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Re: NYTimes.com Article: Arkansas Rice Farmers Run Dry, and U.S. Remedy ...

  • Subject: Re: [cg] NYTimes.com Article: Arkansas Rice Farmers Run Dry, and U.S. Remedy ...
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2002 08:43:07 EST

I live on this strange small off-shore island called Manhattan, and 
unfortunately don't get on the mainland ( except when I visit the botanic and 
community gardens in the Bronx) anywhere near as much as I should.  With the 
exception of greenswards like Central Park and tiny third- of - an - acre 
plots like the Clinton Community Garden , my home island is a people-filled 
brick and steel rookery . 

Offshore islands collect refugees. As a boy I knew grandfathers who had come 
to NYC as young men after the Irish Easter rebellion - successive troubles 
aroung the world gives us new neighbors - if it's a hotspot, NYC ends up with 
an new ethnic cuisine from that region in a few years.   

What amazes me, is how many folks I run into who either grew up on US family 
farms or are a generation removed - I garden with several and they've saved 
this city boy from some boneheaded mistakes.  We are all appalled by the 
degree of hunger in this country, the unnaturalness of much of the food that 
we find in our supermarkets and are continually amazed at  how good  prosaic, 
community garden grown vegetables taste.  

The agribusiness cycle in this country, where most of this nation's food is 
shipped from hubs 1200 - 1400 miles away from the consumer is absurd, 
especially as it requires so much fossil fuel to maintain and the 
consolidation of agriculture, the chase after the dollar, causes so much 
ecological and societal upheaval.  I savor shopping at our local Green 
Markets (real farmer's markets, not jobbers who put straw around the boxes) - 
I know the guys who grew the squash in my soup, the root vegetables that I'll 
use all winter. While my family is still eating the last of the  peppers, 
arugula and cabbage we grew ( and will eat the pesto and tomato sauce I froze 
this January and February) these family farmers are our connection to real 
food.  And they're having a harder time every year.  The farmer's Greenmarket 
is a godsend all around, but the structural problems with  agribusiness - 
it's destruction of good farmland with run-off from animal and chemical waste 
and it's dependence on fossil fuels to ship thousands of miles when maybe 
20-100 mile trips can suffice are grounds for despair.

Last May, as I flew into Little Rock, Arkansas for a food security 
conference, I was pleased at how much green I saw all over the state.  
However, when I visited the local Kroger's, I saw chicken and rice from 
Arkansas on the shelves, but so little produce from nearby farms.  There was 
no way that I could have made an "All -  Arkansas Dinner" from what I found 
on the shelves. It would have been a snap to do an all California or Texas 
dinner with food shipped in from hundreds or over a thousand miles away.  The 
nice people from the Arkansas Hunger Coalition showed me the great local 
farmer's stalls at Little Rock's Rivermarket and the marvelous  Dunbar 
Community Garden,  bright spots for sure.  

The amount of  work that Arkansas hunger volunteers does is staggering - this 
state is the sixth most food insecure in the nation.  Were it not for this 
volunteer effort, it could be number one like New Mexico, number two like 
Missisippi, number three like Texas, number four like Arizona, or number five 
like Louisiana.  OK, the  aridity issues in New Mexico and Arizona are 
daunting, despite the fact that they export an awful large amount of their 
produce.  But with green states like Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana, which 
ship food all over the country and the world, having such shockingly high 
food insecurity levels ( and NY State is up there too - I've worked a soup 
kitchen on Sundays for close to twenty years) means that there is something 
structurally very wrong with our national priorities and food distribution 

OK, as a New York community gardener on a small offshore island, I can only 
see part of the elephant. Community gardeners have been part of the solution. 
 I'm a proponent of locally regional agriculture as a way of feeding America 
and preserving the family farm. But so many of you know a heck of a lot more 
about this issue because you're mainlanders.

The questions: What can community gardeners do to fight hunger in this 
country? How can community gardeners best support sustainable agriculture? 
How can we best use our power as consumers and our votes as citizens to these 

From the tiny island of Manhattan,
Adam Honigman

Best wishes,
Adam Honigman 

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