An American Farmer’s Lament: a Poem By Hilary Hodge with a Message to America

Antique farm equipment

Hilary Hodge, a young farmer-poet and bee-keeper, captured the struggles of the organic farmer in this somber poem that she wrote and read at the 2012 EcoFarm Conference on organic and sustainable agriculture. The four day conference had over 1500 attendees, and ended last Saturday, February 4th.

She generously gave me permission to post it:

An American Farmer’s Lament
By Hilary Hodge

It’s hard to open up, to display my sad depression.

But indulge me for a while, as I share this history lesson:

During the birth of this fair nation, in 1790, just for measure,

90% of us were farmers, a new-born nation’s treasure,

And when someone went to congress then, it was a deal of sacrifice,

They had to leave their stock behind, say goodbye to beans and rice.


But now our system’s shifted: the cause for my lament,

By 1950 in this nation, we were only 10 percent,

Today we stand together, but quite alone we stand,

Today 1% are farmers across this dusty land,

As we work to give this nation, the nurture they deserve,

We are sadly undermined by the people that we serve.


There’s more paperwork than acres, more hoops than there are plants,

We fear our public policy more than aphids, more than ants,

We used to cringe at thoughts of gophers, we used to shudder at thoughts of blight,

Now it’s fear of regulations that keeps us up at night.


We pander to our buyers, tally daily what’s been spent,

We fear the strangers at our door are from the government.

We keep faith that one day congress might value things that grow,

And find a way to value farmers even much more so,

Where once we all were central, we now sit down in the back,

We hope that we can conquer, picking up the slack,

Yet they wage wars in troubled nations due to scarcity of oil,

And wash pollutants into waters from our agri-business soil…


Read the poem in its entirety  

Poet and farmer Hilary Hodge
Hilary Hodge at a poetry reading in 2011

Hilary Hodge is an organic farmer from (in her words) “the tiny and amazing town” of North San Juan in Nevada County, California.  She graduated with a degree in English Literature, and after 7 years in social services, quit her job to return to the land.  She blogs about sustainability, sharing her passion for farming, social justice and localism.  You can read her work at her web site.

Photo of Hilary Hodge: Stevie Ellis

Other photo: Urban Artichoke

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