The Lowest Common Denominator

 lowest common

Often and unfortunately our conversations concerning what we do land upon the lowest perch of human achievement: that of measuring all accomplishments by their economic consequences. This is what I refer to as the lowest common denominator. I cannot accept that the ultimate consideration of our acts is monetarily important at all. When discussing new movements in farming for example, as we are seeing in this country (the US) today, I cannot imagine that the people involved in the agricultural movement are involved only for economic gains and monetary profits.

I do not consider the profit received from my garden, and from buying locally produced meats to be measured monetarily. Rather, the rewards that I get from knowing where my food comes from and how it was treated overrides any economic cost. I would argue that those of us who take pride in learning new skillsets and in understanding concepts that society tends to take for granted are not motivated by possible profits, but by personal gains in knowledge, in peace of mind, in the understanding that what we do can have a virtuous aspect that cannot be bought and sold.

I would suggest that the food-movement not consider itself by the judgment of others that can only understand or are only interested in monetary motivations. It is difficult not to do so, especially when being considered from a public point of view. The phrases “there is no money in it” with regard to small-farming enterprises is easily dismissed with closer inspections of the facts. The argument that small-farms are in fact more profitable than large, agri-businesses if the subsidies to such businesses are taken out of the equation are beside the point. More important to the point is that most small-farm enterprises are not motivated by money alone. The point is that in not relying upon agricultural subsidies, small farms are more autonomous, offer a more honest product, and are not held accountable by faceless stockholders but by local consumers that many know by name.

While it is true that to live in this society, money is a necessary component; it is not true that money is the most important component. This viewpoint has led us to the deplorable situations that we find ourselves in today both in and outside of agriculture. The small-farming movement that seems ubiquitous in the country today reminds both those who are brave enough to venture out and those who are thoughtful enough to support such operations that money is the least important of all aspects of our lives. It is by the standards of bravery, of thoughtful action, of honesty and honest work that we ought to judge ourselves and expect others to judge us by.

While we cannot often fight the filth of large agribusiness we can battle the ignorance that allows such business to flourish. However, I would argue that we cannot do so by judging ourselves and what we do by the lowest common denominator. There is so much more that we are motivated by other than money. It is important for us involved in this movement to remember this fact and remind others that money is not always worth the trouble.

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One comment

  1. At one level, your arguments here make excellent sense to me. I agree that all my own efforts to produce food and patronize those who do so locally are satisfying in many ways. Money comes in far down the list—so far as to be negligible, personally. But I do think it matters to the larger debate. If the only language that capitalists understand is money, then being able to counter them at their own game may be a valuable tool in pushing forward necessary change in our food production and supply. So I appreciate those who can, using numbers, bolster our overall argument in that sphere. Meanwhile, I’m going to go slice one of my last homegrown tomatoes of the season and think about how it tastes, and nothing else.

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