Can Agriculture be Aspirational?

Once upon a time, everyone was in food procurement. We hunted, we gathered, we scavenged. But people have always looked for what they must have assumed was a better use of their time to work flint, smelt bronze or appear on reality TV shows. Today, only about 2 % of the US population is engaged in the creation of food (I distinguish this from the transportation, processing or preparation of food, for which we apparently still have a passion.) If food production is what most of us really wanted to do, we’d still be doing it.
Essential though it is, providing food is a “low-aspirational” activity. When food production was the default occupational selection for the entire human population, we invented trade, and arts, and warfare… anything to get us off the farm.
Models being propounded for a future sustainable food system call for a return to more agrarian principles, with more people working the soil. I have no problem with these ideals. Having left a suburban career for my avocados, goats and chickens, I may even embody them. But are there enough people who will even take my timid steps toward an agrarian model, let alone large numbers willing to get to a hard-core, Joel Salatin-type of system? I am not aware of any large scale movement by a population in this direction at any point in human history, and a smattering of highly committed individuals will not likely bring the vast systemic change envisioned.
They say there is a first time for everything, so perhaps this really is the beginning of a new epoch of human existence. Of course there is one exception to the “first time for everything” rule, and that is that there is no first time for something that never happens. When we say that we want to get people to aspire to agriculture, we are working against the entirety of human history. We cannot overestimate the challenge of this undertaking.

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One thought on “Can Agriculture be Aspirational?

  1. Pingback: True Cost of Food and the True Value of Farm Labor? « SaticoyRoots Weblog

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