During our most recent class discussion, we spoke about the shifting age demographics of farming. The local food movement is allowing a younger age of farmer to make a large and immediate impact. The farming industry is not lacking interest from young people, but the dearth of young farmers has primarily come from the lack of opportunity to get into the industry. Unless farmland is inherited from a family member, the barriers to conventional farming are immense. Startup costs and land taxes often dissuade the younger generation from pursuing the profession. The local food movement has caused an increase in prices, but has subsequently attracted our generation. Rather than importing fruits and vegetables, which are often localized to certain regions of the world, America’s youth is trying to reclaim many agricultural products. This is arguably more labor intensive and expensive, but yields a sustainable food source in many cases. Young farmers in America face many structural obstacles including access to education, and business training. Furthermore, they need open minded consumers and new law implementation. Essentially, they forced to improvise in order to best serve the new marketplace. The documentary “Greenhorns” shows us many of the challenges and successes that our country’s youth faces. Another often unnoticed aspect of the changing farming environment is the de-masculinization of the profession. A recent New York Times Op-Ed by Olivier de Schutter entitled “The Feminization of Farming” exposes how gender stereotypes are being unraveled throughout the world. Socio-economic obstacles must still be removed in order to challenge the traditional gender roles that burden women with household duties and prevent them from burgeoning in the farming profession. This piece discusses how microfinance programs in developing countries such as Indonesia have recently been implemented to help women pursue small-business ideas instead of housework. Women and the youth face many of the same structural obstacles, and change may come in the form of legal revitalization the local food movement. Consumers should be able to get fresh and organic produce at nearly the same cost as mass-produced food, while supporting local businesses and reducing the carbon footprint. The trend and youth movement in farming has come with wider public recognition of the downside of industrial food production. Antibiotics used often protect against disease and boosts production and commercial output, but also build drug resistance that has long-term negative consequences toward people’s health. There are many issues at play if we are to curb the economic imbalances that create the structural difficulties for younger farmers and the local food movement. Anthropologist Pierre Bourdieu would most likely argue that pre-dispositions guide our country’s youth toward appropriate social positions and behaviors that are suitable for them. However, we are seeing the shift away from this paradigm, and if there is to be a successful transition into a new age of agricultural production and farming, we must eliminate the legislative obstacles that hinder socio-economic prosperity.
After our class discussion regarding The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol Adams, I did some research into opposing views regarding the consumption of meat and meat products. I came across an interesting article in the Washington Post pertaining to the biological value involved in the consumption of meat. Scientist Christopher Wanjek shows how humans are only the humans that we have come to recognize because of the biomedical importance of meat in our diets. “Both extremes of the meat argument — the unapologetic meat-eater and the raw vegan — should remember that few of today’s so-called natural foods were around as little as a few hundred years ago, from the modern invention called corn-fed beef to genetically altered strains of Queen Anne’s lace called the carrot. There are many reasons to go vegetarian, go vegan and even go raw, but evolution isn’t one of them. (http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-11-26/national/35510270_1_vegan-diet-big-brains-brain-size)” Vegan, vegetarian, or even raw diets are undoubtedly more healthful than the high-fat, high-cholesterol alternatives that most Americans are used to, but simply referring to them as “natural” is a misconception in the most primal and biological sense. Often, a lack of meat in one’s diet, or a protein-filled substitute contributes to low levels of dietary iron and vitamins B9 and B12. Humans have always required these nutrients, and it is important to realize that meat has historically been a crucial part of human evolution. Many critics of the consumption of meat would highlight the treatment of animals and the ethics behind it, and this must be taken into account when making proper dietary choices, but as this article shows, it is unwise to simply dismiss it as unnatural. The issue of eating meat in today’s society is a complicated one, and Carol Adams highlights a departure from seeing meat as a living organism as partially to blame: “We live in a culture that has institutionalized the oppression of animals on at least two levels: in formal structures such as slaughterhouses, meat markets, zoos, laboratories, and circuses, and through our language. That we refer to meat eating rather than to corpse eating is a central example of how our language transmits the dominant culture’s approval of this activity. (Adams 77: 2010)” However, this is largely a recent invention, and in the biological sense, there has historically been no separation between the vernacular of the animal and its consumed form. Meat was consumed as a result of its biological and evolutionary importance, and is in many ways natural. Our society has created this distinction, and animals being prepared for consumption are treated far worse than their historical counterparts. It is vital to consider the source of meat when making a conscious decision regarding whether to abstain from its consumption, but it being “unnatural” should not be one of them. The major ethical objection to meat concludes that consuming meat is not a necessity for most people living in the developed world, therefore the slaughter of animals to please human taste buds is not morally justifiable. If you do choose to go vegan or vegetarian, be sure to simply find protein and iron-rich alternatives to satisfy our basic biological need for these essential nutrients. Eating meat is good for humanity in a few ways provided the animals are treated with care and our eating them ensures their survival. “Humans no longer need high reserves of protein and fat, and modern livestock raising has become in many places harmful to the land, the animals, and the workers who tend to them. (Ruhlman from first article)” In my own opinion, if we choose to make the conscious choice to consume meat, it is our “ethical duty to eat it in significantly smaller proportions than plant products (Ruhlman)” and to ensure that all animals are cared for with thoughtfulness.