed, labour-intensive and at least quasi-organic, still provide about 70 per cent of the world’s food.” Barbara Damrosch, MOFGA’s president, expanded on this theme in her eloquent keynote speech at the Common Ground Fair, printed in this MOF&G.
Likewise, Maine organic farmer Mark Guzzi addressed this idea poignantly in his keynote speech at the 2009 Common Ground Country Fair: “… we’re not trying to feed the world. We’re just trying to feed our friends and neighbors and community here in Central Maine.”
So ignore those who say we need high-tech foods to feed the coming 9 billion, says Tudge. (And many people point out that those high-tech foods aren’t even feeding the current 7 billion.) Just create the conditions and connections to promote real farms, teach people to appreciate real food (“Plenty of plants, not much meat, and maximum variety,” says Tudge), and we’ll be all set.
That’s what MOFGA has been doing for 40 years. Remember the game “Dots,” where you and your opponent connect dots on a grid to see who can make the most squares? I envision MOFGA farmers, gardeners and consumers as those completed squares, filling so much of Maine now that the connections are ever easier. And the more boxes we make, the faster the grid seems to fill; we have reached the “critical mass” that Tudge discusses. We will take over the food supply from farms growing engineered, pesticide-treated and pesticide-containing corn and soy for junk food (which includes factory-farmed meats).
“The output of farms that march to the drum of sound biology,” adds Tudge, “such as agroforestry, an ecosystem combining trees, crops and livestock, serendipitously matches our nutritional needs for plenty of plants, not much meat, and maximum variety. And these farms produce what is needed for the world’s finest gourmet cooking, which is rooted in traditional peasant cooking.”
In biology, Tudge continues, cooperation is far more fruitful than competition. “Life as a whole is innately cooperative. If it were not, living cells, and organisms, and societies, and ecosystems would fall apart.”
We’re doing well at cooperating and producing enough food for all in Maine. In fact, as Cheryl Wixson points out in her column in this issue of The MOF&G, Maine produces 130 percent of the calories needed to feed our population; and the proportions of nutrients – proteins, fats, etc. – in the foods we grow are not that far from the proportions our bodies need.
We’re en route to doing even better. John Piotti of Maine Farmland Trust says that Maine has gone from 7,000 farms a decade ago to more than 8,000 now. And our population of young, well-trained, intelligent organic farmers is growing rapidly, thanks in large part to MOFGA’s educational programs, under the leadership of Andrew Marshall, and to placing new farmers on land by programs such as Maine FarmLink. Russell Libby, in his keynote (also printed in this paper), tells us the next steps we need to take to continue our progress.
A couple of decades ago, it was hard to find a sufficient and consistent supply of real food in Maine. Now we have farmers’ markets galore, good co-ops, CSAs and more to supplement our home gardens. Real food flourishes around every corner. (Much appreciation for many of these connections goes to MOFGA’s organic marketing coordinator, Melissa White Pillsbury.)
Savor the organic fare during the holidays and every day. Give real food as gifts! And keep connecting those organic boxes.