Cornucopia’s Take: Tom Willey is a policy advisor for The Cornucopia Institute. He recently gave a speech on labor issues in farming, and shares it with us here.
by Tom Willey
Courtesy of T&D Willey Farms
I did not set out forty-some years ago to be a hippy, organic or alternative farmer of any sort. Deeply disillusioned after a few years striving to reform society’s miscreants in the prison and parole system, I ached to produce something of unquestioned value for myself and my community, namely food. Though a jolly good ride, that proved to be not as simple as it looked either. Let me share a “thing or two about a thing or two” that I learned along the “way of the dirt farmer.”
Few are aware that this business of growing our own food we call agriculture is a rather short-lived experiment, the final results of which are yet uncertain. Astonishingly, Jared Diamond, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel indicts agriculture as “the worst mistake in the history of the human race,” while at the same time admitting that its invention “enabled us to build the Parthenon and compose [Bach’s] B-minor Mass.” Diamond argues that along with humankind’s abandonment of hunter-gatherer subsistence ways, that characterize 95% of Homo sapiens’ history, to henceforth scratch the soil and grow food crops, “came the gross social and sexual inequality, the disease and despotism, that curse our existence” to this very day. I once believed that California agribusiness originated the sinful practice of exploiting economically desperate immigrants as low-wage farm laborers, until I traveled abroad and witnessed impoverished North Africans and Eastern Europeans living in the hedgerows of Italian farms on which they toiled. Read Full Article »