The year 2015 is announced as “Soil Year” by the United Nations. The previous year’s theme was “Family Farming Year”. However, Turkey’s busy agenda does not give way to social issues such as village habitants, soil and seeds.
Furthermore, besides small farming, traditional food or village produce needs urgent attention. Why? Primarily it is near to impossible to trace back the journey of the industrial food that we see on the supermarket shelves to its origin. Even though production facilities are equipped with most modern machinery, do we have an idea about the raw material? For instance, sprayed pesticide, herbicide, fungicide and other chemicals to prolong shelf life… This is not about legal obstacles: universities, public and private institutions that can investigate the matter do not show courage to confront the empowered industrial chain. Moreover, homework assigned to these “trusted” entities ensures the upkeep of production and food system exceedingly positive.
What first comes to mind is the question of product labeling. For example, you buy some snacks and chips from the local deli. Ingredients; potatoes, modified starch, corn oil, salt and spices enriched with additives… Each ingredient has its unique story, quite complex and difficult to prove their ethics. We like to shop for the cheaper option. With this consumer’s intuition quality concern is mostly omitted.
Sir Julian Rose, a leading exponent of organic farming from UK, commented in his plenary speech at the Congress on Organic Agriculture, Istanbul. October 20th, 2007 at Bahçeşehir University:
“What are the main global environmental problems?
– Heavilly polluted soil, air and water.
– Global warming.
– The collapse of ecosystems.
– More than fifty percent of the World’s population now living in cities.
– Corporate domination of the food and energy chain.
– An extremely passive reaction by the majority to this crisis.
Which are the main institutions behind these global problems?
– The World Trade organisation – tries to force food and farming into the same “free trade” context as microchips and motor cars.
– United States Department of Agriculture – reinforces WTO and promotes GMO.
– The World Bank and the International Moneytary Fund – fund large scale, capital intensive projects that displace native peoples.
– The European Commission – enforces ‘Hygiene and Sanitary’ controls as a way of shifting small farmers off the land and encouraging large scale monocultures.
– Most national governments – put financial interests ahead of human and environmental welfare.
All the above parties wish to retain ‘control’ over food and farming for profit.”
In the past years, I participated another meeting at Bahçeşehir University organized by the Environment Club. During this meeting, the importance of close contact with organic producers and fair commerce with them was discussed. I was amongst the panelists and the last speaker. If I were the first speaker, I would have given “Mother Earth (*)” Project as an example and explained the importance of similar approaches. Meanwhile, listening to other suggestions, I started to think about another point: the happiness of village people! Despite all the fair commerce plans, product demand to satisfy and close communication, if the village is not a part of the farmers’ future plan and if his goal is to migrate to the town/city, then acquiring cash quickly would only speed the pace of change.
A happy villager by definition entails a prosperous village, a promising village, a peaceful village home to a family, not only in terms of economics, but also as a village with satisfactory social entity. Just as it used to be in the old days, believing that it may be a service to meet the respectability of the peasantry and the rural, we established “two buildings” in our village…
“Two buildings” is an easy, not expensive, efficient model for the future of rural life.
Village House is a common place for social and cultural events; children library, workshop, meeting, seminar, entertainment, movie theater.
Enhancing the local economy, the Production House produces traditional and value-added food with hygiene and quality standards.
The buildings serve together for:
1) Motivation for Eco-friendly Agriculture
Farmers’ methods do not intervene with ecological balance and ethics:
- Bio-diversified and local genetic material.
- Less chemicals and less output.
- Less intervention (less pruning, less tilling, etc).
- Less damage.
Delicious, healthy, more durable products… Ecological parameters are not forced to change.
2) Traditional Food
It consists of culture-historical recipes at which food material is based on local seeds/genetic material, with local methods including cooking material. Being able to produce value-added products (food) is crucial with,
- Better competitiveness.
- Longer shelf life (compared to fresh products).
Delicious, healthy, competitive food with socio-cultural assets…
3) Collective Memory
Constructed, shared, and passed on to young generations by elderly groups; in this process, men and women generate different classes of information and methods.
It includes information on:
- Food (recipes, cooking, preserving , sharing, community building)
4) Rural Sociality
It is the local and historical way of living; local culture, habits, entertainment and rituals. However, rural life must also be integrated with global facts; and be both adaptive and resilient at its convenience.
Less consuming, slower life style with local social values…
An article called “The End of Sustainability” by Melinda Harm Benson & Robin Kundis Craig says:
“The time has come to move past the concept of sustainability. As an environmental management goal, sustainability is no longer appropriate, and it cannot be used to meaningfully address the challenges ahead. In order to reflect the scientific realities of the Anthropocene, new policies and institutions must be developed that accommodate uncertainty and anticipate nonlinear alterations of social–ecological systems. The future demands a more adaptive yet principled approach to continual change.” (Published online: 07 May 2014)
Uncertainties for politics, climate change, or global economics have no easy answers in the short-term. Food is a primary item for life, for the future of humanity. No investment for tomorrow other than conserving nature and values of rural life will be more precious, also serving for the security of food. Conservation process cannot be guaranteed by laws, governments or the global system, but rural happiness can be a mere magic solution for good food and a stronger life chain.
Cem Birder, organic fruit producer and developer of (*) www.toprakana.com.tr platform, now lives at Serhat Village and continues to support the “two buildings” at Besik Village.