Irrelevant Rural America?

Straight from our esteemed Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack as reported in December 2012. Granted, the Secretary was speaking about the apparent loss of voice that rural Americans are experiencing in the political arena and not whether or not rural America actually exists (although I’m sure for much of our representation…it is the vast emptiness between airports). Secretary Vilsack was speaking about the shrinking of the rural population and rural economy over the last 25 years as the socio-political clout of urban centers take control of the soap box.

That would have been all fine and dandy…but I kept thinking about his observation (right or wrong) and soon enough I found myself looking through his lens at my own observations specifically in regards to our nation’s food supply chain. Couple that with the announcement that the Golden Guernsey company would close its doors and allow entire warehouses of dairy products to expire and you have yourself a whipped-up James.

It all goes back to the notion of control and our need to feel like we have some…at least in our choices. When it comes to food we definitely do not. Okay, okay…some do. Those who live in progressive urban centers have quaint farm markets and maybe even a green grocer but most are subject to the supply chain gods.

So right about now you’re saying “Damn it, James! Planning to bring this back to hops sometime?” Yes I am and it relates directly to hops and our grower value-share system. I was approached by a social support group for at-risk and homeless teens with an idea to use hop production as a means to teach life skills and generate some income for their program. They wanted to know what I thought. I thought they missed the point of their idea entirely. What evolved was a cross-functional group from several social agencies all thinking something similar: “can we use agriculture in a urban setting to teach life skills, provide mentorship, reduce food island effects, and present communities with a new option for their sustenance?”

Yes, we can. I have always been drawn to urban agriculture for the challenges it presents and I am looking forward to designing a community production system that demonstrates what can be done on the food island. I find the irony in the fact that people choose to live in cities or are trapped in urban areas with so many resources being consumed that they are nearly starving to death on poor quality food almost too much to handle and people mistake my quiet chuckling for a bit of social anxiety. The idea that urban centers are becoming more and more powerful socially and politically is just a cruel joke to me. If it wasn’t for low-cost, low nutrient, fast-fast-fast processed food those socio-political movers and shakers would starve to death.

Is the hop the savior for the food island cast-aways? Uh…no. Try some tomatoes and lettuce.

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