Obama's Organic Garden: A Model for American Renewal?

A quick show of hands:

How many RedStaters ate some food yesterday?

How many have already eaten today?

How many are planning on having a meal tomorrow?

Last one, how many people plan on making eating a lifelong habit?

By my count that’s all of you that have answered ‘yes” to at least three of these. My apologies if I missed you who are fasting or are on a hunger strike. So the demand for food has not subsided… The demand for automobiles, riding lawn mowers, or flat screen TV’s may have dropped significantly, but the demand for food seems likely to remain fairly inelastic.

Food, then, seems to be an industry that our millions of our fellow Americans who are underemployed right now could be producing. “What?” you say “My PigglyWiggly/Safeway/Giant/Publix/Harris-Teeter/Kroger is full of food, we don’t need more food in this country. The supply of food is quite alright.”

The quantity of food in our nation’s grocery stores may be great, but the quality leaves something to be desired. What’s more, many of the aisles in the center of the store are filled with ersatz food created in laboratories with corn and soy by-products.

I’m not opposed to corn or soy, but can we realistically expect to grow 100 million acres of corn and soybeans with petroleum prices ever increasing and the fuel, fertilizer and pesticides all based on petroleum? Furthermore, corn and soy production are mostly unprofitable without taxpayer subsidy. It seems the Federal Treasury is already overdrawn, maybe the extra $25 Billion in farm subsidies could be phased out and smaller, independent, less resource-intense models of farming could again flourish.

I know, without the subsidy, valuable products, products I can’t live without, like Cheese Nips, Dr. Pepper, and Cheetos will probably increase in price. These staples of my diet may increase so much when corn and soy prices are set by real market forces, that I am reduced to eating carrots or potatoes or, gads, asparagus! But I am willing to do my part to ease the burden on the American taxpayer.

Getting the government out of the business of subsidizing junk food might have the dreadful consequence, of course, of tilting consumer preference toward fruits and vegetables. I know that eating fruits and vegetables has the foul whiff of Frenchy-ness about it. Eating salads or vegetable trays for lunch or snack also carries the odor of Left Coast politics. REAL Americans eat meat, cheese and spuds. Those are a few of my favorite things, too, but beef and dairy products come from CORN-eaters–that product that can’t be produced profitably without taxpayer subsidy. Sadly, if the government got out of the corn business, we might also see beef and dairy products rise to their REAL price. But since we already pay for half of all Americans’ medical bills in the form of Medicare and Medicaid, it probably wouldn’t hurt if we all ate a few more salads and a few less Big Macs.

So, back to getting the idle to work in farming. Land is affordable somewhere within an hour’s drive of most major cities. Seeds are still relatively inexpensive, and a pump, a well or a pond, and a few hoses can put most small farmers in business. Some cheap tools at Wal-Mart will get you going till you can afford the quality stuff. Most 1-2 acre farms can be outfitted for $1000 bucks or so. And you can make several thousand dollars on a couple acres. Families can get their kids involved. One parent can stay home to farm, can extras, and raise the yunggins’.

Farming is traditionally the work of independent minded people–the hippie-dippy organic collectives that never last being the exception. Farmers don’t look for hand-outs and generally just want the government to quit skewing the playing field. The 3000-acre plow-jockeys who rely on taxpayer handouts might be the exception there.

The First Family’s organic garden has been chided and derided by some as yet another example of their elitist, out-of-touch values. I actually know the price of arugula. I grow and sell it, and it retails these days for around $10/pound at markets I attend. That’s more than most beef and it takes only 2 months from seed to harvest. Growing arugula, dandelion, kale, and pac choi can be VERY profitable on a very small space. My wife and I are micro-farmers, and there’s room for thousands of more underemployed Americans, too.

The New American Farmer is enterprising, independent, environmentally friendly and not reliant on cheap oil or taxpayer handouts. Those who decry “fresh, local food for all Americans” as a fantasy deny the can-do spirit of America.

Shop your local farmer’s market and support America’s entrepreneurial class.

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