Thursday, July 23, 2009

Rambling Farm Thoughts

I served a two year sentence at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in the early 1980s. Yes, it was an odd choice for me, but I'm glad that I made it. Though I don't have much of a green thumb anymore, I'll forever have a little sandy-clay-loam under my fingernails.

If you asked me what I learned at NSAC, I'd have to say two things:

1) the Latin name for some plant species (Lactuca sativa, Solanum dulcamara, etc.). I often used my knowledge of Latin to 'wow' the ladies in the bars until one finally told me that that she wasn't interested in lettuce, climbing nightshade, or me. At that point I reverted to using my fake British accent, which never failed.

2) a profound and deeply rooted (think parsnip) respect for farmers.

The plight of farmers has been tough lately but, you know, it always has been. Clouds of locusts have been replaced by the plague of grocery store chains that won't buy local produce. And that's if the weather doesn't ruin the crop first. Before my hundred mile diet began I was spending about $150 per week at either the Stuporstore or Slobey's, now I probably spend $20 per week there, if that. If the vegetable stands started selling toothpaste, toilet paper and unscented Dove soap, then my shadow might never be cast upon a grocery store floor anymore.

I'll be shackled, once again, to the grocery chains when the vegetable stands close for the season in October, but until then the hundred mile diet shall continue...I love it and I'm feeling much better about my overall health. My gut is shrinking to the point where I no longer refer to myself as looking like a garter snake who swallowed a light bulb. I now say that I'm three and a half months pregnant...just a little bump. It's like a reverse pregnancy for me...soon I'll be a virgin with a six pack.

Skipping ahead, did you know that in 2006 there were 2776 farms in New Brunswick? That's an 8.5% decrease from just five years earlier. Old farmers are dying, and their sons and daughters are working in call centres or Tim Horton's, two of New Brunswick's leading employers. You can't blame the kids for leaving the's hard work and the financial rewards are few, plus you smell like cow dung and your fingers grow really thick.

I've always found it peculiar that we pay professional athletes 4.75 million dollars per year to wear funny shoes with metal runners on an indoor frozen oval, while they do their darnedest to put a frozen whoopie pie into a welded steel fish net. And farmers, the ones who feed us and grow the pepperoni for the pizzas we eat while watching Hockey Night In Canada, are barely able to afford the ball caps that they invariably wear far too high on their big old Hereford heads. .

Don Cherry probably spends more on his outrageously gay blazers than the average Canadian farmer earns in a year. I take that back, no gay man would wear what Don Cherry wears...that comment was uncalled for. I apologize, but only to a point. Liberace would have worn them, but he died and went to hell a long time ago.

Of course some professional athletes are also farmers. Mike Weir owns, or has given his name to, a vineyard in Ontario. So has Wayne Gretzky.

"Wayne, supper's ready. It's your favourite...a Big Mac and Pepsi."

"Goddammit Janet, I told you I'm not eating that shit since they cancelled my endorsement contract. Let's just hop in my Ford truck and drive to the Wayne Gretzky restaurant. I'll be there in a few minutes, I have a little more weeding to do in the vineyard."

As if. I wonder what real farmers think of these pretty boys making even more money as farmers.

I picked up a new bumper sticker in Maine. It reads...

No Farms, No Food.

Four words worth thinking about. Pour yourself a glass of Wayne's 2006 Shiraz Icewine, a bargain at only $55 per bottle, while you ponder the fate of our farmers. And please, don't whine about the price of sweet corn when it hits the farm stands. At $5 or $6 per dozen it's a better deal than a $2 bottle of imported Evian.

Think about it.

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