What’s your image of a farmer?

I have spent a lot of my life living in major urban areas (Chicago, Los Angeles). One of my saddest moments while living in the cities was when I realized that my children had to go to the zoo to see farm animals and that they had no idea what a vegetable garden looked like. (Full disclosure: I have a brown thumb – if you want any houseplants killed, ask me to house-sit!)

Now we live in Michigan, the state with the second highest crop diversity in the nation (after California). We buy our produce, meat, poultry, and eggs from local farmers. My kids have seen where their food comes from and have held a chick (that may have fed them at a later date!) I’m learning to garden – hoping last year’s minor success was not a total fluke/beginner’s luck! And I work for a very successful nonprofit, Fair Food Network, the President/CEO of which started out as an organic farmer in California a few decades ago. (From the department of shameless self-promotion, check out our main website at www.fairfoodnetwork.org, our signature project site at www.doubleupfoodbucks.org, and the site for Oran’s new book at www.fairfoodbook.org.)

In the past 18 months I’ve probably come into contact with more farmers than I have since I was growing up in Vermont, so I was intrigued to see this post on Grist.org: “When are we going to stop seeing farmers as rubes and hayseeds?”

Is it coincidence that Wendell Berry received a National Humanities medal from President Obama’s hands this week? If you want to be amazed, amused, and moved, pick up some of Berry’s writing (at your local public library or indie bookseller, of course!)

And just as I was pondering this happy coincidence, I got the Winter 2011 newsletter from one of “my” farmers – the Dolls of Back Forty Acres. Want to know more about what a farmer does in a day’s work? Check out the editorial on pp. 7-8. I’d like to think that Wendell Berry accepted the medal on behalf of all of our farmers/friends!

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