In order to understand “the battle over the future of food and farming in America”, the subtitle of Wenonah Hauter’s Foodopoly, it is helpful to know something of America’s agricultural past.
In 1862, during the presidency of Abraham Lincoln and in the midst of America’s great Cvil War, two major laws were effected which inexorably set the course of agriculture in this country from that time until now.
President Abraham Lincoln signed the first of the acts, The Homestead Act of 1862, into law on May 20, 1862. Anyone who had never taken up arms against the U.S. government (including freed slaves and women); was 21 or older, or the head of a family could file an application to claim a federal land grant.
In the United States this originally consisted of land grants as incentives to develop unused land in relatively unpopulated territories. The land grants were 160 acres (65 hectares, or one-fourth of a section).
Remember the old movies depicting land rushes that helped to expand the western frontiers of the United States? People raced in Conestoga wagons, buckboards, horses and by foot to stake their claim for this free land particularly in what became the Midwestern states.
This act stimulated immigration, primarily from northern European countries to the United States. The Homestead Act was also an instrument of war. Northerners generally wanted individual farmers to own and operate their own farms, as contrasted with Southern slave-owners who held slavery as a political and economic philosophy. Slavery was not allowed in the free land grant territories and states.
“without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactic, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.”
Under this Act each eligible state received a total of 30,000 acres (120 km2) of federal land, either within or contiguous to its boundaries, for each member of congress the state had as of the census of 1860. This land, or the proceeds from its sale, was to be used toward establishing and funding educational institutions.
Under provision six of the Act, “No State while in a condition of rebellion or insurrection against the government of the United States shall be entitled to the benefit of this act,” in reference to the recent secession of several Southern states and the currently raging American Civil War.”
So, how does this information pertain to the work of Wenonah Hauter?
What began as an egalitarian, agrarian paradigm, if we can find a way to set aside issues of slavery, discrimination, and economic injustice, has become a system that, to quote Hauter’s book jacket blurb:
“control(s) food production by a handful of large corporations – backed by political clout – that prevents farmers from raising healthy crops and limits the choices that people can make in the grocery store.”
Hauter meticulously, with clarity and insight, shares with her readers how the current food system is broken. She entreats us to consider a new standard of food production and policy that is necessary to replace the current structures that do not support healthy living or economic prosperity for all.
Foodopoly explains how food policy has run amok, making the small farmer of yesteryear now an extinct species. Ms. Hauter has carefully outlined how control of our food sources has been consolidated under control of an oligopoly of food processors. Even the organic food industry has been co-opted and corrupted by corporate greed. The deregulation of food has made it difficult to trust the safety of what we purchase at the grocery store. Factory farms have virtually eliminated family farming as originally envisioned by the land grant acts of 1862. We are asked to accept and consume genetically modified food [GMO] which has a direct correlation to endemic metabolic disease, and is banned in other countries around the world.
The new food order, the future of food and farming in America, will include citizens more actively engaged in the political processes underlying food policy. Urban agriculture, community gardening, community supported agriculture and the development of more local food economies is the wave of the future. Wenonah Hauter, in Foodopoly, makes clear why this is necessary.
K. Rashid Nuri is the Founder and President of Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture. Truly Living Well is a 501(c)(3) company that uses quality local food production as a platform to develop healthier minds, bodies and communities through education, economic development, and environmental improvement.
Mr. Nuri brings more than forty years of experience to TLW. Rashid lived and worked three years in Southeast Asia, five years in Nigeria and almost two years in Ghana. He has managed public, private and community-based food and agriculture businesses in over 35 countries around the world.
Travel has enabled Rashid to observe local food economies in the countries he has visited. He now lends his experience to urban areas where good health and nutrition are lacking. He is President of Georgia Organics, on the board of the Atlanta Local Food Initiative and the Urban Food Abundance Movement. Rashid also served four years as a Senior Executive in the Clinton administration as Deputy Administrator at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Senior Advisor at the Department of Commerce.
Rashid is a graduate of Harvard College, where he studied Government, and has a M.S. in Plant and Soil Science from the University of Massachusetts.
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