I was at a conference last week where Jim Hightower—former Commissioner of Agriculture for the State of Texas, author and rabblerouser—was the keynote speaker. Jim told us about his local hardware store in Austin, TX, where you can buy a single 2-penny nail if that's all you need (as opposed to a box of 5,000 nails), where the staff will help you sketch out your project, where you can even borrow tools. The slogan of Harold's Hardware is "Together we can do it yourself!" What a perfect expression for what people are feeling right now. Regardless of who your candidate was, polls have shown that we're all feeling something we haven't felt in a while... HOPE! We're feeling that we all have a voice... that even though we went to the polls and performed our civic duty last week, we still have work to do, each one of us. But we're empowered, knowing that collectively we can turn things around.
There have been open letters to the President-elect about every topic under the sun (including Willie Nelson's letter, offering help to Obama in developing a vision of family farm agriculture for all). There are task forces, advisory boards, blogs and petitions galore! In the spirit of open, collaborative governance, you can even post your own ideas at www.change.gov, the website for the White House transition team. In the farm and food world of which Farm Aid is a part, there's more discussion than we can keep up with.
As Willie's letter points out, the Good Food Movement has grown and kept family farmers on the land (and put new ones there too!) without the support of the federal government. Now we're thrilled to think about where we can take this movement with the support of our country's leaders! Imagine what we could accomplish when our leaders are open to hearing the suggestions and ideas of the people they represent! The farm and food folks are talking about just that, and putting together their suggestions for Secretary of Agriculture and all the undersecretaries dealing with farms, food, energy, the environment, rural communities, etc. They're endorsing ideas, like the ideas Michael Pollan pitched in his Open Letter to the Next Farmer in Chief. Some of Pollan's ideas involve leading by example and they're ideas that all of us can implement in our own lives: eating dinner with our families, knowing where our food comes from, growing our own food so that we begin to understand the importance of the people who feed our country and the world.
Personally, the potential for leadership by example and the ability for us all to get involved fills me with hope, pride and motivation. So, for my part, I'm hereby extending my offer, Mr. President-elect, to help you dig up that White House lawn and get your garden started! I've built some beautiful raised beds and I pluck tomato hornworms with glee and I'd be happy to put those services to work for you as you lead a good food and farm movement by example! Together we can do it yourself!
Photo copyright 2006 by flickr user weretable.