First vs Third

There’s an internet meme that’s fairly popular right now- First World Problems. The joke is that we don’t have things at all bad compared to the Third World nations (or even the Second World, although no one ever remembers THOSE guys.) The whole 1st, 2nd, 3rd rankings are a little outdated but everyone “knows” what it means: us First World people have it amazingly good and the Third World is sucking the hind teat.

Someone named Jennifer Reese had recently written a book titled “Make the Bread, Buy the Butter“, which actually sounds like a pretty interesting little slice of life– another mom’s attempt to grow, produce, and cook her own food while still living in the suburbs. A lot of us are doing it, to one degree or another, whether it’s just a pot of rosemary in a windowsill or a full-fledged mini-farm with goats and chickens. I don’t have any problem with her book– I might even buy it if our home economic index rises soon. The problem that I had was with Elena Ferretti’s summation of the book that she wrote for Fox News.

Ferretti writes (and, to be honest here, she may be paraphrasing or quoting from Reese’s book, her review/summation doesn’t use quotation marks very often) ” “I wasn’t going to replace lost income by raising chickens and baking bread,” says Reese. But she thought she’d save money. She’s about what you “could,” not what you “should” do. . . Reese’s “could” turned her kitchen into a cheese- and bread-making factory and her backyard into a cross between a third-world village and a fake suburban farm with wandering chickens, ducks, goats and turkeys.”

Got that? Apparently, according to Ferretti, having those animals in the backyard made it something of a third world village. A “fake” farm. Well, excuse me, but what is a real farm, then? Is there a certain minimum standard that you have to reach before you’re really farming? Let’s leave aside the government’s definition of a farm– it’s concerned with taxing you, and, as we know, the government thinks that it has the right to determine how much and just what you are allowed to grow and raise on your farms. How much land do you have to own before it’s farming? How much do you have to produce? According to the dictionary, a farm is “an area of land” dedicated to either agriculture or raising animals. No size limit, no stipulation that it can’t be in the suburbs, no special footnote denoting what’s a “fake suburban farm.”

Maybe I’m a bit touchy about the subject, since I do “farm” in my suburban backyard, although my suburb is kind of out in the middle of nowhere and backs up onto a cattle pasture. There’s a tract that’s devoted to agriculture– two tracts, actually, currently planted with 30 different varieties of vegetables and herbs. It is a small amount of land, granted, but probably resembles the actual farms that the poor have always tried to maintain throughout history– humble farms planted to try to keep the family fed. In the summer, the crops contribute a significant portion of my family’s food. Our livestock has certainly shrunk this year since we’re unsure if we’ll be moving this summer or not. We’re down to two ducks, both of them egg laying breed hens. They’re not tamed, they’re not pets, they lay eggs which we eat. In a pinch, they could become duck a’la orange, or whatever. The welfare of the family comes first.

The most troublesome part of the article for me is the assumption that our small humble farms are “third-world.” Why is it “third-world”  to have domestic farm stock? What, First World people don’t farm or keep stock? What, we don’t need to EAT?

It’s arrogance to assume that our privileged status as First Worlders is something that could never change. It doesn’t take much to break a food chain when your food chain depends on a three day supply from the local grocery store. There are plenty of conditions under which our food supply could be threatened. There are even, yes, conditions under which our comfy industrialized nations could hit the skids. Our problems could rapidly change from worrying about whether or not our internet is streaming fast enough to please us to worrying whether or not the stream nearby is too contaminated to gather water from.

Arrogance seems to be the attitude du jour, though. It’s beneath us to care about where our food comes from. It’s beneath us to try to learn skills that humans have used from the beginnings of civilization. Heck, it’s beneath us to do ANYTHING for ourselves. Don’t they have an app for that? Can’t you just hire someone?

Pfeh. I’ll keep my humble little farm, thanks, even if it does mean broken fingernails and mud in the house and duck poop on the back porch. And when the grocery store is out of bread, I will at least know how to make my own.


About Marti Booker

Writer of fantasy and historical fantasy fiction, mother of 6, former nurse, Catholic convert, wife of 25 years, and general all-around geek. Warning: Do not attempt this at home. View all posts by Marti Booker

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