Why are Farmers Afraid of Michael Pollan?

by JIM GOODMAN

Author Michael Pollan is no stranger to controversy. He has broadened the discussion of what we eat, where and how it is grown, big vs. small, organic farming vs. conventional. When he speaks some in the audience will love him, some will not.

Advocates of large scale agriculture see Pollan as the enemy, they believe he stands against everything they see as the future of agriculture. Pollan however is not an absolutist, his basic premise is that people need to think more about their food; where it was grown, how it was grown, was the farmer paid fairly, is it good for you?

Pollan wants people to think about cooking, about food freshness and flavor, about the dinner table as more than a “filling station”.

Knowing your food is not a radical concept, and it should not be a frightening concept. Knowledge is power, the more we know, the better choices we can make.

Farmers should have nothing to hide, and those most upset with Pollan’s theories on eating, tout their large scale farming methods as being models of efficiency, environmental protection, animal welfare and safe food.

Still, they fear his thoughts being mainstream. Granted, Pollan is not a farmer, and does not know all the intricacies of farming; he does not claim to. However, those who denounce him do not know the intricacies of the local, regional and organic farming he advocates.

So, why are they afraid of what he has to say? Pollan admits there is no one right way to farm, there is no one system that will work for all farmers. He maintains that all farmers need to make a living yet be mindful of how they farm, how they raise their animals and how they maintain the environment. If Pollan has an argument with agriculture, it is not with farmers, it is with agribusiness.

Author Wendell Berry notes that “Agribusiness is immensely more profitable than agriculture”. Any farmer knows that the corporate owners of seed, chemicals, fertilizer and the buyers of grain, livestock and milk always seem to make a profit; farmers do not.

Over the past 60 years farmers have seen competition in the market place steadily disappear as corporate mergers concentrated all aspects of agriculture into the hands of a few multinational corporations.

Their profit comes at the expense of the farmer, the farm worker, consumer safety and the environment.

While farmers defend themselves against what they see as an attack by Pollan, they are really defending agribusiness. When they say they love their Roundup Ready corn, the hormones and the chemicals they are promoting the corporations that always make a profit whether the farmers win or lose.

When farmers disparage small-scale ecological agriculture because it “will never feed the world” they conveniently forget that conventional agriculture has not fed the world either, despite 60 years of promises to do so. They also ignore the findings of IAASTD that indicate the old paradigm of industrial agriculture is a thing of the past.

The industrial model sources food from the world, pits farmer against farmer in a race to the bottom. Globalized commodities converted into processed nutritionally empty foods, make corporations rich, Americans obese, and developing countries destitute .

Pollan just wants farmers and consumers to think. Agribusiness is rich and persuasive, they own both ends of the market place and they want to keep it that way. When people think about what they eat and what they grow, chances are, eventually, they will make the right choice.

JIM GOODMAN is a farmer from Wonewoc WI and an IATP Food and Society Fellow.

 

 Jim Goodman is a dairy farmer from Wonewoc, Wisconsin.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
July 29, 2015
Mike Whitney
The Politics of Betrayal: Obama Backstabs Kurds to Appease Turkey
Joshua Frank
The Wheels Fell Off the Bernie Sanders Bandwagon
Conn Hallinan
Ukraine: Close to the Edge
Stephen Lendman
What Happened to Ralkina Jones? Another Jail Cell Death
Rob Wallace
Neoliberal Ebola: the Agroeconomic Origins of the Ebola Outbreak
Dmitry Rodionov
The ‘Ichkerization’ Crime Wave in Ukraine
Joyce Nelson
Scott Walker & Stephen Harper: a New Bromance
Bill Blunden
The Red Herring of Digital Backdoors and Key Escrow Encryption
Thomas Mountain
The Sheepdog Politics of Barack Obama
Farzana Versey
A President and a Yogi: Abdul Kalam’s Symbolism
Norman Pollack
America’s Decline: Internal Structural-Cultural Subversion
Foday Darboe
How Obama Failed Africa
Cesar Chelala
Russia’s Insidious Epidemic
Tom H. Hastings
Defending Democracy
David Macaray
Why Union Contracts are Good for the Country
Virginia Arthur
The High and Dry Sierras
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, the Season Finale, Mekonception in Redhook
July 28, 2015
Mark Schuller
Humanitarian Occupation of Haiti: 100 Years and Counting
Lawrence Ware
Why the “Black Church” Doesn’t Exist–and Never Has
Peter Makhlouf
Israel and Gaza: the BDS Movement One Year After “Protective Edge”
Carl Finamore
Landlords Behaving Badly: San Francisco Too Valuable for Poor People*
Michael P. Bradley
Educating About Islam: Problems of Selectivity and Imbalance
Binoy Kampmark
Ransacking Malaysia: the Najib Corruption Dossier
Michael Avender - Medea Benjamin
El Salvador’s Draconian Abortion Laws: a Miscarriage of Justice
Jesse Jackson
Sandra Bland’s Only Crime Was Driving While Black
Cesar Chelala
Effect of Greece’s Economic Crisis on Public Health
Mel Gurtov
Netanyahu: An Enemy of Peace
Joseph G. Ramsey
The Limits of Optimism: E.L. Doctorow and the American Left
George Wuerthner
Bark Beetles and Forest Fires: Another Myth Goes Up in Smoke
Paul Craig Roberts - Dave Kranzler
Supply and Demand in the Gold and Silver Futures Markets
Eric Draitser
China’s NGO Law: Countering Western Soft Power and Subversion
Harvey Wasserman
Will Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Anti-Green Resume Kill His Presidential Hopes?
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode 4, a Bowery Ballroom Blitz
July 27, 2015
Susan Babbitt
Thawing Relations: Cuba’s Deeper (More Challenging) Significance
Howard Lisnoff
Bernie Sanders: Savior or Seducer of the Anti-War Left?
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma’s Profiteers: You Want Us to Pay What for These Meds?
Joshua Sperber
What is a President? The CEO of Capitalism
John Halle
On Berniebots and Hillary Hacks, Dean Screams, Swiftboating and Smears
Stephen Lendman
Cleveland Police Attack Black Activists
Zoe Konstantopoulou
The Politics of Coercion in Greece
Patrick Cockburn
Only Iraq’s Clerics Can Defeat ISIS
Ralph Nader
Sending a ‘Citizens Summons’ to Members of Congress
Clancy Sigal
Scratch That Itch: Hillary and The Donald
Colin Todhunter
Working Class War Fodder
Gareth Porter
Obama’s Version of Iran Nuke Deal: a Second False Narrative