Growing family farmers
There's a tremendous ingenuity involved in being a farmer. Farmers have an incredible array of skills: attentive observation of nature, mechanical know-how, business and marketing savvy, and community skills. They also have wisdom that comes from working the land. They have a chance to think during the day when they're in the fields.

Thanksgiving is a great time to support family farmers and recognize their contributionto your dinner table.

Driving across rural America is very instructive. Where small towns have withered away and family farmers have been forced off the land, you have all sorts of problems. You have extreme pollution of the water and soil. The tax base has eroded, so you don't have roads, schools, hospitals. Factory farms weaken the fabric of this country.

Given the current state of affairs, energywise, it's not very practical that our food is grown, on average, 1,500 miles from where it's consumed.

Family farmers grow the kind of food we really want to eat: fresh, local, organic, raised in healthy ways. The best way to support family farmers is to ask where your food comes from—in restaurants, supermarkets, everywhere. You may not get an answer right away, but you'll be surprised at how quickly the manager gets that information. Then they become aware that this matters to you.

As Willie [Nelson, president of Farm Aid's board,] always says, ‘We don't just need to save the family farms we have; we need more farmers on the land.'

—Carolyn Mugar, executive director, Farm Aid (www.farmaid.org)