Why Socialists Should Learn to Farm: Six Reasons Why Growing our Own Food is A Revolutionary Act. By: The Seeds of RevolutionRead Now
Twenty-twenty was a real shit year and a game changer for us all. Some background info. Before 2020 happened, my husband and I were living in a small de-industrialized city and planning to move to a larger financialized city, since those are the only two options here in the Northeast. But then we found ourselves in the middle of a pandemic, economic crash, and what felt like forthcoming societal collapse. Food supply chains were drying up. People were fist fighting over hand sanitizer. Toilet paper was sold-out (very bad news for those of us with gastrointestinal disorders). Gun ammunition was also sold-out. The stock market was in free fall. Companies were laying workers off. Social distancing had become part of our everyday vocabulary. Things were locking down. Borders were shutting down. Donald Trump was president, making our collective shit sandwich even worse. And the one candidate who could have made life a little less miserable for the unwashed masses – Mr. Bernard Sanders – dropped out, leaving us with Joe fucking Biden, the one candidate worse than the corporate war pig they pushed on us with four years earlier. Killary.
And this was all on top of an already unfolding climate catastrophe; more than half the country living paycheck-to-paycheck; thirty million people lacking health insurance; an opioid epidemic ravishing the nation, along with a suicide epidemic, growing homelessness epidemic, and a barely discussed missing and murdered Indigenous women crisis; the onslaught of police brutality against Black people; two million people per year locked away in the prison industrial complex; concentration camps at the southern border; an increase in hate crimes against marginalized communities; routine mass shootings; an Orwellian mass surveillance system monitoring our every move; wage stagnation and the gigification of the workforce due to decades of de-industrialization, corporate trade deals, and the decimation of organized labor; an overpriced housing market alongside an overpriced rental market, and gentrification; a nearly two trillion dollar student loan bubble; and last but not least, the decaying empire we call home being at war with eight resource rich global south nations, waging economic warfare on a dozen countries, and orchestrating coups all across the globe. So yeah, 2020 was going to suck just like 2019 sucked, 2018 sucked, 2017 sucked, and every other year before that in the US since the collapse of the Bretton Woods system in 1971 if you’re part of the white working class, or
So, things were looking pretty bad in April of 2020. My husband and I thought maybe moving to a bigger city wasn’t a good idea. We started talking about what we’d do if he lost his job. Thankfully I knew I had job security through my union, but that job was in a hospital (not the place you want to be during a pandemic). It was then we decided to make some serious lifestyle changes. We started talking about minimalism, sustainability, and growing our own food. Over the next year we designed a tiny house, looked for cheap land to put it on, almost moved to a farming cooperative, and ended up in a small house on an acre and half of land in the middle of nowhere, since that’s the only place one finds cheap-ish housing these days. Though that will change soon too thanks to BlackRock and their evil genius plan to turn the US into a nation of renters.
Since moving to our house at the start of this year, we’ve planted twenty varieties of vegetables in the backyard, visited a couple eco-villages to learn more about communal living, and just got certified in permaculture design with the plan to turn the backyard into a food forest with some chickens and bees and maybe even a tiny house village someday (all depending on zoning restrictions changing).
During this past year and a half, I’ve learned that there’s a whole movement out there of people from city to country seizing the means of food production. Urbanites turning their backyards into mini food forests; old apartments being turned into urban eco-villages, community gardens popping up in cities everywhere, and the very first urban agrihood in Detroit. Suburban wine moms growing produce in their front yards; and the really cool ones are turning their swimming pools into greenhouses. Hipsters and hippies on rural farming communes, sharing all their resources, working collectively, and thriving together. People are doing some pretty amazing things these days! Families living in off-grid Earthships made of recycled tires, rammed dirt, and beer bottles; twenty-somethings traveling, doing work exchanges on organic farms, staying for the season and learning skills in what’s called WWOOFing. There’s a whole movement of people doing this here in the US and around the globe.
And as socialists we should be part of this movement. Marxists, anarchists, democratic socialists (who are really just social democrats), however you identify. Hell, even liberals should learn to farm. Though liberals, you have to do the growing yourself. You can’t make your housekeeper grow the vegetables for you. I know, manual labor isn’t your thing. Sorry :-/
Something else I’ve noticed over the past year and a half of researching permaculture, aka a regenerative/wholistic approach to growing food, that most of the content online is homesteading blogs and vlogs coming from the political right; libertarians and social conservatives who want to go off-grid in order to escape the government or secular society. And though I’m happy to see people of most political tendencies growing their own food, let’s keep it real here. The righties don’t believe in climate change. And some of them even think the earth is flat (what the f?). We can’t let them own this shit. This shit is our shit.
And here are six reasons why socialists should learn to farm.
We’re living in what scientists refer to as the sixth mass extinction, which is pretty fucking scary sounding. The last mass extinction happened sixty-six million years ago, killed off three quarters of all life on the planet, and was most likely caused by an asteroid. This current one is being caused by capitalism. And we can no longer ignore it.
Just this past summer alone we witnessed roads buckle and power lines melt in the Pacific Northwest due to a lethal heat wave and yet another unprecedented wildfire season. The ocean was on fire in the Gulf of Mexico after a pipeline burst. The Southwest is being plagued by a historic mega drought. A condo in Miami crumbled to the ground in the middle of the night in part due to rising sea levels. The Mid-Atlantic states were underwater, Louisiana’s grid crashed, and Massachusetts got hit by a few tornados – not something you expect in New England. India, China, Northern Europe, and Turkey were all horrifically flooded. Madagascar is on the brink of famine. The Amazon rainforest – the lungs of the planet – is now emitting more greenhouse gas than absorbing due to deforestation. Siberia – in the motherfucking Arctic – hit 118 degrees. The Atlantic Ocean current system is on the verge of breaking down, further destabilizing the global climate. We’re in a state of emergency here.
Scientists have been discussing the negative impact of greenhouse gases on the atmosphere since 1896. That’s a long ass time. The recent IPCC Report states we’re close to the tipping point before it’s too late and we must radically transform the global economy NOW. And though there is no individual solution to the climate catastrophe – given that its being caused primarily by 100 multinational corporations – there are still steps we can take now in preparation for building the world we need to survive. Growing our own food is one way.
Here are some facts on food production and the climate. On average, the food we buy at the grocery store is grown fifteen hundred miles away from where we live, on the other side of the country or in a completely different country all together. Now compare that to the distance between you and your farmers market, community garden, or your backyard/rooftop food forest. Another fact is that over 100 billion pounds of food gets wasted each year in the US all while thirty-five million people here face hunger, ten million being kids. We have the food available to feed everyone, it’s a political choice not to. A third fact is that factory farm meat is really bad for the environment, from cow methane to cleared woodlands. Being a vegetarian is a personal choice (one I’ve made myself) and a luxury many can’t afford around the world. In the future however those who do eat meat will need to eat more sustainably harvested meat: more poultry, less beef; free-range; and, if possible, raising and butchering the animal yourself to ensure it has a more dignified life and death than it would in a slaughterhouse. There are many things we can do to eat more sustainably from local to organic and so on.
Health is very important for us as socialists because we got some serious struggles ahead. Today we need to fight for better wages, tomorrow we’ll need to fight off those evil robot dogs. Have you seen those fuckers? I swear they’re gonna kill us all.
Here are some facts about health and food. Black people are twice as likely to be impacted by food insecurity than white people. There are food deserts all across the country where residents are more likely to find fast food, liquor stores, and convenient stores with frozen dinners than they are to find grocery stores with fresh, nutritious food. It’s by design you find Whole Foods in posh suburbs and gentrified neighborhoods and McDonalds in the inner city and towns of rural poverty. The diet of poverty causes obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, scurvy, rickets, and cancer.
Here’s another fact. We live in a country that doesn’t have a functioning healthcare system. Thirty million people lack health insurance each year and when you add in the underinsured, its about a third of the country. I’ve gone without insurance myself and its scary not knowing what you’ll do in case of an emergency. Eating healthy won’t spare us the cost of going to the doctor or overpriced pharmaceuticals, but it can help prevent certain medical conditions. Growing food, exercising, giving fresh food to our family, friends, coworkers, communities. These are acts of permaculture which can help our health.
I know, it sounds like a scary word. People here commune and think cult and Jonestown. First off, no one is asking you to join a cult. Cults are bad. Cult leaders are bad. Sugary drinks like Kool-Aid are bad, extra bad when spiked with cyanide. When I say communalism, what I’m talking about is forming a community, a network, mutual aid, working together democratically, having meaningful relationships with other people. Things that are often missing in modern life.
There are many different ways we can grow communally. Joining a community garden and getting to know your neighbors. Living on a farming cooperative and sharing communal space and growing together while living your regular day-to-day life. Living on a farming commune and sharing communal space and growing together, and sharing all your income (it’s not for everyone). Or you could just rent an apartment with friends and grow a container garden in your driveway together. Communalism can help us accomplish large tasks by working together: growing food, tending to livestock, watching each-other’s kids, caring for elders, sharing resources which helps cut back on the cost of living, and deciding things democratically.
I just visited two eco-villages where communalism influenced so many different aspects of people’s lives. Communal spaces for things like cooking; worker cooperatives for jobs; bartering for trade; governing through councils and direct democracy; working collectively on projects like building a food forest. And it really got me thinking that communalism may be a solution to many of our immediate socioeconomic and psychosocial problems. The high cost of living, being too overworked to do anything else other than work, not having meaningful relationships and deep connections with other people due to the way capitalism atomizes society (the individual against the world, ethical egoism, and all that Ayn Rand bullshit). Capitalism reduces us to networking and Wingless Eros hookups instead of comradeship and true love. And the alienation so many people feel is expressing itself in the rise of diseases of despair we’re now seeing: drug addiction, gambling, suicide. Living more communally could help change this for the better. To build socialism on the larger scale, let’s build it in our own lives too. Let’s literally grow together.
One of the main differences between homesteading and permaculture is that the first romanticizes settler colonialism while the second opposes colonialism and all other forms of imperialism. It might seem like a stretch linking imperialism to food, but imperialism is in fact what’s for dinner. It’s also what we’re dressed in, drive, decorate our homes with, and a bunch of other shit including what we’re using to read this blog post. It’s easy for those of us living on colonized land in the imperial core to ignore this reality as we benefit from the crumbs of the superprofit. And while many think of imperialism as war, it goes beyond that and is defined as an economic system of expansion, extraction, and exploitation on the global level. Imperialism expresses itself in the form of corporate trade deals, sweatshop labor, intergovernmental alliances, and financial institutions. Militarism is simply the glue that keeps the entire system together.
Here are some facts about imperialism, settler colonialism, and food. Entire nations have been destroyed over sugar, from Hawaii to Puerto Rico. And so many of our consumer goods made here in America are not made in American factories by union workers but rather in American prisons by the largest prison population in the world. Like all settler colonies, Amerika was built from chattel slavery, and mass incarceration was born from those very vestiges. Jacobo Arbenz, the democratically elected president of Guatemala, was overthrown in a CIA backed coup in 1954 over wanting to enact land reforms to help his people. Up until then, most of the land in Guatemala had been gobbled up by Western corporations like the United Fruit Company (aka Chiquita Banana). It just so happened that the Secretary of State, the director of the CIA, and four other members of the Eisenhower administration had ties to the United Fruit Company and in order to protect their financial interests, staged a coup which resulted in a military dictatorship, a fifty-year civil war, and the genocide of tens of thousands of the indigenous Maya population. All over fucking bananas.
Anti-imperialism is the main reason why I’m personally invested in growing my own food. In my late-twenties and early thirties, I was lucky to be able to do a lot of international travel and got to visit so many wonderful places: South Africa, Palestine, Peru, India, Nicaragua, Panama, Greenland, Northern Ireland, Bosnia. And during these travels, I learned so much about the impact of imperialism and neo-colonialism on the global south; it’s for this reason why I am dedicated to breaking away from systems of global exploitation. As a millennial, I love avocado. But I don’t want to buy it if it’s being grown by exploited workers under the threat of the cartel. I also love quinoa but its rise in global popularity has made it too expensive for people in Peru and Bolivia, where it was once a staple diet. Growing our own food is one way to break away from these systems of global exploitation. Other options include buying from worker owned cooperatives abroad or buying food which is regionally grown in your own area.
Everyone hates capitalism these days, not just socialists. It’s an economic system which offshores union jobs, sets a poverty minimum wage, denies us affordable healthcare, housing, and education, makes us live paycheck to paycheck, gets millions of people hooked on pain killers, sets draconian laws in order to fill the prisons with slave labor while letting banksters and war criminals off, creates a dysfunctional political system in which souless opportunists like Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi rise to power, ushers in a dictatorship of the rich, and blows up the market every ten years or so, leaving millions of workers at risk of poverty and laying down the material conditions for fascism.
Blaming capitalism for everything is a favorite pastime for millennials and zoomers. Until I got married, I even blamed being single on it. But last year, I learned something new about capitalism. I learned that capitalist supply chains can’t be depended on to even produce the basic goods we need but can’t afford under the best of circumstances. Capitalist supply chains can and will explode without warning and cause scarcity, price gouging, and social unrest. And they haven’t stabilized since 2020. The neoliberal ruling class offshored manufacturing in order to financialize the economy, make a few very rich, half the country broke, and left us unprepared for times of crisis.
Now there is no way to break away from capitalism as we live in a capitalist society and are all subject to capitalist market forces. But we can strive to learn ways to protect ourselves and each other from some of the harshest elements of capitalism and find ways to avoid exploitation of workers in the global south in our personal lives as we organize to end these systems collectively. Permaculture is one way to do so. Becoming community-sufficient is another way. Supporting and utilizing mutual aid networks. Growing our own food, collecting our own seeds, making our own compost; all of these actions can help us protect ourselves and our communities from the volatility of market forces.
6. Revolution, or Some Real Bad Shit
Yeah, I went there with that word. Revolution. I know, it’s a little overwhelming the first time you hear it. Just breathe. The reality is we have no idea what the future holds. But it doesn’t look too good for the most part. Some people think we’re heading toward a revolution in which the workers will seize power through a general strike. Many people think we’re heading toward civilizational collapse due to climate change; that or the American Empire is going to fall with the death of the petrodollar system and the rise of a multipolar world, which will be great for the global south but will probably result in a massive economic depression for those of us living here (under capitalism that is, which is why we need a revolution). There are also some who think we’re heading toward eco-fascism in which the authoritarian state, along with fascist mobs, will terrorize climate refugees and marginalized communities within our militarized borders; that or the US will become a neo-feudal dystopian hellscape where we’ll all be serfs toiling away 16 hours a day for a glass of water, working in the kingdoms of Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and whichever one of the Kock brothers didn’t crock who will govern us from their underground multimillion dollar bunkers. And then there are those who think AOC will win the nomination and general election in 2024, turn the Democratic Party into a workers’ party, get the Green New Deal passed, and everything will be just dandy.
So yeah, like I said, we don’t know what the future holds, but we’re probably fucked. It could be helpful to prepare for multiple crises. Learning to grow our onw food in case there’s a revolution and all the stores run out while workers are on strike. Learning to raise and harvest livestock in case the climate catastrophe causes mass crop failure and disruption in global food supply chains. Learning self-defense in case fascist mobs start roaming the streets. Learning to build our own shelter in case we have to flee for the woods to escape becoming serfs under neo-feudalism. All these skills can be applicable for whatever hellscape we end up in within the next several decades. And that is the goal of this project, The Seeds of Revolution: to learn how to survive and build a community of people to work with when shit REALLY falls apart. And for shits and giggles, we might even dream up what an eco-socialist world could look like.
The Seeds of Revolution A socialist farming blog where we talk growing food, raising livestock, DIY, self-defense, prepping, natural building, and the hopeful collapse of the capitalist imperialist order.
This article was produced by The Seeds of Revolution.