Farming On Either Side of Pond

The theme this season on the blog continues to be food; the cost, growing, and politics of food.  Recently, while preparing for my journey to Thailand (next week), I’ve noticed 2 big changes coming to the agricultural policies of both the US government and the European Union.  Which could spell a change in how our food is raised and from who and how we get that food.

On the US side there’s the Farm Bill, which was vetoed by GWBush but that veto was overturned by congress. An imperfect text which, as EWG analyists explain it:

throws a couple of small bones to a few grassroots causes but mainly ensures that the big dogs will continue to run agriculture – courtesy of the U.S. Treasury.

chartThe only potentially positive development with this farm bill is that meat will have to be labelled for orgin in the US. Otherwise as indicated by the quote above, the bill will continue to pour money on big agribusinesses who, unfortunately, also play a roll in the nation’s obescity epidemic (through pushing big products like high fructose corn syrup).

Meanwhile in the EU, new policies are being rolled out in relation to farming.  Among their decisions, they’ve increased the size of what kind of farm qualifies as small and therefore deserving of EU funds to protect and preserve such farms.  They also reduced the amount of subsidies to be paid to large farms.

For all the buzz about food prices, it is of interest to see what these two governments decide when it comes to agriculture. Especially in a situation where so many farmers on both sides are paid to NOT farm, despite a global food shortage.

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Lessons from the Amish

Part of having a little office/studio space in an old squat means that I have to clock working hours on the actual building. Thankfully hammering, scraping, or painting are all tasks that allow me the mental freedom to listen to my favorite podcasts all day long.. stopping for the occasional watermelon break.

Today’s audio gem which I strongly recommend comes from On Point, with Tom Ashbrooke. Always a great program, the most recent episode focuses on the Amish population of the United States. It features an author who spent many years living next door to Amish, getting to know them and becoming good friends. He did extensive research about different Amish communities and provides some really eye opening information about them… what I would label as both positive and negative details.

One particular detail that opened my eyes was the fact that Amish communities, especially some of the most conservative ones, have seen population BOOMS in the last decade… more than doubling their numbers!
– Imagine that… living in the US, while all these non-amishpeople, media, objects, not too far from your home.. and yet.. a whole community not only staying out of much of it.. but actually growing!

Beyond that he presents important lessons that the amish could offer the rest of the world.. including: buying and selling local. He talks about their tremendous skill and capacity for farming, and the great tradition of selling locally, to communities down the street. Now of course he talks about issues of education and patriarchy which present some troubling realities… but overall I was very impressed with what he learned about the Amish.

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bmtv39 Life Stories of my Grandparents (Part 1)

When I spoke in Berlin last December, lots of people asked “why do you put personal things mixed with your podcasts and blog entries.” What I tried to answer then, is that everything here is personal to me.. these are issues, ideas, and people that I care about and which make me who I am.

The following is Part 1 of a few vlog entries featuring my grandparents; just a little sample of them describing what life was like for them as farmers in Portugal. I’ve subtitled the key points, Portuguese speakers will notice some extras.

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bmtv16 Grandpa’s Garden – A Vlog from Portugal

Now that I’m back.. after a long long frustrating journey home, I’d like to change gears for a moment and share a few vlogs capturing the beauty of the Portugal I know and love.

This one was filmed in Pero Moniz, Cadaval. My mother’s hometown, where my grandparents live and where I spent many many summers.

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