Wednesday, September 2, 2020

The Over/Under on Whelmed

We thought we might focus on how the farmers are doing in this blog post.  Not surprisingly, much of how we are feeling is tied to some major events that are indirectly related to our farm.  All of them have some ties to us (as you will see if you read on).  Our last blog that advertised  a check-in with the farmers and how they are doing was published in June.   Here is how we ended that blog:

"Our emotions and our feelings of worth are more on the surface than they usually are.  We tell ourselves to toughen up, but maybe that's the wrong idea.  Perhaps we should be feeling these things more.  The key is not to toughen up, but to keep moving in hopes that we can make more things right than we make wrong."

Feeling a Bit Overwhelmed?

  1. Well, let's see.  We entered August after dealing with the normal spray anniversary stuff that comes every year at our farm - along with an annual confrontation that we don't want and they just want to have it (and us) go away.  Every year our hope that we can start swinging the balance away from the overuse of chemicals in agriculture is ground under the heals of... of whatever it is that has heals and grinds us down.
  2. We continue to watch, horrified, while people can't seem to figure out that Black Lives Matter means there are people who really need our help.  It doesn't seem to matter if we are in cities or in our small towns, a vocal subset of the people in our lives appear to be intentionally misleading others to simply miss the point.  And, it seems too many are too willing to be misled!  BLM is not about an organization (though there is a BLM organization) it is about people who are hurting.  When people are hurting - you focus on providing them solace and aid.  You lift them up.  Period.
  3. Speaking of helping others...  Iowa had a derecho that was so big, everyone in Iowa learned what a derecho is.  And yes, California has more record setting fires and Texas and Louisiana are fighting through another big hurricane (just after a tropical storm).  Happily, there are numerous examples of 'the helpers' coming out in force as they respond to each of these natural disasters.  These are people who rarely seek any thanks for their effort and they accomplish so much.  Meanwhile, we have politicians who claim that they have done so much to respond to the disaster - while they effectively have done little to nothing.  If providing aid and compassionate leadership in times of crisis is not the forte of our leadership, then they should no longer be leaders.
  4. But, let's make it even harder on people who live in the rural areas, shall we?  Let's start dismantling the post office.  It would be one thing if it was an actual reorganization to improve efficiency.  It's another when you take the tools for efficient sorting of mail, take them apart and put them in a storage garage.
  5. Then - I look at our food systems and see that we haven't really been changed much to address the problems that are so clearly visible.  We're still too interested in patting ourselves on the back for ineffectual moves that do nothing for the long-term health of local and healthy foods.  
  6. And, all of this while we try to go back to school during a pandemic.  A pandemic that we never really took seriously as a country and we continue to pay the price for lack of willpower combined with stubbornness and poor leadership.  

All of this is going on while we continue to redefine ourselves at the Genuine Faux Farm.  

Yep, overwhelmed.

Living Too Much In Our Heads?

Feel free to ask the question.  Go ahead!  Are we just borrowing trouble by putting all of these 'big picture' things onto our 'list of concerns?'  It is certainly a valid question - and I have asked myself this question more than once.  So, let's do a reality check here.  Should I be allowing these things to take up brain space?

  1. We deal with spray issues during three (at least) distinct seasons every year on our farm.  It directly impacts our production and our own health.  Yeah.  Pretty hard to ignore this one - unless we get out of farming and lock ourselves in the house.
  2. We have have friends and acquaintances who have been directly impacted by racism in ways we, as white people, can barely understand.  Tammy and I don't worry that these things might happen to us.  But, black and latinx people do - on a regular basis.  And we don't think that's right.  I was taught to stand up for people who need it.  So, nope, not ignoring this one.
  3. We have seen how much damage the derecho has caused and we know there are still real needs out there.  We would not be who we are if we didn't do what we could, when we can, to help.  So, no, too close to home to ignore and there are very real things we can do.
  4. Tammy and I are already talking about the possibility that we will cease to raise poultry because the USPS is being made to be unreliable.  This is not the only way our farm and our lives are impacted by these moves - but it will suffice to show you a direct impact to us.
  5. Remember - we're a small farm that was/is dedicated to local sales.  We have been scaling back as it became more and more apparent that the food systems aren't prepared to handle farmers like us and the general population has no real motivation to regularly support farms like ours.  Tell me again this isn't something I should concern myself with - I won't believe you.
  6. And, yes, Tammy is currently at school as I write this.  There is always a bit of an undercurrent for us as to when (not if) she has any exposure to a COVID19 positive person and we have to isolate (and hopefully not be sick).

I should not need to justify to you why something concerns me, but I do need to EXPLAIN it to me.  Why?  Because, I also need to live a life that is not brought to a standstill by worry and fear.  I cannot do a thing to help anyone if I am immobilized by everything that seems wrong.

I also need not give you (or me) a reason to show that any of these things are directly connected to me.  This is, my friends, part of what it means to care about things other than yourself.  

The environment and small farms are being injured.  People of color are being beaten, killed and treated poorly.  People were set back significantly by the derecho and some are still homeless.  Small businesses, farms and out of the home businesses (among others) are all suffering the effects of postal system mismanagement.  The local and healthy foods system is still not in a position to pick up the ball when the industrial food chain breaks.  And, yes, people have long-term health effects and may die from COVID19.  I happen to care about these things because I believe there are responses that can improve each of these situations.  It isn't so much about me (though it sometimes is) as it is about making things right.

The very thing that distresses me the most about all of this?  It seems so many of these things are byproducts of people not caring for anyone other than themselves.

Underwhelmed By Empathy

  1. Perhaps I can see how someone sprays chemicals on a field and is not fully aware as to how it might have long-term effects and unintended consequences regarding wildlife, the environment and future ag production.  But, I absolutely fail to see how it is ever ok to accept that pesticide applications are not being contained to the target area.  Failure to take responsibility for controlling any dangerous tool shows no consideration for anything other than the bottom line.
  2. Many of us have no idea what it feels like to have the hope beaten out of you over time.  Sadly, I have gotten an inkling of how that might feel as I have fought negative effects of climate change and pesticide misapplications over the years on our small farm.  What would it be like to have that kind of constant 'downward' pressure on all aspects of my life?  Perhaps I have experienced enough to begin to understand how things might feel to persons of color in the United States?  Why is it so many other folks can't understand this?
  3. I heard a 'tough, crusty farmer' on the radio.  His voice wavered as he talked about the animals he lost in the derecho.  I heard another person yelling and accusing "people in charge" because too much attention was being given to people who were homeless after the storm and not enough attention was given to their lack of internet service.  I heard another person say it was time to 'move on' from the derecho.  Easy for you to say - the damage to YOUR home is repaired and you have electricity.  Is that all it takes to move on?  I'm fine, no one else is allowed to suffer or get help.
  4. The president of the US made a statement that he wanted the postal service slowed to make voting by mail difficult (whether that was the motivation for the changes or not is beside the point) and the Postmaster General wasn't even aware of basic operating facts even though he is directing major changes that have become disruptions in service.  Meanwhile, people of modest means lose a service they need to keep their micro-businesses and small farms afloat.
  5. Maybe we made a mistake when we all decided food services are supposed to make money.  
  6. Masks, distancing, etc were never so much about you as it was (and is) about protecting others from what you might unwittingly do to them.  It shouldn't matter whether your wearing a mask reduces the chances that the person you interact with gets COVID by 25% or 50% or 100%. 

And now - perhaps - you understand why I take these things so hard.  I like to believe that we are all better than this.  We (as in ALL of us) are ALL (as in EACH ONE of us) better than this.

Please.  Quit trying to convince me that very few of us even have only a little capacity for caring about (and for) others.


Thank you for your input! We appreciate hearing what you have to say.