By Jim Hightower on January 01, 2014

In 1972, I was part of a nationwide campaign that came close to getting the US Senate to reject Earl Butz, Richard Nixon's choice for secretary of agriculture.

A coalition of grassroots farmers, consumers, and public interest organizations teamed up with progressive senators to undertake the almost impossible challenge of defeating the cabinet nominee.

The 51 to 44 Senate vote was so close, because we were able to expose Butz as... well, as butt-ugly. We brought the abusive power of corporate agribusiness into the public consciousness for the first time. We had won a moral victory, but it turned out to be a curse and a blessing.

First, the curse. Butz had risen to prominence in the world of agriculture by devoting himself to the corporate takeover of the global food economy. He openly promoted the preeminence of middleman food manufacturers over family farmers.

"Agriculture is no longer a way of life," he barked, "it's a business." He instructed farmers to "Get big or get out" -- and proceeded to shove tens of thousands of them out by promoting an export-based, corporate-run food economy. "Adapt," he warned, "or die." The ruination of farms and rural communities, Butz added, "releases people to do something useful in our society."

The curse of Butz, however, spun off a blessing. Small farmers and food artisans practically threw up at the resulting Twinkieization of America's food. They were sickened that nature's own contribution to human culture was being turned into another plasticized product of corporate profiteers. They threw themselves into creating and sustaining a viable alternative. Linking locally with consumers, environmentalists, community activists, marketers, and others, the Good Food rebellion has since sprouted, spread, and blossomed from coast to coast. To find farmers markets and other expressions of this movement right where you live, go to www.LocalHarvest.org.

Listen to this commentary:

Photo: urbanlight, via Shutterstock.

Section: 

Add new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

More

Subscribe to The Progressive and Get A Free 2015 Calendar

Thirty years after the title year of George Orwell’s “1984,” the Oscar-worthy “Citizenfour” features a real-life...

By Victor Menotti

At a time when most Americans agree that the country has too...

By David Bacon

"The products coming in from the U.S. had government support and subsidies. Mexicans couldn’t...

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

Public School Shakedown

Progressive Media Project

Newsletter