Guest Blog Post by Darin Grimm, Board Member, AgChat Foundation and Kansas Farmer
I had the recent privilege of attending the Global Farmer-to-Farmer Roundtable, an event that coincided with the 2010 World Food Prize Symposium. It was organized by Truth About Trade & Technology (TATT) and sponsored, in part, by the Council for Biotechnology Information.
I have the space to focus on just a few of the farmers I met the Roundtable. Here are the farmer stories that most stood out to me as an American farmer:
Rajesh Kumar and V. Ravichandran, India
I was surprised by how similar their issues were to mine, despite living in a far away country, with a very different culture, economic base, and agriculture system. The importance these two individuals placed on communicating their livelihoods as farmers to an increasingly urban public surprised me.
Giorgio Fidenato, Italy
Most of the challenges Giorgio faced were shared by the other European farmers in attendance. But Giorgio’s story had a unique twist. He is facing an upcoming trial for planting a GM seed on his farm that is not approved under Italian law. He described the dialogues that were now happening in Italy about these important issues because of his case.
To be perfectly honest, I doubt I would be willing to go to that level of civil disobedience, but I have to respect and admire his commitment. I think it reflects the desperation many European farmers feel as they are asked to compete in a world market, without access to many of the tools much of the world has accepted.
Mike Jandreau, South Dakota
One of the accounts that stood out was Mike Jandreau. He is a Native American living in South Dakota, probably only a few hours from me. The Native American story is a sad and even ugly mark on the history of a country I love. We can’t correct the past, but the abundant resources that still belong to the tribes in many areas give me hope that Native Americans can be active, contributing partners in helping us meet global agricultural needs.
Sarah Munalula, Zambia
Finally, the farmer story that touched me the most was Sarah, from Zambia. Sarah acknowledged that she was unique among the farmers there. She is a “poor” farmer. To be honest, if you’re reading this blog post, I doubt you really understand the poverty Sarah lives in. I sure don’t. She farms one hectare, and she does it all by hand, which is hard back-breaking labor. There’s no fertilizer for her plants, everything is hand-weeded. To those that idolize that style of agriculture as “progress” I wish you could have visited with Sarah.
And yet, Sarah’s goals aren’t that much different than my own. I may farm using completely different methods, but at the end of the day, I hope to feed my family and pass along to my kids the education and values that I received. What Sarah wants is no different.
There seem to be massive debates at the global level about “how” we should farm and how we are going to meet the needs of a growing global population. I think there’s been a very important voice missing from those debates. The voice of those doing the actual work, the farmer. This is a big part of why I became involved in the AgChat Foundation, and after sitting through the Global Farmer Roundtable, it’s apparent to me that better communication and recognition for farmers is a global need as well.
To read more from Darin, visit his blog: http://daringrimm.wordpress.com/
To learn more about the Roundtable, check out TATT’s website: http://www.truthabouttrade.org/