Power Failure

November 4, 2012

It’s November and Thornapple CSA has completed another successful year. Things got off to a slow start in 2012. The lack of any serious winter weather last year was combined with a late frost. As we’ve noted in the blog before, it was a terrible year for Michigan agriculture on the whole. The fruit trees blossomed too early and the cold temperatures zapped them. Then there was hot weather and the summer drought. That pretty much did the corn crop under—not that corn is a big item for the Thornapple CSA. But farmers across the southern tier of Michigan suffered huge losses on corn in 2012. Some of the more fortunate ones had some soybeans in the ground that were able to get a little benefit when the rains recovered (weakly) in late July and August. But between the fruit crops along the lake and the conventional commodity growers downstate, it was just a mean year for Michigan farmers.

Appleschram—the farm where Thornapple CSA operates—was smack dab in the middle of the area most affected by hot weather and drought. We wound up starting a week late in the spring and made up for it with a double share on Halloween. CSA members will be bringing squash up out of the basement for weeks. We suffered with some scraggly broccoli over the summer—a bitter pill that improved with some soaking in salted water. But hey! That’s the CSA way. Lest geographically or agronomically challenged readers forget, a key premise behind community supported agriculture is that eaters and growers share some risk, as well as sharing the bounty. So when that influx of Colorado potato beetle shocks the eggplant, it’s not just the farmer who takes the hit. We’ve paid up at the beginning of the season, and we’re supposed to just grin and bear it.

Which brings me to the main subject of this week’s blog. I hardly ever watch much commercial TV, but I was fortunate enough to turn it on long enough to receive an important public service announcement yesterday that was brought to us by a couple of political action committees (e.g. PACs) that have been organized by rich white guys who are frustrated because they haven’t been able to foreclose on bankrupt homeowners or ship jobs to China quite as rapidly as they hoped to. It turns out that all of these woes are the result of Obama’s failed economic policies! And not only late frosts and summer droughts, virtually every evil that has befallen the human race in recent memory is due to Obama’s failed economic policies. Are you feeling anxious about declining social indicators like America’s math and science literacy? Are you concerned that measures of social inequality rose steadily over the last decade? Worried about the way country after country passes the U.S. on standard indicators of well-being such as infant mortality and life expectancy? Disappointed in the Spartans, the Tigers or the Lions? Yep, it’s all because of Obama’s failed economic policies.

The only thing these public service announcements failed to mention was the hurricane. Maybe some of you heard about the hurricane. It was apparently some sort of divine retribution wreaked on blue states. But I’m just speculating here, because my sources of information failed to mention the possibility that changes in climatic patterns and an uptick in extreme weather events could have any kind of rational explanation at all. Let’s just keep pumping out that CO2 as fast as we can. And if we aren’t pumping fast enough, you know why. (Psst. It’s Obama’s failed economic policies).

Of course, I’m completely non-political in the Thornapple blog.  In fact I was relieved to be told why my broccoli was bitter this summer. I was able to sleep better, and understanding that alleged diet and obesity are almost certainly due to failed economic policies encouraged me to go downstairs and make a huge bowl of buttered popcorn before going to bed, too. Like all the other Tiger fans, I snuggled under the covers and started dreaming about next spring, when I’ll hope that the offense matches the pitching and then write yet another check to the Thornapple CSA while crossing my fingers about late frosts and summer droughts.

Paul B. Thompson is the W.K. Kellogg Professor of Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University