Our favorite part of annual Michigan trip is the National Blueberry Festival in South Haven. Van Buren county is blueberry country, so the festival is a huge deal. A Little Miss Blueberry is crowned each year. Every year artists peddling blueberry-themed crafts take over the park. Every year another generation of kids makes themselves sick at the pie-eating contest (don’t ask for any flavor other than blueberry). And all of it is kicked off with a fly-in breakfast at the local airport featuring antique planes and, you guessed it, blueberry pancakes.
This year’s festival will still be dripping with blueberries, but unlike almost every year up to this one, the berries on the pancakes and in the pies will have been picked almost a month in advance. Why? An early spring combined with the record-breaking drought created an early harvest, and this is a less detrimental version of the pattern we have seen all over the parched midwest this year.
Hearing about the drought on the news is one thing. Driving past field after field of stunted corn and shriveling vegetables is another. And while, as Wendell Berry has noted, some agrarian economists may believe we have too many people on farms, I wonder what those economists will say when the price of food begins to climb this fall. I know what I won’t be saying.
I won’t be saying that fewer farms makes us more secure as a nation. I won’t say that living detached from the source of our food and the people who produce it (at all levels) would benefit my family financially or socially. And I won’t be saying that shrinking the number of and type of farms that feed us all is progress.