When you walk into the grocery store you are likely to pick up something grown several thousand miles away than one grown in a local farm - a banana from Costa Rica, a pomegranate from Afghanistan or a cantaloupe melon from Peru. What is the thought that goes through your mind? Are you thinking "in my own small way I am helping a farmer in a far away land"?
I have read and heard enough to finally know that the farmer who tends his land and works in the soil sees very little benefit from your purchases. The farmer has to abide by standards of the country to which his food produce is exported and the multinational who is his customer. Using chemicals for high yields not only hurts his land and affects his health. The huge beneficiaries are by far the agro big business who do business with the farmer and you the customer through several intermediaries. The farmer is lucky if he sees even fractions of a cent on the dollar. Once the farmer is not able to abide by the standards set by the multinational company his livelihood and his lifeline the farm is literally in ruins unless he markets his produce through fair trade organizations.
While we enjoy out of season and non local fruits and vegetables the struggles of the farmer will be unseen as is the intrusion of these global agro big business into our food cycles.
Free Trade - NAFTA
NAFTA - North American Free Trade Agreement: On the face of it there is nothing that can be better "NAFTA created the world's largest free trade area, which now links 444 million people producing $17 trillion worth of goods and services." If you go by the prevailing sentiment, trade is a good thing and this should be a boon for most producers, sellers and buyers. But nothing can be further from the truth for small farmers here in the US, Canada and in Mexico.
On one side US small farmers have been hurt extensively, with imports from Canada and Mexico far exceeding exports from the US. This has led to massive losses and bankruptcies among small US farmers forcing them to sell off their farms to huge multinational companies. NAFTA held the promise of cheaper products for the consumer, profitability for the US farmers and prosperity all around. But it was just that an empty promise and in reality has done far greater damage to the common man and the environment. The bulk of the benefits and profits have gone to big business who are fighting against modifications to NAFTA. Link
Fewer and fewer people have direct association with the farmer who grows food and the relationship with the soil that is essential to grow. Kids growing up today have very tiny knowledge of the food growing process and thereby hindering their ability to make sound and sustainable choices. It also make us that much more unaware of the effects of food prices and what should be considered fair.
Changes have been slowly happening. The organic and local food movement have helped revive the small farmers. Increasingly consumers looking to be more connected to their food and food sources. This along with general awareness has helped with the resurgence of small farms. Ultimately to the consumer price is a big factor. The slightly higher price we pay today for produce that use sustainable farming practices that preserve land and soil should be considered as fair.
The effect of NAFTA on small farmers in Mexico has been even more devastating. With the barrier to entry broken by NAFTA subsidized low cost grains from the US flooded Mexican markets making it impossible for small time farmers to compete in their own market. A large number have abandoned their farms and are crossing north to work as farm laborers in the US. The same is true of farmers in Haiti.
As for the Canada its problems due to NAFTA are borne by exploitation of its natural resources. Canada largest trading partner is US and this is added pressure on their natural resources and their ability to make laws to protect their environment. Some of the concerns of Canada due to NAFTA are listed here
NAFTA has hurt the common man and the benefits seem to all go the big corporations. It is easy to site cost and move production from the US to Mexico where costs are lower.
As consumers we do have a lot of power in our hands and as citizens we also have the ability to pressure our governments to do the right thing.
We can start by not grudging the local or organic farmer the slightly higher cost than produce that has been shipped in from foreign lands. 99 out of 100 time the faraway farmer has not benefited either.
... to be continued.
On to today's recipe, chocolate pound cake. There is a very fixed recipe I have for baking cakes and follow it without much alteration. Over the snow break I was itching to make some changes and and see how that worked out. It did turn out pretty good and the constant call for chocolate cake was satisfied in the process.
cake slices with ice cream - the best way to eat them!
Chocolate pound cake with dried currants and nuts
1. 1 3/4 cups flour ( I used unbleached all purpose flour) (1 1/2 cups of flour if using whole wheat)
2. 4 Eggs
3. 2 sticks butter at room temperature
4. 1 tbsp cocoa powder
5. 1 1/2 cups of sugar
6. 1 tsp baking powder
7. a pinch of salt
8. 1/2 cup of red currants
9. 3 tbsp of pistachios chopped
10. 1/2 cup of milk
1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Using an electric beater, beat the eggs till fluffy and set aside.
2.In a separate bowl, beat the butter and combine the sugar into the butter.
3. Sift ingredients 4-7 together - flour mixture.
4. Incorporate the flour mixture into the butter-sugar mixture using the beater and adding a bit of eggs as you add the flour when it starts to get dry. Add the currants and mix it in.
5. If the mixture is dry after all the egg has been added add milk to get a pourable batter. (the amount of liquid needed varies depending on the type of flour used)
6. Grease the cake pans and pour the batter and sprinkle the nuts on top.
7. Bake for 25 -30 minutes till a tooth pick inserted comes out clean.
Serve with a scoop of ice cream.