We have finally discovered YouTube. I guess we are not so far behind the times, as YouTube has only been around since 2005. These little videos are just an excellent way of learning current events, history and real life.

One of the things my farmer discovered were videos of farming during WWII in England. Before the war England imported much of her food, their farming methods were inefficient and archaic. As the horrors of war increased, blockades prevented food from coming in, ships were needed for military use.

It soon became apparent, they had to rely on their farmland to produce the food they needed. It is almost painful to watch them repurpose abandoned farm machinery from the countryside into useful equipment, all done under the threat of war.

It is an eye opener. America, a vast land, with some of the best soils, climate that encourages abundant yields, farm families willing to dedicate their lives to seeing their countrymen are fed good, nourishing food and plenty of it. Sounds like a recipe for tables overflowing with food.

But it is not. Chew on this for a minute: America’s cattle inventory is about the same as it was in 1973. Yet our population has grown by 100 million. Where’s the beef? During the years 1998 to 2007, beef imports doubled.

The same story could be told in seafood. When you read labels, can you find United State fish? Not very often, because 91 percent of the fish on our shelves is imported, a portion from our neighbor to the north; but most of it from Asian countries.  (source: fishwatch.gov)

The United States imports of grain, dairy, fruits and vegetables continues to grow rapidly. One almost gets the idea of two ships passing on the ocean!

One year the hot pepper crop failed in Texas. Just across the Rio Grande there was a bumper crop. Turns out, they were able to use a pesticide in Mexico that was banned in the United States. Where do you think those peppers ended up?

Increased regulations, EPA, farm programs and other factors including subsidies are destroying America’s own ability to remain independent and self-reliant.  It is true, farm subsidies are formulated to help agribusinesses rather than the family farm.     

According to EWG, $195 billion has been spent on farm subsidies since 1995. (How much of that came to your farm?)

Much of agriculture is not subsidized, and it thrives. The USDA says that 62% of farms did not collect subsidies. They also say that ten percent of the farms collect the money. Let me calculate ten percent of $195 billion is…

Might as well admit that subsidies keep most of us poor.

There are some things that can be learned from YouTube, reading textbooks, but nothing can replace learning from fathers, grandfathers. Growing up, doing the work is similar to apprenticeships. There are the little things that are picked up that makes a big difference. Experience at any job counts for much.

If we lose the knowledge that comes from just doing the work, planning, operating machinery that intuitive know how, what happens if the United States had to depend on itself?

There is a bit of winter left, still time to see how England met the challenge of producing the food needed. We still have time to investigate just why the number of farms continues to drop and kindly ask to return to a market base farm economy without the government handouts picking the winners and losers.

Oh yes, WTFWTF: Where is the food, Without the Farmer?
Excellent question.


Essays from My Farm House Kitchen | Renae B. Vander Schaaf

Renae B. Vander Schaaf, freelance writer, lives on a real working farm in northwest Iowa.

To Contact Renae B. Vander Schaaf, please email her at [email protected]