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Blog: Working on your relationship

Blog: Working on your relationship

The ‘mariage’ between Farmers and Townsfolk has been a stormy one ever since the two got together.

By Janno Lanjouw

In early times the countryside relied on cities as bases of necessary government and security. In turn, the people in the cities, who were essentially doing all kinds of things except producing food, would rely heavily on the farmers around them to be fed daily. While one could not exist without the other, neither one seemed to appreciate the other. ‘Farmers’, the cityfolk would sigh amongst peers, ‘you can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em.’ Of course, the reverse would be true to the farmers.

It has been like that for centuries. But since the appearance of a global market for food, matters have been getting worse. Townsfolk has no clue about where their food is coming from. Yet they complain about pollution, loss of nature and unfair social situations caused by the system of food production. Meanwhile farmers do not get appreciation nor financial compensation enough for their hard labour, as they now produce for the market and not for the consumer. And the market is a harsh and unforgiving master.

It is an unfortunate situation, but it is not without possibilities. By coupling society’s wishes with those of the farmers, a lot of good can happen. Sometimes, however, old structures stand in the way of this. Anti-trust legislation is an example of this. This kind of legislation is in effect to protect the market from kartels, artificial scarcity intended to drive up prices and other obstructions to free trade. Important and useful, but it can withhold a group of producers (and retailers), who, even though competitors, collectively want to make a change towards more sustainable ways of producing, from doing just that. This is because their proposed change might involve arrangements and that, being competitors and all, might be illegal.

Recognizing that anti-trust legislation sometimes can withhold farmers from adapting sustainable change, members of the Dutch young farmers organization NAJK and of the Youth Food Movement met Wednesday.

Their goal was to discuss a strategy to kill two birds with one stone:
    1.    Create a more sustainable system of agriculture.
    2.    Improve the social and economic position of farmers.

Of course, this is the way the Youth Food Movement saw things. In the eyes of the young farmers it looked more like this:
    1.    Improve the social and economic position of farmers.
    2.    Create a more sustainable system of agriculture.

Little difference, I hear you say, but the smaller the difference, the harder it is to recognize wherein it lays. So, it may be clear that there is a long way to go. But working together, the added up result of both statements must be possible. And this simply true because both Farmers and Townsfolk in fact really love each other.

Also published on FoodPoltiics.EU


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