Location: Foxglove Farm, Salt Spring Island, BC
Featuring: Michael Ableman
There is a fundamental difference between the organic movement and the more recent organic industry. We need to dig deeper and look beyond narrow legal definitions to find a philosophy that truly addresses a system of agriculture that is incredibly complex and multidimensional.
“Certification and label systems are like locks on a door — they are there to remind us of our boundaries,” says Michael. “The words we use define who we are. ‘Organic’ was the word some of us have been using for 30 to 40 years to identify a broad set of social, ecological, and spiritual principles about our farms and how we produced food for our communities. Now the USDA has given the word ‘organic’ a legal definition, in essence taking ownership of the word, and limiting the use to a narrow set of rules and regulations designed to support a distribution and marketing system. For some of us, the word no longer addresses the deeper issues that were at the heart of the origins of the movement. We’ve got to find new ways to talk about what we do — we may have to use different words.”
Michael Ableman believes that in the future, full-time farmers should no longer grow fruits and vegetables. Instead, this should be the responsibility of the individuals and families to do for themselves in their front and backyards, on their balconies and rooftops, and in community garden plots. “There has been entirely too much energy and focus in the food movement on growing that which we can actually survive without. We can all live without another carrot or tomato, but we can’t live without protein sources, and given our resources, these will have to be plant-based.”