Industrial food

Mike Huckabee and other missionaries peddle that ‘real Americans’ only live in ‘flyover country’. In their imagining, these denizens of middle America are honest, thrifty, independent, moral, religious, industrious, patriotic and white. By extension, coastal dwellers are none of the above.

Those degenerates are flag-denigrating, out-of-touch, sneering, socialist, atheist, immoral hedonists who wouldn’t know God, guns, grits, and gravy if they walked through the door and shook their hand. It goes without saying that they are also darker complected.

So be it.

Let’s ask this question: If real Americans live in the boondocks what do they do there? In mythology, they farm — corn, soybeans, wheat, hogs, beef, eggs and milk. Thousands of these salt of the earth, small-holding farmers have for generations produced the food Americans eat. Which might have been true before 1970. But it is pure fiction now.

Today American agriculture is industrialized. Even where small farmers exist they are often cogs in the machine. Either they are part of the production chain — raising chickens for Perdue, for example. Or they are part of cooperatives that dictate prices, say dairy farmers. And dairy farming is a good illustration of the decline of family farms. Let’s have a look.

The number of dairy farms in the US has decreased by 94% since 1970 (from 650,000 to 40,219). And while Americans drink less milk than they used to, the driver of the decline is size — an inexorable shift to larger but fewer farms. And the small dairyman, left in the cold by the milk cartels, is forced to sell off his herd for meat.

New York City’s Union Square Farmer’s Market.

For the sake of argument, we’ll agree small farmers are ‘real Americans’. Where are they? Ironically, and Huckabee will never admit this, they are in coastal states. Why? Credit Michael Pollan and his celebration of real food. Add in the ‘farm-to-table’ movement. And the result is a demand for local, quality food. Which in turn has led to a resurgence of small farms to service posh restaurants — and to meet the demands of eager urbanites flocking to farmers’ markets.

Huckabee might glorify some middle-American Utopia, but America’s rural youth has been fleeing the small-minded sterility of the flat states to pursue culture, vibrancy, and opportunity with the coastal elites.

While, ironically, yuppies from the big cities are stepping off the corporate ladder to get dirt under their fingernails and start their own small farms.

Huckabee might sneer at the liberal elites. But they are the ones who provide the market for today’s small farmers — and small brewers and distillers. They are the ones who buy the bespoke pottery and glassware from artisans, that keep blacksmiths at their forge, that support local butchers, greengrocers and cheese makers.

If the only customers were Huckabee’s ‘real Americans’ then the only food suppliers would be industrial producers, trucking their factory wares in convoys of semi-trucks to Walmart. Where an erstwhile farmer might get lucky and score a greeter’s job.

So where are your real Americans now, Mike?

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