I read an article in The New Yorker the other day about the Gig Economy. This is the world of techno-driven piecework born of rideshare apps and online freelance marketplaces. Though not directly analogous to the entrepreneurial community I inhabit—populated by farmers, artists, and craftspeople—the thesis of the article still applies: there is "a painful distance between the chipper narratives surrounding labor and success in America and the lived experience of workers."
We often talk, in a tone halfway between jest and brag, about about the impossible and uncompensated hours we work, as if our scrambling, stumbling path through the maze of capitalism were a badge of honor. As if living inside an economic system that idolizes the bootstrapping entrepreneur but prioritizes price over quality, externalized costs over sustainability, GDP over equality and quality of life, has convinced us that hard and thoughtful work need not result in a living wage. Most of us accept, quietly, what compensation we can get, all the while thinking that if we just worked a little harder, a little smarter, we might reach that American promise of meritocratic success. "At the root of this [economic ideal] is the American obsession with self-reliance, which makes it more acceptable to applaud an individual for working himself to death than to argue that an individual working himself to death is evidence of a flawed economic system."
I am immensely grateful to all of you who support my work. That gratitude is not lessened by my understanding that it is improbable that I will ever achieve true economic security through a business that strives to internalize every cost, to give fair compensation down the supply chain, to produce whole and healthy food. As long as ethical production is considered a luxury, as long as the Free Market and the Farm Bill bracket our food system, as long as we live in a plutocracy, the gap between the stories we tell and the lives we live will persist.
I want to end this dark turn of mind with some spark of hope, some nice, manageable action that you might take without disturbing the pattern of your days. You know, the way mainstream articles about climate change often end with a cute band aid, like, "the world is ending and it's our fault, but separate your recycling and we'll all be ok!" But I am neither smart enough nor naive enough to slap on some easy solution. Our economic system is huge and complicated and hurtful, and I have no idea what we do to make it better, except to vote with our ballots and dollars and feet, even when it feels like we're waving in the dark.
With worry and improbable hope,
The Spring Bread Subscription starts this Wednesday. You can still sign up, if it's somehow slipped your mind despite my many reminders, until tomorrow. You can also place individual orders on the website, as per usual, for Wednesday pickup. This week it's Red & White, Mountain Rye, Oats & Honey, and of course, Bittersweet Chocolate Cookies.
The weekly Bellingham Farmers Market starts up again next Saturday, April 1. Come on down to the Market Depot between ten and three to celebrate the beginning of the market's 25th year!
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