Warming up

I tried to overwinter my dahlias [Hardiness Zones, Sean Ericson, May 20] in the ground at my spot in Mattapan for the winter of 23-24, under ~8 inches of mulch and a tarp meant to keep the rain off. They had no problem with the cold but all the wetter spots in the row were completely underwater for much of the season, and I lost about 3/4 of my plants. I kept the rain off but there was so much water moving through the soil that there was no hope. The warmer temps did mean that I had sorrel and arugula and radicchio growing all winter. But now I’m worried that this week’s heat will be the end of my snap peas and snow peas. It’s hard to get things like peas or early greens in the ground after mud season and frost danger in time to harvest them. My spinach is already bolting. It’s annoying for my little hobby garden, but scary to think about how this hits farmers around the world.

Jake M., Boston, Massachusetts

Corporate corruption

This [Looting Tribal Land, Stephanie Woodard, April 22] is a fantastic article.  It’s amazing to me to see just how bad the situation is, and how unaware average people are over the fact that sources of fresh water can be destroyed pretty easily! The Tribal Chairmen in this article are great leaders, it’s good to see them beat back these jerks who sneak onto the land and behave in this illegal manner. That incident in Nevada with the guy who drove the bulldozer, I wonder what company he is with. Let’s hope that the contractor company is exposed.

Neoliberalism is bad for any country, and after 44 years, this is what it’s come to.

Yulya S.

Bygone days

Let them stop the H-2A visa program and effectively prevent undocumented immigrants from working, and they will find out how much money it will take (and should, in my opinion) to get people to do farm work [Democrats Are Missing a Key Moment to Back Farmworkers, Bryce Oates, April 4]. I would be much happier if all those profits from middlemen went to the farmworkers instead.

I used to pick apples with Greenleaf Harvesters in New England (New Hampshire based) and got paid adequately for my situation (a piece rate but low expenses). I was just out of school, and happy to find healthy outdoor work with congenial co-workers on our co-op crew that contracted with growers to pick to their specifications each day. We got paid a higher piece rate than some pickers who were more of a natural force that stripped everything from the trees, working faster than we did.

After that I picked oranges in Florida, where at the time there were segregated crews. 

Then I picked cherries in Stockton, California and The Dalles, Oregon, followed by apples not far from the cherries. Nothing was as fun as the co-op crew in New England, though the social life was lacking.

Stuart A.

Wolves in sheep’s clothing

As a born and raised Iowan who saw the family farm virtually disappear, everyone knows the Farm Bureau [Farmers Face a Precarious Future. Is the Farm Bureau on Their Side?, Emma Penrod, March 25] is the lobbyist of all lobbyists for Corporate Farming. It should be lobbying for the expansion and stability of small farms, but it doesn’t. It’s almost like everything that family farming represents has been abandoned by this lobbying effort. It’s time to re-think subsidies for farmers — and for God’s sake eliminate them for large corporate farms! America can do better than this.

Julie S.

I appreciate Emma Penrod’s reporting. The Farm Bureau’s national leaders promote corporate values, not rural. They’ve been long-standing allies of the agribusiness giants who’ve taken control of meatpacking and, in the process, become corporate overlords to thousands of contract farmers. As Tyson now closes processing plants in many regions, the contract farmers choke-collared to the company are left with empty sheds and the massive debt Tyson forced them to take on. 

Steve Babson, author of Forgotten Populists: When Farmers Turned Left to Save Democracy (2023)

Hope for the future

I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Allen’s description of the hard-working network of native seed producers [Native Seed Network Takes Root in the Northeast, Eve Allen, February 19]. It’s a fascinating and important movement, putting things right during climate crises, industrialization and general sprawl.

Tekla V.

Makes a difference

This article [Building Movements for Food and Racial Justice Through Organic Farming, Joel Bleifuss & Justin Perkins, November 27, 2023] made me very happy and hopeful. I was not aware of how many groups around the country are connecting farmers and developing organic practices and so on. I buy organic and go to farmer’s markets as much as I can, but sometimes it seems like too many people just don’t understand or value the difference from corporate food. Thank you so much for sharing this story.

Karen Y.

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