by Russell Libby, MOFGA Executive Director
A few weeks ago the remaining debt from Lehman Brothers was sold at eight cents on the dollar, a sign that some of what they valued wasn’t worth too much. I was thinking about that in October, when my neighbor Chris and I were picking from a couple of Baldwin trees up the hill.
What’s real, and what’s not, depends a lot on our perspective. Putting a few bushels of apples in the root cellar doesn’t count for much in national economic statistics, but it’s an important part of the household economy. Every time we do something for ourselves, or find a way to share or exchange with our friends and neighbors, we take a small step into the real economy – the economy where we are dependent on one another for our food, where we are certain that we’ll be warm because our houses are well-insulated, where we save our money in local banks and credit unions so that we’ll be able to take the next big steps in our lives.
For too long we’ve pretended that the papers we exchange are the real economy, but they are just representations. The root word of economy, “oikos,” refers to households – not to power and wealth. When Dow Chemical can sue the government of Canada under NAFTA to regain “profits” they lost because Quebec and Ontario banned lawn pesticides, the paper system is too powerful, and the real economy, the one where people’s health is more important than paper profits, still isn’t being counted properly.
The election is now past, and our real work begins. Because the paper economy is under more and more stress, the real economy of jobs and products we need will be more important. We can’t ever unhook completely, but each step we take toward one another is a step away from that place where paper is more important than people. That work includes everything from planting a garden to creating policies that encourage new farmers and better ways to connect farmers and eaters. That is the work MOFGA has been engaged in for almost 40 years now.
Meanwhile, those Baldwin trees that Chris and I have relied on for decades of winter apples are nearing the end of their long lives, and it’s time for us to plant some ourselves. They’ll be the treasure that someone else will find long from now, in another time when the real economy will still be important – because it always is.