I don’t intend this to be a political blog, but anytime you’re talking about property ownership, zoning, farming and potentially running a business, the P word is going to come up. And that has me wondering…
Does homesteading have to come with a political ideology?
The decision to deliberately move out of one’s comfort zone into a life that is more work – even if it’s a labor of love – is certainly going to be engrained throughout most of that person’s beliefs. But in regards to partisan, red/blue right/left Trump/Bernie politics, is there one party that ultimately cares more about the small-scale homesteader?
As someone who is pessimistic, cynical and judgmental of the U.S. political system (a “political atheist,” if you will) my answer would tend to be: neither one cares that much and I don’t’ care that much about either one. I’d also wager my farm that many (if not most) would say it’s certainly Bernie over Trump. The question is, does holding left-leaning political beliefs drive one back to the land, or does living on the land drive one left?
It’s imagine the former, for this reason:
Homesteading usually goes hand-in-hand with small-scale farming. If you’re living off the land, you’re eating from your own garden and likely harbor dreams of one day going to market either full time or for spare change. However, farming is an economy of scale – or at least it is now. When corn is trading at $3.78 a bushel, it’s not a crop for those with single or double digit acreage to even consider. If you want to farm and feed people beside your own family off of 10 acres, it means providing variety, having direct access to market and a value proposition.
The value prop for small-scale homesteaders?
Organic, sustainable, non-GMO, local, free range, cage-free, non-antibiotic, grass-fed good food. Regardless of political alignment and health anxiety – most can probably agree none of those things are “bad.” You can argue that RoundUp causes health problems even if science is unsure by claiming it needs more testing, more time, a larger sample – whatever. You can’t really argue it’s beneficial to health. Well… if you ignore “correlation is not causation” and put a graph of chemical herbicide usage and life expectancy side-by-side I guess you could make the case… But that’s off topic.
My point is, there is a place for these foods even if they don’t have health benefits. And that place is the farmer’s market because that’s where the demand is. Be the supply and you can make a few bucks. Some can even do better than that. But I also think anyone moving to the land with dreams of farming should keep in mind that in all reality, we are not going to feed the world on organic lettuce. Not calorically and certainly not economically. Organics don’t cost more because they are better for you (but I’m not saying they aren’t). They cost more because it’s more expensive and labor intensive to grow and supply them.
Also, if you think the government is going legislate small-scale organic farming into the black, you’re kidding yourself. As regulations and pressure to be organic or non-GMO grow, so do costs. And rising costs always overwhelm the little guy first. But furthermore, nothing adapts like American business. Monsanto, ADM and the rest of Big Ag don’t sit around in the Hall of Doom trying to figure out new ways to poison the environment and its people – they just follow the money. Make organic, sustainable, non-GMO, local, free range, cage-free, non-antibiotic, grass-fed good food a money maker and you’ll see rail cars filled with the stuff you currently grow in your garden. If it weren’t for the debate on postemergence herbicides, farmers markets wouldn’t have grown by almost 400 percent in the last 20 years. There can be intensive crop farming with CAFOs AND small-scale farms… or there can be just intensive crop farming and CAFOs. But there won’t be just the alternative because an alternative can’t exist without mainstream competition. Smaller (but large by homestead comparison) family farms are sort of a wild card, so we’ll leave them out for now.
Who are you? Well, that’s up to you.
So, what does this have to do with attracting lefties more than right-wingers? In practice – nothing. Regardless of politics, most people want to take care of their bodies and believing better food is an avenue to that end has little to do with the voting box. Except that when it comes to boasting about it, it’s more accepted on the left. It’s a badge of honor to buy organic food while those who run in circles to the right don’t want to appear too granola for the Limbaugh Letter.
Like so many other subjects in America, the pathetic people that serve as our politicians and pundits — Red & Blue — make it appear as if individuals must take a political stance on this lifestyle. So, with that being said – I don’t care if you’re red or blue, left or right, you’re welcome to share your thoughts with me. It annoys me homesteading is often associated with a particular political ideology instead of a love for the land, the life and all that comes with it. Party affiliation doesn’t dictate one’s true feelings on these subjects…