A Jeffersonian Fourth of July (maybe?)

If tomatoes mean summer agriculturally, certainly the Fourth of July means summer for us culturally. As a topical nod to farming and patriotism, check out this article, Why the founding farmers wanted Americans to be farmers, which ties together a number of themes we think about around the CSA. It is an accessible read that builds the narrative of how food production became a key determinant of American independence, with seeds serving as the organic capsules containing the roots of liberty. Seeds represented autonomy and independence. 

"...Farming represented a means of both procedural and distributive justice. The right to own property and the opportunity to work the land protected Americans from “the arbitrary will of another” and offered the privilege of receiving the benefit of one’s own labor directly. This sort of self-reliance and self sufficiency—at first a rallying cry against British colonialism—would become the underlying principle of our economic system today..."

This sort of small-scale family farming is still rooted in our cultural consciousness (as the marketing department of corporate food production well knows), and is at the core of our American story. As you may remember from grade school—or from Hamilton—Jefferson was a proponent of this agrarian vision, where agricultural production and land ownership forms the basis of a free country and, in fact, the basis of democracy itself.

But however universal those ideals, in practice Jefferson's agrarianism was based on the labor of people enslaved and sold to power those idealistically-American agricultural enterprises. And voting itself, the fundamental activity of democracy, was for the first 80 years of our nation restricted to white property-owning men. Our nation's agricultural origin story does not mean the same thing to all Americans. In a way, my farm is the sort of small farm Jefferson had in mind, and we could use the Fourth of July to consider how being part of a small-scale CSA enterprise strengthens the fabric of democracy, returning us to the Founders' ideals. On the other hand, we could remember that the large-scale players—for example, the Jeffersons and the Washingtons, and now corporate agribusiness—have always been the ones in power. I'd say that by supporting a small-scale farm, and its regenerative rather than extractive growing practices, and the person-to-person economic and social fabric that local business creates, you are supporting the independence of the people. As the grand finale of the neighboring town's fireworks shines through my window, I wish you a happy Independence Day