Farming Today

On March 15th,  the Coalition of Immocalee Farm Workers concluded their Freedom Fast. However, their demands to stop sexual violence against women in the fields will not end. This boycott is against Wendy’s – the last of the large food chains to resist joining the Fair Food Program. The Fair Food Program is a partnership among farmers, farmworkers, and retailers that ensures humane wages and working conditions.

Wendy’s has decided not to sign on and instead is going to Mexico for their tomatoes, where laws remain lax and conditions for the farm workers are often deplorable.

Such is the battle for economic and humane equity in farming.

Reading news from Family Farm Defenders, I was saddened by the statistic that the numbers of farmers committing suicide is on the rise. Couple that with the fact that in 2017, western Wisconsin had the highest numbers of farm bankruptcies in the nation and the stark realities of what farm life has become is apparent.

While massive amounts of money are poured into military budgets, political campaigns, and entertainment, our food security is being destroyed. Pipelines, fracking, transmission lines and oil spills are cutting through the heart of rural farms adding salt to wounds. Organic farmers now face increased rates for licensing, with little to no increase in revenue.

Thomas Jefferson once said, “The small landholders are the most precious part of a state.” He recognized farming as national security. Apparently today’s government doesn’t agree, rather it seems hell bent on bringing back servitude.

Our farming communities are facing enormous challenges in every way. Even the famously promised broadband access still eludes 61% of our people. I know. I’m one.

While popular TV shows herald more of the same old rugged individualism, pitting man against nature…it seems to me today’s heroes are the farmers and the rural communities trying desperately to maintain a good life. The way out is not in conquering nature, but in working with it and with one another.

This is a moment for cooperation to re-emerge.

So while Alaska calls itself the last frontier and people knock themselves out to prove they are survivors…we need look no further than the small sustainable farms here in the Driftless to see devotion to land and community, resilience to climate change, and the finest of the human spirit.


This aired on WDRT‘s “Consider This” on March 15. You can hear it here.

And please watch this video of the struggle to save clean water in Kewaunee County WI.


Grappling With Suicide

I recently learned of another young friend who took her life. Another bright shining star extinguished. It seems we have entered into a new normal. I am old enough to remember when it was not a frequent occurrence. And now suicide has become a common guest. Rates of suicide have increased by 60% since the ‘60s.

Now it’s whittled down to numbers. 22 veterans take their own lives every day – one every 65 minutes. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among our young taking 4,400 lives per year. For each of these deaths, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. With LGBT and indigenous youth among the highest numbers.

Our culture has not yet begun to grapple with the roots of this inhuman unrest. We keep secrets and speak in hushed tones as our beloveds depart. And rarely do we openly admit that the gross behaviors of our culture are more than symptoms. We have become numb to violence. Bullying is now an art form. And #metoo has just begun to pull the scab off a disease that has haunted us since our inception. We hide behind electronics and many now live in fantasy worlds where death is a non-reality that allows you to rise again.

When it comes to “brotherly love” our faiths have failed us and the rise of atheism has thrown the sacred out with the profane. Very little is precious to us. We traffic human lives while presidents boast of our military might and the desire to annihilate entire nations. Militarized police protect corporations destroying the earth in total disregard of the people who live here. Hopelessness is mirrored back to us everyday with anger and fear mounting as dreams slip away.

Apparently we’re not yet ready to reverse this trend. We are certain we are not part of the problem. But we are all part of the problem. Every time we choose hatred and anger and doubt we are part of the problem. Every time we allow inhumanity to win we are part of the problem. This lost humanity can be found. It is a choice and we can make it. But we must summon up the will to live the promise that was placed within us at birth. As long as we breathe there is hope.


Consider This airs on WDRT Driftless Community Radio every Thursday at 5:28 pm CST.

You can listen here.

Flower photo: Forget Me Nots