GUEST COMMENTARY: The fight for control over our dinner tables

Thursday, December 26, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST

Nicholas Kristof, a New York Times columnist and former farm boy, once wrote: “(T)he central problem with modern industrial agriculture … (is) not just that it produces unhealthy food, mishandles waste, and overuses antibiotics in ways that harm us all. More fundamentally, it has no soul.”

That’s the driving ethic of the thriving “good food movement.” It rebuts the insistence that agriculture is nothing but a business.

Food certainly is a business, but it’s a good business — literally producing goodness — because it’s a way of life for hardworking people who practice the art and science of cooperating with Mother Nature, rather than always trying to overwhelm her.

Small-scale farmers don’t want to be massive or make a killing. They want to farm and make delicious, healthy foods that enrich the whole community.

This spirit was summed up in one word by Lee Jones, a sustainable farmer who was asked what he’d be if he wasn’t a farmer. He replied: “disappointed.”

To farmers like him, food embodies our full “culture” — a word that is sculpted right into “agriculture” and is essential to its organic meaning.

Although agriculture is now flourishing throughout the land and has forestalled the total takeover of our food by crass agribusiness, the corporate powers and their political hirelings continue to press for the elimination of the food rebels and ultimately to impose their vision of complete corporatization.

The Good Food movement is one of today’s most important populist struggles. It’s literally a fight for control of our dinner, and it certainly deserves a major focus as we sit down to holiday tables this year.

To find small-scale farmers, artisans, farmers markets, and other resources in your area for everything from organic tomatoes, to pastured turkey, go to

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer and public speaker.

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Michael Williams December 26, 2013 | 1:29 p.m.

Well, you criticize "corporate" farmers without defining "corporate."

You laud "small" farmers without defining "small".

And, you compare the two and draw conclusions.

That means you have lots of wiggle room to make a point that ends up obscure since you have provided no definitions.

Am I "small" if I own 5 acres of organic onions? 40 acres? How about if I farm 300 acres of corn? What about 800 acres of soybeans? Or 1500 acres of cotton? Perhaps 5000 acres of cows? If I incorporate my 1500 acre farm to protect assets, am I "corporate"?

How about providing a breakdown (preferably a bar graph) of farm acreage on the X-axis versus # of MO farms on the Y-axis for starters? Let's see what the mean and standard deviation for farm size in MO is. Let's see exactly where we are on the "small" versus "corporate" farm comparison?

Without such data, we're forced to agree (or disagree) with your conclusions without knowing your definitions or raw data. And, I don't do that. Instead, without data, I conclude you simply have an agenda that is probably not benign. In short, without your data, why should I believe you?

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