RURAL ROUTES/Margot Ford McMillen

Harvest Fest

The last distribution at our local CSA -- Community-Supported Agriculture Farm -- has come and gone, and the farmers that run the plow announced that after nine months of 80-hour weeks they are going to kick back for a while. "For the first time, we've made enough so we don't have to take winter jobs," they joyfully told me.

For a farmer, that is success of the highest rank.

Most farms are supported by jobs that farmers take to support their "farming habit." But, even in today's dismal economy, sales on the local level are growing. Consumer dollars make the difference.

Small-farm operators work grueling hours raising produce or animals, or processing foods in a certified kitchen, but today their bottom line is healthier than ever. Consumers are choosing local products over food raised in faraway places under conditions we can't even imagine.

So here is my holiday wish for you: As you bless the meal, try to name the farmers that raised everything on your table.

If you find that your Thanksgiving foods come from the Corporate Cons -- ConAgra, Continental Grain, Cargill, Philip Morris -- resolve that next year will be different!

And the day after Thanksgiving? Celebrate Buy-Nothing Day!

Sometimes, even the best government in the world says things we don't agree with. Like advising "spend spend spend" when most of our goods come from far away, riding a transportation system that sucks oil from other countries. This is especially cruel advice when an estimated 25% of our citizens have credit problems.

On Buy-Nothing Day, my family will do what we've always done to celebrate. We'll call our friends and neighbors to bring their families and leftovers and spend the afternoon and stay well into the night. Because we have a lot of family around for the holiday, a party is easy to pull off. Everyone pitches in.

Buy-Nothing Day founder Kalle Lasn reminds North Americans that we consume "five times more than a Mexican, 10 times more than a Chinese person, and 30 times more than a person from India ... Give it a rest."

Lasn is founder of Media Foundation in Vancouver. He publishes Adbusters Magazine. In 1997, he raised enough money to buy commercials for Buy-Nothing Day on the major TV networks.

Richard Gitter, VP of Advertising Standards at NBC, turned down the ads, saying "We don't want to take any advertising that's inimical to our legitimate business interests." The CBS rejection letter said Buying Nothing is "in opposition to the current economic policy in the United States." That was in 1997. Today, they might say that Buying-Nothing is positively anti-American and will hurt the "war" effort. The networks also rejected Lasn's commercials for TV Turn-off Week.

Lasn says, "There's something fundamentally undemocratic about our public airways."

Buy-Nothing Day extends the happy quiet of Thanksgiving. Instead of launching the major holiday shopping season, Buy-Nothing Day helps us remember we have other ways to entertain ourselves.

Let's face it. Maxing out our credit cards creates stress. Child and spouse abuse rates rise over the holidays. And, besides creating stress, holiday spending creates mess. Americans produce an extra million tons of waste each week in the five-week holiday season.

The cost of disposing of that junk doesn't come off the corporate bottom line. The cost of waste disposal comes from our tax dollars -- the same public dollars that are stretched to pay for education, parks, fireman's salaries and other public expenditures. If accounting was the science it's supposed to be, corporate profits would be lessened by the amount spent to dispose of the waste. That would include disposing of packaging, smokestack waste, transportation emissions, hog lagoon waste, nuclear waste--all the trashy by-products of their industrial processes.

But until accounting practices change, individuals can get off the industrial treadmill, starting with Buy-Nothing Day. We can do this in the same spirit that resistors throughout history have refused to be complicit with systems they knew were wrong.

2001 will mark the seventh annual Buy-Nothing Day. You probably have the day off, so it's perfect for doing the million things you never get done. Go through winter things for stuff to give away. Get a group together to paint a room in your community center, library, medical clinic. Help a neighbor winterize their house.

Or, spend the day doing something for yourself. Visit a museum. Read a book. Design a budget that will get you out of debt, and share it with family members who need to know. Start a journal to record your thoughts. Really clean out your worst closet. Make a list of things you'll do in the next week, month, year. Reminding yourself that if it's not on the list, it won't get done, be sure that "seek peace" is on the list.

If you're active in your community, help a community group plan a Buy-Nothing celebration. Theme: We can get by without the mall on one day a year. Invite people to bring board games, musical instruments, a sense of humor, and a desire to be with others.

For your holiday giving, there's a long list of things you can give that will support the things you care about. As Sept. 11 donations grew, donations to other non-profits may have shrunk. I am, personally, worried about the finances of independent media. I'll be giving subscriptions to The Progressive Populist and other indies.

KOPN 89.5 FM, mid-Missouri's community radio station, sells holiday gift boxes. Many non-profits sell calendars and hand-made items. Ask them how much money stays in your area. If you're satisfied with the answer, buy from them.

If you're not satisfied with the answer, buy directly from a local artist or craftsperson. One friend buys a piece of quality, locally-made clothing every year. She has a closet full of interesting things to wear, and she never worries that she's keeping the sweatshops in business.

We're making a difference, wise consumers. Our communities grow stronger with every dollar we spend nearby.

Margot Ford McMillen farms and teaches English at a college in Fulton, Mo. Email:

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