Some of you may remember our various blogs about foods – oversized vegetables and odd tropical fruits – here in Colombia. Today I want to tell a sadder side of Colombia’s food story, in which, 20 years from now, there are no farmers left in the countryside.
This is a real possibility in the region we work in, and the farmers acknowledge it. Farming is hard, dusk-till-dawn work. And though there’s dignity in it, as the years go by, and the food market globalizes and industrializes, there’s less and less money in it. Throw in the fact that most farmers’ children want to move to the cities, and you see how 20 years from now the campo could be a very different place.
I’m not saying Colombia will run out of food. Industrial farming companies will buy the land and begin mass-producing crops, just as they do throughout much of the United States. But that’s not really a good thing. The fruit and vegetables will likely lose variety, nutrients and flavor, and mono-cropping the land (or filling it with chickens, pigs and cows) will be bad for the soil and watersheds. And then there’s the question of what all those campesino families will do in the cities. I don’t have the answer. Many of the campesinos who live in cities now, having been displaced by the violence, endure poverty.
Perhaps the trend of urbanization is inevitable, but I don’t see why it has to be. Good, healthy food is important to everyone, and people in cities pay plenty for it, so it would seem more of that money could be directed to farmers. And certainly, even if farmer’s children want to get educated and live some city life, there are plenty of projects they could then bring back to the campo – value-added food processing, sustainable growing techniques, eco/agro tourism. And if those things happened, and the campo and its town centers modernized a bit, there might not be as many young people trying to leave.
It might never be like the good old days of country life that we hear about in interviews, but maybe some of the best parts of the culture could be regenerated. Entire villages traveled to play weekend-long soccer and basketball tournaments against their neighbors, and then danced and slept at one another’s homes afterwards. Once a month everyone got together for a community work day (most still do this, but with less participants than before) to maintain the shared roads and schools. And at any time of day or night, one could walk the beautiful mountain roads and paths without fear. In fact, if you passed a neighbor’s house at a mealtime, they’d take you in serve you a plate. Everything on it was local, organic, and delicious.
PS – Blog by Jake. Blog-title by Casey.