The website, Texas Crossroads Gathering attempts to connect consumers with farmers. ‘Bottom of pyramid’, ‘grass-roots’, ‘foundation of society’, ‘food-providers’ – there are numerous titles given to farmers across societies globally. The very vocation that founded the basis of human society and evolution of civilization stands almost as remote as its historical point of beginning. It is sad fact that estrangement of farmers from non-farming members of society has been on constant increase. In third world countries, economic gain governed formulation of policies which changed the natural crop cycles, made nature-dependent agriculture lose geo-sensitive crop preferences, bringing end to farmer’s autonomy where he exists as a loser – as entrepreneur and worker.
In many societies lack of infra-structure leads to absence of dialogue between farmer and the rest. At best, they might have access to information channels, which coax them into adopting current practices. This has led to suicides by famers in countries like India. An estimated 200,000 farmers have taken their own lives in India over the past 13 years, according to Indian government statistics. Prime factors were ceding of seed supply control to the corporate chemical industry, which enhanced production costs and falling food prices in a global agricultural economy.
Income through farming was not enough to meet even the minimum needs of a farming family. Support systems like free health facilities from the government were virtually non-existent. Traditionally support systems in the villages of India had been provided by the government. However, due to a variety of reasons the government had either withdrawn itself from its supportive role or plain simple misgovernance had allowed facilities in the villages to wither away. Read more.
“The farmer suicides started in 1997. That’s when the corporate seed control started,” Vandana Shiva told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “And it’s directly related to indebtedness, and indebtedness created by two factors linked to globalization…The combination is unpayable debt, and it’s the day the farmer is going to lose his land for chemicals and seeds, that is the day the farmer drinks pesticide… And it’s totally related to a negative economy, of an agriculture that costs more in production than the farmer can ever earn.” Report
The farmer in America too stands on other side of profitability. However, equipped with better facilities, he is still a part of the mainstream. He has a voice to speak his mind. He realizes that ‘most people take their food supply so much for granted they don’t even think about it until there is a crisis reported by the media’. He is constantly aware of such unrealistic proposals like one stating that rather than repair the levees, it would be a “higher value” to the country to leave the Mississippi river open thereby creating new wetlands. Such assumptions by general public and academia undermine importance of agriculture and thus the farmer finds it imperative ‘to be proactive in reaching the consumer’.
He can no longer depend on understanding or sympathetic attitude of politician. The population is so unevenly dispersed that a mere twelve states can elect the president of USA. And so he comes up with concept of “agritainers” who visit schools, raise awareness about agriculture by not just giving technical information, but also painting a pictures of life within the industry through their songs, poems and stories. Texas Crossroads Gathering implores people to invite these agritainers so that the young may understand the process and challenges of producing food.
Apart from the urgent economic and political goals, this endeavor also helps in restoring an older but deeply ingrained part of culture associated with life on the farm. The country song to a great many is just a label attached to a particular genre of music. It might appear as nostalgia-fantasy instead of a sci-fi one to the internet generation. Experimentations possible with technology have changed the way music is created and appreciated.
The genius of one-finger pianist conveys growth of a society oriented towards techno-curation. But the same technology has also empowered the traditional agrarian society to recreate itself in the virtual space. Entertainment grows out experiences, imagined and lived. The joy which listener (reader, viewer or the modern consumer) gleans comes out of imagining the original experience. This, in turn, brings him in greater sympathy with a life-style not his own.
And battles long ago: Solitary Reaper
And so, Jackie Johnson, Barry Whitfill, CowboyBob Atkin, Evelyn Roper, Mar Merecek and numerous other agritarian singers have their music posted on youtube. Several of these are original songs written by singers. Their popularity is a testament to the fact that people still retain their attraction to ‘natural, sorrow, loss or pain’.
Crossroads founder Bob Kinford and his wife Catie decided to give performers the most exposure possible, all live-streaming their performances. They are happy that 13 performers have signed up to make a second (or third) appearance at Crossroads in 2012. It is the power of the instant, ephemera, here-and-now that innate expression of life-celebration (culture) has to extricate itself out of life-style (agriculture) and don the robes of entertainer.