Knoxville — My View today leans heavily on one Kamyar Enshayan. He teaches at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls and I know him through his work with Practical Farmers of Iowa, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State, and the Buy Fresh, Buy Local campaign. In fact, Enshayan has led in bringing local food to local sites – schools, hospitals and restaurants.
His essay “Breaking Bad in Iowa” was inspired by the TV series “Breaking Bad.” As most of you know, the series was about a high school chemistry teacher in Albuquerque, N.M., who, when stricken with a terminal cancer, sought to assure his family’s financial future by teaming up with a student drug dealer and marketing methamphetamine.
Breaking bad! Inspired by that, and by his knowledge of Iowa’s horrible meth trade, Enshayan asked some friends over coffee, “What enterprise in Iowa would parallel the tragedy in 'Breaking Bad'?” To his surprise they came back as one naming “commodity agriculture” and the network of global corporations that make it work.
We see effects of that all around us. For instance, here’s one that commodity agriculture helped create. Where schools and churches and stores used to support a thriving small town we now often see nothing – or a Rural History Buff sign like “Site of Old Town Wheeling.” The corn and soy beans still grow but in larger and larger fields with the profits going to larger and larger corporations far away from Marion County. “Sociologists and economists report that markets in nearly every agricultural sector (corn, beans, beef, …) are all controlled by a handful of global corporations, leaving farmers as price takers while production expenses rise.” Small amounts of profit stay local; small farmers and farm workers have moved away to find a way to make a living.