Most Americans once lived on farms. President Thomas Jefferson considered it the ideal way of life, requiring self-sufficiency and intelligent interactions with the land, water, climate, crops and animals.
“Agriculture … is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals & happiness,” Jefferson wrote George Washington on Aug 14, 1787.
However, in an action in some ways reminiscent to the casual game of trade wars being played today, in 1807 Jefferson and Congress placed an embargo on international commerce with England and France. In the process, many farmers and business owners were ruined. Our young nation was plunged into a depression.
It is interesting to read in this month’s CRBJ about a Clatsop County business that experienced a 25 percent price hike — a 25 percent tax imposed by our own government — on an important component of their product line, which stands to make these locally assembled items more expensive and less profitable.
Politicians tinkering with free markets rarely works out well.
But harvest time reminds us how good it is to live in this nation of abundance, even in a politically fraught election year.
Coming as I do from a family of gardeners and farmers, September brings memories of my Grandmother Bell’s tomatoes, Uncle Frank’s rhubarb (which I mistook for a weed and mowed down one year), Pluma Willcox Facinelli’s expansive field of pickling cucumbers, and Dad’s sweet corn, which the raccoons got to before we did. In Fruitdale south of Grants Pass, Will and Kitty Giles, my great-grandparents, operated a truck farm on their acre during the Great Depression. It fed them and provided a little spending money.
Growing food must be enormously satisfying, judging by the passions it engenders. But wow, what a lot of work it is, especially considering the uncertainties of markets, weather and all the other factors that can foil success for even the most dedicated farmer.
Always lacking in “heat units” here along the cool Pacific Ocean, and this year hobbled by drought, growing crops in the Columbia-Pacific counties can be a challenge. It is good to learn about local farmers who are figuring out good ways to overcome these hurdles and bring food to our tables.