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On Pigs and Markets

August 9, 2018

We are out of touch with our agrarian past.

Before I finish that thought and get into the topic of food, let me first touch on the topic of work. When I first got into advertising, I really wanted to be in account management. Growing up watching all the TV shows, the account manager was really in the center of all the action. From the outside it really looked like he called the shots.

But I didn’t base my career decisions based solely on pop culture. I did my research into the field, and it backed up the notion that the account manager was the one person who really touched all aspects of a client’s business with the agency.

My entry point to the field was in production, but I jockeyed to get a small account assignment to show the agency brass that I was capable of doing the job.

Turns out, I hated it. You know why? I wasn’t actually making anything.

Meetings. There were lots of meetings. I was facilitating things. I was helping bridge communication gaps and manage expectations between clients and creatives. But at the end of the day, I had nothing to really show for it. There was nothing I could point to and say, I did that.

Well, last week I met farmer Al at Lansing Farm. Emily L. was there. And she asked him to share the thing he took the most pride in about the farm. His answer was that every season it started as nothing, and became fields full of food.

Let’s see if I can bring these threads together.

We need more farmers. Lansing Farm is tiny. It’s 20 acres. And they also plant on some other land further away. These small farms are the ones that are disappearing as even small family farms become larger and larger enterprises.

So much of the American experience is based on farming. Several of our founding fathers were involved with farming. Our nation was divided because of the slave labor once thought to be required for cotton production. Even President Carter worked his family’s peanut farm.

Without farms there could be no food. Sure, there were international supply chains for foodstuffs once upon a time, but those were largely for spices, tea, and other luxuries.

Yes, by pulling more of the national labor supply out of farming and into more wealth generating activities, we’ve improved our economic lot. However, something very important has been lost.

How out of touch with our agrarian past are we?

Well, this entire interior monologue was spawned by my recent visit to Manhattan. My nephew just turned one, and I was playing with him in my sister’s apartment. And that’s when I first realized the agrarian roots of a childhood rhyme.

When I was a kid, and an adult would wiggle my toes, I imagined a piggie family doing all kinds of interesting things. One would go shopping, one wouldn’t go shopping, one would eat something tasty, and the other would go without. Then I would get tickled.

But the little piggy that “went to the market” is the biggest of the toes. By a lot.

Yeah. So, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this. But this week, in my forties, I finally realized the market where that pig was sent.

The one that stayed home is a bit thinner. It’s not quite ready for market.
The one that ate roast beef is being fattened up for market.
The one that had no roast beef is smaller still.
Presumably it’s young and will grow to market weight over time.

I’m not sure about the one who said whee all the way home. Maybe if we weren’t so out of touch with our agrarian past, that too would be obvious.

Look, I have no desire to romanticize the past when we were a nation of farmers. It was hard, to put it mildly. Mrs. Fussy read some of the Little House books to our daughter, and hearing about life in an agrarian age makes me glad for our more modern conveniences.

Farming looks deeply rewarding. However, I’m glad I don’t have to do it myself.

But I also think back to my intense dissatisfaction with work that produces few, if any, tangible results. And the pride that Farmer Al took in the work of his hands. Which makes me think that we’re all doing it wrong.

Tomorrow, we stop this navel gazing and get back to brunch. Thanks for making it all the way to the end today. You deserve a trophy. Or at least a kickass ear of corn from Lansing Farm. Fortunately, you can buy one of those with money, and don’t have to spend these hot humid days out in the fields with the ticks.

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