The Farming Plays Project at Hubbard Hall
Last night, I was invited to watch a rehearsal of The Farming Plays Project, a powerful and moving series of monologues about farm life, performed by high school students from small farm families here in my rural and still agricultural community.
The Hubbard Hall Arts and Education Center, a crown jewel in our small town, is producing the play, part of its Winter Festival of New Works, presented every January. Hubbard Hall Director David Snider approached farmers and student members of farm families at schools in Greenwich, Cambridge, Hoosick Falls to write about the life and struggles and realities of farmers in America.
The students have done a remarkable job of capturing farm life, it's joys and frustrations, from the inside out. There is a lot of emotion and feeling in this performance. The first show is next Saturday, the 21st, Maria and I are going, we've invited the Carol and Ed Gulley and some other farm friends as well.
I know that most of the people reading this life too far away to see this new and innovative production, but I wanted to share it with you, it is a story that needs to be told.
It is very rare for the arts – for anyone – to write about the lives of small family farmers and farms, they are declining all across America. In the performance we hear farmer's voices speaking in their own words about family, money, animals, and the future of the farm.
It is perhaps to late to save the iconic small American Family Farm, under siege from regulators, legislators, animal rights activists and corporate agricultural competitors, and from ungrateful and unknowing food consumers.
It is not too late to explore their lives, celebrate what they have done, and remember them while they are still among us. They are among the world's hardest working, most family-centered, animal loving and necessary human beings.
They are also in big trouble, threatened on all sides by forces much more powerful than they are.
The Farming Plays Project has succeeded in their blunt and imaginative presentation of different farm voices. And these are kids who are living it, these stories and words are so natural coming out of their mouths.
Since World War II, the governing agricultural doctrine in government, universities, banking and financial institutions, state legislatures, universities and corporations has been that there are too many people on the farm, and that family farms are too small to compete effectively in the new global economy.
Our economists and politicians constantly remind us that the world is changing, and many of us must suffer. They forget to ask themselves: what are people for?
This idea has supported, if not directly caused one of the most significant and consequential migrations in American history as tens of millions of rural people have moved from country to city in a steady flow that continues to this day. In the old and presumably outdated economy, children stayed on their family farms and took them over when their parents were too old or sick.
In the new economy, the young are shuffled to overcrowded and expensive cities, where they work to make a living, not a life.
This migration of money, jobs, children, people and governmental support has brought about widespread economic ruin to farm and rural communities. The economists have said for decades, and say still, that farmers deserve to fail because they are the least efficient producers of food now, and that the rest of the population is benefiting from their failure by lower costs, corporate competitors and globalized agricultural systems.
If you are not a farmer, it is easy enough to yawn and look away at the decline of the family farm. Why should we care?
We should and one day, we will.
There is plenty of good on the grocery store shelves, even if you have no idea what is in it, where it comes from, or how the animals and people who produced it have been treated.
As a result of the country's abandonment of rural America, rural towns and communities have been devastated, losing their jobs to box stores and foreign countries, to corporate farming, to their children to jobs they hate far away working for people who care nothing for them, and their downtowns and Main Streets to economic starvation and collapse.
In a sense, the economists have made their forecasts come true – Main Street is no longer considered efficient or relevant in the new global order. The jobs and the money have all migrated to the cities with the young.
No presidential candidate in any debate mentioned the fate of the future of farmers or vowed to pursue any legislation or program meant to help them.
The ensemble actors at the Farm Players Project give voice and context to this ongoing tragedy.
Every farm is not dying, but every farm is drama. There is no simple or easy way to farm, and farmers and their families live intense, exhilarating, draining and exhausting lives.
All of this is beautifully captured and portrayed by the young actors in the Farm Players Project. And the tickets cost $10, less for students.
For those of you who live nearby, I'd urge you to consider coming to see this original and long overdue recognition of the important of farmers in our lives. We need to start remembering. Perhaps the rest of you will think about the family farm, perhaps encourage your local theater groups to consider the same kind of project.
Farmers are not the best talkers in the world, but they have the best stories to tell, and some of the most important. One day, in the shadow of the Corporate Nation, the small farms will be gone, and I hope I never forget to remember them. You can purchase tickets here, there will be several performances over the next week or so.