Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Summer of a sort has finally arrived here in Boston, and I am especially grateful because the summer season marks the return of Farmer's Markets. If you have never visited these wonderful things, you really ought to. The produce is really excellent--especially the tomatoes. A few really big, tasty, meaty tomatoes from a farmer's market will make you swear off those miserable little pebbles they sell at the grocery store all winter long for the rest of your life. The fresh bread, green beans, lettuces, melons, and berries are delightful because for the most part they have been picked that same day and were actually appropriately ripe when picked.

I am no ritual purist when it comes to organic produce. I would rather have something that hasn't had chemicals sprayed all over it, of course, for many reasons. (But for all the "sustainable agriculture" fascists out there, I remind you that it is only in the last couple of years that organic farming has learned to yield quantities and qualities of food that can compete with "conventional" farming. Like many environmental movement issues, organic farming has been something of a luxury of rich nations.) It now usually tastes better, for one thing, and even if conventional farming isn't unhealthy, it would seem logical that minimizing our intake of chemical fertilizers and pesticides is basically a good thing. (On the other hand, I have no idea how "organic" many Farmer's Market farmers are. They could be detonating pesticide clouds over the corn hourly and I'd never know.)

But Farmer's Markets also bring out the anti-capitalist in me. For all my defense of capitalism and free markets (and I truly believe that no other economic system can be made to work in advance of the Rapture), I'm actually fairly suspicious of modern life. Right now, I'm typing on the new keyboard I got for the computer I bought a few weeks ago, but I'm planning in a little while to use them to search the internet for the text to the UNABomber's manifesto. (For a short story I'm working on, about the negative aspects of technology in our lives.) When people start talking about nanotechnology, I start drawing floorplans for a shack in the mountains, and start thinking seriously about renewing my firearms permit.

Small farms are inefficient. In fact, farms in New England are such hardscrabble affairs, with the glacial moraine turning every field into a gravel pit, that a hard core Adam Smith guy could argue that we should pave the whole region, build a lot of condos, and move all the non-farm-staff residents out of the rest of the country, so that the land can be used more efficiently for farming.

But the beauty of capitalism is that sentimental fools like me can use our money to pay a little more for produce that was a bit more hard won from the ground, and keep Archer Daniels Midland at bay just a wee bit longer. Efficiency is nice, but it is hardly everything, after all.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home