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Award Winning Novelist Barbara Kingsolver: Why Buy Local & Organic

Excerpted from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. By Barbara Kingsolver (HarperCollins, May 2007)

Farming is not for everybody; increasingly, it's hardly for anybody. Over the last decade our country has lost an average of 300 farms a week. Large or small, each of those was the life's work of a real person or family, people who built their lives around a promise and watched it break.

Wherever farms are still living, it's due to some combination of luck, courage and adaptability. In my home state, Kentucky, our agriculture is known for two non-edible commodities: tobacco and race horses. The latter is a highly capitalized industry that spreads little of its wealth into the small family farm; the former was the small farm's bottom dollar, until the bottom dropped out. In my lifetime Kentucky farmers have mostly had the options of going broke, or going six ways to Sunday for the sake of staying solvent. On the bluegrass that famously nourished Man o' War and Secretariat, more modest enterprises with names like "Hard Times Farm" and "Mother Hubbard's" are now raising pasture-fed beef, pork, lamb and turkeys. Kentucky farms produce flowers, garlic, organic berries and vegetables, emu and ostrich products, catfish and rainbow trout. Right off the Paris Pike, a country lane I drove a hundred times in my teenage years, a farmer named Sue now grows freshwater shrimp.

Among other obstacles, these farmers have to contend with a national press that is quick to pronounce them dead. Diversified food-producing farms on the outskirts of cities are actually the fastest growing sector of U.S. agriculture. The small farm is at the moment very busy thinking its way out of a box, working like mad to protect the goodness and food security of a largely ungrateful nation...

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