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In Ireland, it's cool to be a farmer again

The Irish Times

There are two dangers in not owning a farm: the belief that heat comes from the furnace and food comes from the supermarket. — Aldo Leopold

The Irish Times started a three-part series today on how family farms are making a comeback in Ireland’s depressed economy. In fact, farming is one of the most promising areas of the economy. Young people now see farming as an option. This, of course, is relocalization — a return to the land after people saw what the globalization of the economy got them.

What puzzles me is why that doesn’t seem to be happening here. Compare the story from the Irish Times with the link I posted yesterday to a New Yorker story about economic deterioration in Surry County, North Carolina, the county just to the west of Stokes County, where I live. Young people continue to move away, both in Surry and Stokes, while many old family farms sit more or less intact, but fallow. All too many family farms, however, have been chopped up into subdivisions during the past few decades, if they were near a population center or a main road.

I am speculating, because I don’t have nearly enough information to make such a judgment, but it is as though most people here are at an earlier stage in a process. They have perceived the downsides of the boom and bust and waste brought to us by globalization. But they’re not yet thinking much about what they could do, largely by themselves, with the resources that are close around them. I don’t know if it’s the truth or an urban legend, but one regularly hears that some children don’t know that French fries comes from potatoes. If that’s true, then the cultural connection to the land has been completely severed. Not to mention that education has failed. Maybe things never went that far in Ireland.

One Comment

  1. Trish wrote:

    Wow, that’s really interesting. In fact, one of my relatives in Ireland took up farming 2 years ago. He is in his early 30s, and is leasing the farm that my grandmother lived on until she left for America in about 1914 (his grandfather is the only one of the siblings who stayed in Ireland).

    I do see young people staying on the farm here in my midwestern community. My 2 nearest farming neighbors both have sons in their 20s who have come on board to farm. Farming is definitely one segment of the economy that continues to do well. But the operations I am talking about are big commercial operations. I love the unique operations like 2 Acre Farm, a husband and wife venture raising vegetables and fruit for the nearby farmer’s market, or the CSA farm Kristen Kimball writes about in her book “The Dirty Life”. I keep hoping for more of these types of ventures.

    Saturday, September 17, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

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