Farmers Meet Wall Street

By: Michele Wolfson

Our well-being is tied to the small farmers. Their recent obstacles stay financially-sound are quite alarming and it is crucial to reinvigorate our rural farmlands so that our nation can remain healthy and sustainable. It's truly devastating to hear that farming is a dying business and that young aspiring farmers are finding it very difficult to make a living off of the land.

One example is Northern Maine farmer, Jim Gerritsen who traveled a great distance from his rural farm to Manhattan's Wall Street to speak at the Farmer's March in Zucotti Park. Mr. Gerritsen, who grows potatoes, corn, and wheat; is president of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, a national organization that supports resistance to big agriculture's control of seeds for farming. The march that went from the East Village to Zuccotti Park was another demonstration of foodies that were at Occupy Wall Street for the Food Justice Committee and Food Democracy Now.

Fifty six-year-old Gerritsen explains why he went to champion his cause at Wall Street: "I have not spoken to one farmer who doesn't understand the message of Occupy Wall Street, the message that so many people keep saying is nebulous. It's very clear. Because of business and corporate participation in agriculture, farmers are losing their livelihoods."

He continues to say that farm gate prices - wholesale prices for farm products, excluding transportation - were the lowest he had ever seen. "Metal prices are high, so we're paying higher prices for farm equipment - like $200,000 for a tractor," he said. "And the price of food in supermarkets is higher than it's ever been. So, farmers are hanging on by their fingertips, and consumers are paying through the nose."

The money that gets made in between is going to companies and many are criticizing that our government isn't doing anything about this matter. Agribusiness has been ridiculed tremendously for being avaricious and the government's hands-off approach to regulating this matter is one of the reasons why farmers were down at Wall Street protesting that changes must be made to the way Wall Street is run in conjunction with the food industry.

There is a major concern that our politicians have become puppets to big agribusinesses and food lobbyists and the small farmers as well as the American people are paying the price. Like Mr. Gerritsen, the average farmer is 57-years-old and this statistic only adds another worry to the farming industry- banks are not helping many young folks start a farming business by providing them with a loan. There are quite a few pitfalls that are keeping a new generation of Americans from going into agriculture, but this is a key reason.

Perhaps if local farming communities and the American citizens came together, the small farmer has a fighting chance. What are your thoughts? We'd love to hear them. 

Photo: Sunset Parkerpix 

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