paper, 156 p., $19.95
This is a very small book attempting to present a solution to the very big problem of how to implement, oversee and protect local food production by independent farmers. Food for Thought: Towards a Future for Farming was originally published in France, and it describes the efforts of the Confédération Paysanne and its leader, José Bové. The “root of the problem,” according to authors Patrick Herman and Richard Kuper, is “the drive to increase output without limit and the consequent search for ever more ‘efficient’ methods of production. Agriculture has become a branch of industry.” The European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy and the WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture have only exacerbated the situation, with small farmers overwhelmed by this new “agribusiness” mentality.
Some interesting examples, in text boxes, are given of the problems encountered in implementing policies. Mexico: a case study describes the question of maize production. NAFTA’s involvement, plus the huge U.S. subsidies of farm production, effectively impoverished further the already struggling Mexican small farmers. Another story of a small group of French farmers dismantling a McDonald’s in Millau as a protest to a U.S. embargo — a wonderful David and Goliath story — got the world’s attention, but it was only a small step. Although Food for Thought presents some logical, thoughtful solutions to enable small farms to thrive, they seem, unfortunately, to be a Utopian dream. There are too many large organizations and government agencies whose primary concerns are not for the independent farmer.
— Joan Richards, library volunteer, Chicago Botanic Garden