Friday, June 29, 2012

Why Agriculture?

Why Agriculture???
By Heather Davis, Vermont Oxfam Action Corps Co-Organizer

I have been doing a bit of reflection lately, and one question I’ve asked myself is: “Why am I so interested in agricultural development?”  I don’t farm – I barely have a vegetable garden, although I did have a large one and some chickens at one time in my past life, pre-children.  I am not a good cook, or a natural cook in any sense of the word – although I do love and appreciate healthy, fresh food.  Nor is it simply a romantic notion about rural life and farming – I have lived in rural areas for most of my life and know first-hand the hard work and realities of farming.

What I think it comes down to is that I know that about one-third of the worlds’ population works in agriculture – including 43% of women in developing countries.  I know that the majority of those that are hungry around the world are actually farmers.  I see the injustices in our current food system – both to people and the earth.  I know that everyone deserves the chance to live their lives to their full potential, and agriculture can be the avenue to such a promise.

I feel as though one of the ways to live out my values of simplicity, supporting people, and working with the earth is to promote agriculture – small-scale, sustainable agriculture, whether it be local (Vermont for me) or global (read up on the current Farm Bill).  I have been fortunate to be involved with both levels of supporting farming.

I am truly blessed with my current work at the Center for an Agricultural Economy in Hardwick, VT, which is an organization that works to develop the local food system.  My specific work there includes monitoring and project work and I am able to contribute to the promotion of well-being in the community in which I live – a rural community whose history is steeped in agriculture and which is experiencing a synchronistic renaissance of sustainable rural development.

I have also recently had the great opportunity to get involved with Oxfam America  – an impressive international relief and development organization – as one of two organizers for the Vermont Oxfam Action Corps.  This allows me to stay connected to my passion for working toward equal opportunities for people around the world.  Nobody should be left behind because of where they were born, and by left behind I don’t mean they don’t have the opportunity to shop at the local mall for frivolous impulses.  I mean to be able to feed their families, have some leisure time, and not have to take desperate measures to provide themselves and their families with their basic needs.

A famine is currently developing in the Sahel region of West Africa, which follows a famine in East Africa last year.  This is completely unacceptable in current times – we have the ability to prevent the suffering and deaths that have and will happen, if we prioritize it.  Let us all hold these people in our hearts and minds as we go about our lives.  But more than that, let us work toward making famine history.
There are two approaches to the promotion of well-being and meeting basic needs among those who are currently struggling in the Sahel: emergency aid and long-term development.  Currently we can make a difference to those in the Sahel and other regions in need by contacting our representatives in the House of Representatives and ask them to include a provision in the current Farm Bill to increase local purchasing of food aid and to eliminate the monetization of food aid.  Food aid, as it is currently implemented, is a very inefficient system that is fraught with special interests that contradict the intended purpose of food aid.  You can also sign this petition with Oxfam.

Everyone deserves a chance at providing a good life for themselves and their families, and with about one-third of the world making their living in agriculture, investing in small-scale farmers is a way to do so with tremendous impact.

[If you’re interested in getting involved with the Vermont Oxfam Action Corps, please email Heather and Kayla at and “Like” us on Facebook]