We often refer to our founding fathers when we talk about the signing of the declaration of independence, but they could just as well be called the founding farmers, since that was the primary profession of so many at the time. There is a poem on the internet that I came across written by a California organic farmer by the name of Hilary Hodge. It’s pretty long – and some of it is kind of anti-modern agriculture, but the first few stanzas reflect our nation’s agricultural heritage and the struggles farmers of all types face today.
It’s hard to open up, to display my sad depression.
But indulge me for a while, as I share this history lesson:
During the birth of this fair nation, in 1790, just for measure,
90% of us were farmers, a new-born nation’s treasure,
And when someone went to congress then, it was a deal of sacrifice,
They had to leave their stock behind, say goodbye to beans and rice.
But now our system’s shifted: the cause for my lament,
By 1950 in this nation, we were only 10 percent,
Today we stand together, but quite alone we stand,
Today 1% are farmers across this dusty land,
As we work to give this nation, the nurture they deserve,
We are sadly undermined by the people that we serve.
There’s more paperwork than acres, more hoops than there are plants,
We fear our public policy more than aphids, more than ants,
We used to cringe at thoughts of gophers, we used to shudder at thoughts of blight,
Now it’s fear of regulations that keeps us up at night.
We pander to our buyers, tally daily what’s been spent,
We fear the strangers at our door are from the government.
We keep faith that one day congress might value things that grow,
And find a way to value farmers even much more so.
Just a note about the photo – for those of you who have never seen it, heard of it, or read Dan Brown’s “The Lost Symbol”, the fresco in the dome of the U.S. Capitol is called the “Apotheosis of Washington” and it depicts six different concepts in the founding of our nation, including agriculture. Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, is shown with a wreath of wheat and a cornucopia, symbol of plenty, while sitting on a McCormick mechanical reaper. The personification of Young America in a liberty cap holds the reins of the horses, while the goddess Flora gathers flowers in the foreground.