HIGHTOWER: Farmers v. Pharmers

Who needs family farmers when factory farms and "bio-pharms" can produce such miracles as genetically-altered crops, milk laced with artificial sex hormones, meat juiced up with steroids and antibiotics, and other wonders of the Brave New Bio-Tech World of Agriculture? Old MacDonald in his overalls is simply no match for Monsanto technicians in their white lab coats, right?

Before you swallow that bit of corporate propaganda, you should go back to the future by visiting the Center for Urban Agriculture, located right smack in the center of suburban Santa Barbara, California. Amid the gas stations and shopping centers of this corridor of suburbia sets a small farm -- the remnant of a homestead that dates back to 1895.

It's only 12 1/2 acres, but Michael Ableman and his able crew produce an astonishing abundance on this fertile plot. More than a hundred kinds of fruits and vegetables spring from the land here -- enough to feed five hundred families and employ more than 20 people. No genetic manipulation, no chemicals, no steroids, no lab technicians, no corporate overseers are needed to generate this cornucopia of food, which not only is efficiently produced, but also bursts with flavor, nutrition and wholesomeness that don't seem to factor-in to the bottom-line mentality of the Monsanto-ites.

The corporate vision of agricultural production is based on the cold concept that nature must be bent to the bottom line, and if brute force isn't working -- you're probably not applying enough of it. To the contrary, Ableman and crew apply the idea that good farming is the art and science of cooperating with nature, rather than always trying to overwhelm it.

This is Jim Hightower saying ... The Center goes beyond mere food production to relating its farm to the larger spirit of community involvement, education ... and fun -- matters that the Monsantos don't give a damn about. To bring the Center's spirit to your town, too, call them 805-967-7369.

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