I was browsing through the Sunday Times today and I came a cross this fascinating examination of the disappearance of the barns that used to serve the small farms. As the farms are snatched up by agribusiness, the barns get in the way. They’re purposefully eradicated, or neglected until they crumble.
This is a deft use of metonymy, the rhetorical construct whereby an issue is illuminated by a symbolic examination of a related object, and Monica Davey uses it to great effect in this piece. By tugging at the loose threads of the crumbling barn, she reveals the crumbling status of the agrarian class and the concentration of resources into the hands of the few and the wealthy, whom, it seems, often place higher priority on their potential gain than they do on families: as Davey writes, “Some here tell of people who call the widows of farmers who have died days or hours earlier, hoping to secure land.”
The conglomeration of our food production leads to reduced quality because the larger volume leads to decreased attention on the details; reduced options because the big guys are going to tend toward mono-cropping; increased reliance on chemical additives because farming untold acreage of a single crop reduces soil quality and is often only viable through production of a modern, spray-resistant hybrid varietal; and reduced security because the land that used to support several families now is tended by a relatively small number of individuals and their “air-conditioned, G.P.S.-equipped combines and tractors.”
Every time you shop for produce and wind up with pretty peaches that taste as fake and plastic as they look; sculptured tomatoes that have white interiors that taste like rice cakes (and are almost as hard); eat a sweet that gets is flavor from high fructose corn syrup… think of the barns, think of the families, think of hte lifestyle that’s being eradicated with the quality of your options—and make an effort to go to the farmers’ markets, to the roadside stands, to the orchards in your area and buy your food from the families who are still farming so that they can still farm in the years to come.
Or else, the barns may continue to dwindle and die.