New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


A Land Without Farmers

September 17, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Ecology, Economy, Evaggelos Vallianatos

Grappling with the Emerging Empire of Agribusiness

by Evaggelos Vallianatos

The plutocratic remaking of America has a parallel in the countryside. In rural America less than 3 percent of farmers make more than 63 percent of the money, including government subsidies.

The results of this emerging feudal economy are everywhere. Large areas of the United States are becoming impoverished farm towns with abandoned farmhouses and deserted land. More and more of the countryside has been devoted to massive factory farms and plantations. The consequences, though worse now than ever, have been there for all to see and feel, for decades.

Walter Goldschmidt, an anthropologist with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) was already documenting the deleterious effects of agribusiness on small communities in California’s Central Valley as long ago as the 1940s (1). (more…)

Organic Food for Thought

September 10, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Ecology, Jennifer Browdy

We Eat By the Grace of Nature, Not By the Grace of Monsanto

by Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

“Organic, schmorganic,” fumes New York Times columnist Roger Cohen sarcastically in an article entitled “The Organic Fable.”

He bases his sweeping dismissal of the organic foods movement on a new Stanford University study claiming that “fruits and vegetables labeled organic are, on average, no more nutritious than their cheaper conventional counterparts.”

Cohen does grant that “organic farming is probably better for the environment because less soil, flora and fauna are contaminated by chemicals…. So this is food that is better ecologically even if it is not better nutritionally.”

But he goes on to smear the organic movement as an elitist, pseudoscientific indulgence shot through with hype. (more…)

Bigger, Not Better

August 23, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Ecology, Economy, Evaggelos Vallianatos

Large Farms Are the Emperors of Rural America

by Evaggelos Vallianatos

Large farmers, with farms thousands of acres in size, have tremendous power.

You can visualize that power standing on the border of any such large farm. You see nothing but the horizon in the far distance touching the flat land. Coming as I did from Greek culture where farms are tiny, each bordering the neighboring farm with beautiful small stone walls or trees, the vast expanse of merely land without any fences or houses or trees, is always shocking. But after my bewilderment wears thin, I realize these monstrous farms produce most of America’s food.

Large farmers are the emperors of rural America. The federal government lavishes more than $20 billion of subsidies on them every year. Other long-term subsidies in water, science and technology are worth trillions. (more…)

Urban Farms or Myths?

August 02, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Devon G. Pena, Ecology

Feeding Ourselves, Our Cities, and the World…

by Devon G. Peña

The excitement surrounding urban agriculture is partly rooted in a notable history and possible future capacity to actually help feed the entire nation. During the Second World War, so-called ‘Victory Gardens’ provided close to half of the fruits and vegetables consumed by the population; albeit, people in those days ate smaller, healthier portions. Perhaps the revival of urban farming will lead not just to a diet for a small planet but a diet for smaller people?

Victory Gardens, a.k.a. ‘War Gardens’, played a major role in the mobilization of the civilian population during the two world wars but were especially important during the Second World War. Most reliable estimates confirm that 40 to 50 percent of the fruits and vegetables consumed during this period were grown in urban gardens.

The return of urban farming echoes these monumental efforts of the past, but the new ‘Victory Gardens’ are about a victory over poverty, hunger, malnutrition, and the dissolution of community ties. The phenomenal success and rapid growth of urban farming has created extraordinary opportunities for food justice and an ecologically superior, community-based approach to reinvention of our current food system, which is dominated by unsustainable and inequitable industrial models and a profit-driven top-down corporate anti-nature and anti-worker rationality. (more…)

Agriculture and Democracy

July 27, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Ecology, Economy, Evaggelos Vallianatos

Too Few Farms, and These Too Large

by Evaggelos Vallianatos

Walter Goldschmidt, 1913-2010, was an anthropologist who worked for the US Department of Agriculture. In the early 1940s, he brought to light the undoing of rural America by large farmers and warned USDA officials that large farmers were destabilizing rural communities in the Central Valley of California.[1]

Giant agriculture and democracy

Goldschmidt was the first American scholar in the twentieth century who documented the relationship between farming and democracy. He knew rural America had been under attack by large farmers for several decades. He witnessed American agriculture change from a way of life for raising food and sustaining democratic society to a business for making money and exerting political influence. This has had, as Goldschmidt predicted, unforeseeable deleterious consequences for nature, food, human health and democracy. One can visualize this giant agriculture as a massive factory that has taken roots in the land, industrializing both farming and food and farmers, making rural America a colony for the extraction of profit. Giant agriculture is leaving behind millions of broken family farms. It has contaminated water and land, disrupted and poisoned nature, and created a wounded rural America open to conquest by urban culture and power. (more…)

Food Fights

October 12, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Devon G. Pena, Ecology, Politics

Hunger Politics and the Struggle for Autonomy and Resistance

by Devon G. Peña

The political project to homogenize and control the global food system dominated by a handful of multinational corporations and powerful nation states is capitalist at its core and manifest source. This reflects the culmination of five decades of American policies that made food into political weaponry, as Harry Cleaver presciently observed way back in 1977. Food as political weaponry became official US policy during the Nixon Administration when Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz, declared that food was indeed part of the toolkit of American “diplomacy.”  Butz announced this policy in 1974 with the simple statement: “Food is a weapon.” (more…)

‘I Want to Be a Farmer’

June 03, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Ecology, Family, Randall Amster

Food Justice, Out of the Mouths of Babes

by Randall Amster

“Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.”Psalm 8:2

My oldest son recently “graduated” from preschool. In the endearing ceremony, each of the children was asked what they want to be when they grow up. His precocious, divergent, and unanticipated response was, “I want to be a farmer like my dad.” And I couldn’t have been more proud.

To be sure, I’m hardly a “farmer” in any real sense of the word. Yes, I do work hard to scratch out a good-sized family garden each year in this high-desert habitat, and in our five years here we’ve planted an orchard and built a large chicken coop, among other interventions. So while I definitely get my hands dirty and spend a fair bit of time building soil and coaxing vegetables from the granite and clay, my skills are much closer to the hobby side of the coin than anything that can rightly be termed “farming.” (more…)