A farmer I know, let’s call him John, is up late tonight in his orchard. As a Leelanau County farmer, his work requires vigilance. It’s been a wet summer so far, and that means there’s a virtual laboratory of bugs, molds, and fungi waiting to threaten his way of life. Tonight, reluctantly, he sprays an insecticide to head off the codling moth hatch that’s sure to devastate his orchards.
There’s a break in the rain, and John’s training tells him he’s got the opening he needs. The wind dies down at night too, making it a lot less likely that what he’s spraying will end up on unintended fields. All of this information points to the fact that now is the time. John decides to follow this lead and get to work, but it happens to be midnight.
This is Part Three of a three-part series from farmer Brian Bates of Bear Creek Organic Farm in Petoskey, Michigan. This essay was delivered as part of his keynote address to attendees at the Northwest Michigan Food and Farming Network’s annual Farm Route to Prosperity Summit on February 17th of this year.
In parts one and two of the essay, Bates first describes his journey On Becoming A Farmer and then begins to demonstrate the lessons of Scale and Perspective learned from hands-on experience working at large farms in the US and elsewhere.
Part Three: Making a Choice for Our Community
I think prosperity is defined by a community’s well-being. At Bear Creek, we are invested in our community and hopefully our community in us. We won’t relocate our factory tomorrow, and in the meantime, we shop locally, bank locally, ensure locally, employ locally. We teach others how to grow, and we welcome strangers to our farm.
We celebrate the deliciousness of our food, and we respond precisely to the needs of our community.
This is Part Two of a three-part series from farmer Brian Bates of Bear Creek Organic Farm in Petoskey, Michigan. This essay was delivered as part of his keynote address to attendees at the Northwest Michigan Food and Farming Network’s annual Farm Route to Prosperity Summit on February 17th of this year.
In Part One: On Becoming A Farmer, Bates describes some of the influences in his life that led him to become an organic farmer. In this Part Two, he details an eye-opening journey that took him to a variety of farms around the world, learning what he could about the differences that scale makes in farming practices. And that, all in all, the farmers he worked with are not that different than him!
Part Two: Scale and Perspective
We used to drive to the beach every year on the 4th of July and pass through the vast cornfields of Delaware. You may not have expected me to say Delaware, being that we’re in the Midwest, but at a certain scale, we become numb to the scale regardless of size – more on that later.
Brian Bates, farmer and partner at Bear Creek Organic Farm in Petoskey, Michigan, gave the keynote address at the annual Northwest Food and Farming Network Farm Route to Prosperity Summit on February 17th of this year. His creative problem-solving and passion for learning put him in a new category of young, emerging, farmers making their way in entrepreneurial agriculture. His infectious optimism and positive approach to his work are refreshing.
We’ll present his keynote address in three pieces over the coming weeks. Please be sure to come back for parts two and three.
PART ONE: On Becoming A Farming
So why am I here? I’m here to share a little about me, a little about our farm, a lot about our food system, why we’re screwed (just kidding!), and why I think small actions make a big difference.
First, a little about me. I am a DMV native (that’s DC, MD, VA) and I am gradually becoming OF Northern Michigan. How many people saw Mr. Palladino’s awesome speech at the Small Farm Conference last month? The idea of being from somewhere, and OF somewhere has really stuck with me. I love it.
I moved to Petoskey 5 years ago. I’m 27 years old. And I’m obsessed with keeping things in perspective.
Did you know that Washtenaw County has a food policy council? You may be asking yourself, what is food policy and why is it important to our community? According to Anthony Flaccavento, a food systems consultant and commercial organic farmer, policy is best understood as a framework that influences behavior. Thus, a food policy council is a group of community members gathered together to influence and steer issues related to food in a given region.
The amount of food wasted in our nation is stunning.
“In the United States, 31 percent — or 133 billion pounds — of the 430 billion pounds of the available food supply at the retail and consumer levels in 2010 went uneaten,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
From the point of view of a food business, this statistic erodes already slim profit margins. The USDA goes on to say, “the estimated value of this food loss (in 2010) was $161.6 billion using retail prices.” To bring that down to earth for us, here’s a quote from ‘80’s television icon Mr. T, “That ain’t no chump change!”
A Review of the Film “Fresh”
By Tricia Phelps
There are countless documentaries making comments on the current state of our food system. They each differ in varying degrees of tragedy, omission, honesty and optimism. “Fresh” became part of that ever growing panoply of films in 2009. The film’s director, Ana Sofia Joanes, sets “Fresh” apart by providing a well-balanced account of the dismal realities in industrial agriculture while layering the narrative with promising, inspiring and practical solutions that are beginning a movement.
By Bill Palladino
I like this one. My family tries very, very, hard to narrow our waste stream. It’s evident every week on our street. Our neighborhood’s garbage service uses bright red bags, and in the snow we’ve had they stand out. Our home only has a red bag in front of it once a month or less often. On the other hand, our recycling is always piled much higher than the neighbor’s. We even have two bins to everyone else’s single one.
By Bill Palladino
“Alone among the animals, we humans insist that our food be not only ‘good to eat’ —tasty, safe, and nutritious— but also, in the words of Claude Levi-Strauss, ‘good to think,’ for among all the many other things we eat, we also eat ideas.”