I've been thinking about the symbols of Christmas and how we imbue certain days of the year with our values and expectation, even long past the days when we were rooted in the earth and celebrations were about the produce and the work that arose from them. The importance now is in the celebrity and symbolism of the day.
It reminds me of how we create and empower celebrities or leaders give them significance or infamy from a deep sense of human want or genetic memory. They are like our hedge funds or stand in for our values and our expectations. We create them and can live through them but they disappoint as quickly as they resound, because their symbolism shatters in the surfacing of their humanness. A deeper longings for belonging or wholeness has us entrust power to people as readily as we attach a symbol to a day. Leaders and celebrities come crashing down and pile up like christmas wrappers and heaps of dry tinseled trees.
I've known many food activists who have come to symbolize the voice of farming. They are in every city and have done honourable work in bringing forward the issues of food security. These are predominantly urban people whose detachment from the reality of farm culture is also evident in many of the projects: co-ops turned to businesses, endless grants without actual projects of the soil, policy change in favour of the next opportunity, food conferences and committees that farmers had no voice in. We have created this reality by giving over farm voices to a few, predominantly urban, cultural celebrities. We need these voices. But we need more farm voices. There are a few: Bove, Percy Schmeizer, Wendell Berry. The list is short, because the message is often one of desperation and urgency. Real issues pertaining to farming livelihoods like price and import controls, legal representation for right to farm or coexistence issue are virtually champion less. For a really dynamic local sustainable agriculture it is time to unravel the substance from the symbol. "Our culture today is mainly embarrassed about country things. we need to ask What is the nature of this place? And then: What will nature permit me to do here? Consideration of these questions might have led us to recognize the inherent economic connections between country and city, between what is grown and what we eat, between what natural resources are available and how they are consumed—and to accept and act on the responsibilities that those connections imply." source. The voices of those that struggle are often unruly, uncomfortable and of a different cultural milieu. Class plays a part.
It is a fabulous time for the celebrities of the organic/ sustainable farming movement to bring forward the voice and needs of the farmer they so often symbolize, to honour the dependency of urban existence to the primary producers out on the land. Not to speak for them, but to work for them. The opportunity of a special holiday is to stand back and reflect upon what our symbols mean. To connect that turkey with the goal of not just good healthy food, but with good healthy farmers on good healthy land. Every person, rural and urban, needs to come to the table to empower our food future and it is something well worth celebration. It is a connection of great magnitude and tremendous possibility.