Feb 6, 2010

Farming with Percy Schmeiser

When Percy Schmeiser talks, people listen. Courts listen. Even Monsanto learned to listen.

Listening to his keynote address last night was at once terrifying and inspiring. Terrifying in the depth to which corporations like Monsanto are out to control the world's food supply, and the utter absurdity of the Supreme Court of Canada's ruling that Percy was responsible for any and all rogue GMO seeds that the wind blew into his formerly organic field. Inspiring that this one prairie farmer has been able to stand up to Monsanto and the billion-dollar industry, on behalf of all us little farmers.

Which brings me to the scariest moment of the night, which occurred while he was being introduced. The MC asked all farmers in the audience to stand up. And I did. And the hundred people in their seats clapped and cheered loudly for us. Us - we farmers, we straw-chewin' gumboot-wearin' tillers of the earth.

Standing up with me were giants of the valley, like Brock and Heather of Makaria Farm, and John and Katy of Alderlea. People who make this their lives, who have dedicated all their energy to restoring farming to a valued profession and food security to the valley; people who are literally pioneers in their fields. And of course the legendary Percy Schmeiser. And me.

Me who is terrified to even plan this year's planting without Joe and Nathalie to mentor and sweat alongside. Me who still can't tell the difference between a pole bean and a sweet pea. Me who clings tenaciously to identities of stay-at-home dad, writer, and consultant as well as "farmer." Who on this fertile earth am i to stand in solidarity with these true farmers?

But as the applause sank in, I did feel a mite worthy. I am trying to care for my land, learn it and love it and steward it responsibly. I do have it deeply programmed inside me to plan each day around the feeding and caring for the animals, and to question the timing of summer vacations. I produce excess eggs and garlic to sell to a community hungry for organic local foods, and bring the kindergarten class twice a year to have the rich experience of planting then harvesting pumpkins.

This "Farmer" thing has quickly (one year) become more than an adventure or quirky fancy, more than an intellectual exploration or farm-status tax shelter. It doesn't matter that I choose not to make it my 100% or even main contribution to society (and lord knows the above mentioned giants all have many other amazing gifts they share with the world); the only important point is that I am among those who have made a genuine commitment be part of the healthy food-growing economy. It's a contribution that's become part of me, and that is worthy of a bit of applause. I'm no Percy Schmeiser, but gall darn it, I sure am farmer.

1 comment:

  1. Percy Schmeiser is truly one of my all time heroes. I would love to see the man speak in person. Anyone with the balls to take on Monsanto is a king among men in my books. This man seed collected for his entire farming career. Allowing the land to develop the pefect crop for itself. He considered the future in every acre of soil he turned over. I would be very proud to stand in his company, indeed.