Son of a Farmer

“Everything is connected. That bond is what keeps this Planet dancing round in poetic choreography. That connection is what keeps us all alive. What we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves. If we are capable of destruction, we are most certainly capable of healing. ” – Eric Herm

Eric Herm, (organic farmer, author, activist and musician) translates modern day agriculture and life through various mediums and venues in his own unique West Texas manner. With plow, pen, guitar and sarcastic wit, Herm plunges forward into a world of tumbleweeds, sandstorms, droughts, GMOs, and rural existence.

Dreamriver Press Closes Doors

Regret to announce that my publisher Dreamriver Press officially closed its doors effective January 1, 2015. Theodore Poulis helped me get my start back in 2008 when he agreed to publish my first book, Son of a Farmer, Child of the Earth. His friendship is one I will always value as I've found him to be one of the nicest and most sincere people on the planet. As he and his wife Maria enter parenthood, I wish them both the best. As they deserve that. 

It is unfortunate that independent publishing companies are having a very tough time staying in business these days, along with various forms of print media. But the relationships I've built through the years (courtesy of my books being published) have helped instill in me a stronger faith that more and more people are waking up to what has happened to our food supply and farming system.

Through conferences, book signings, political demonstrations, and many more events, I've seen the food movement grow in this country over the past eight years. I know it will continue to grow. 

Not sure what will happen with my books moving forward. If no other publishing company steps up to the plate, I may purchase the rights to keep my words alive a little longer. As I change gears moving forward into another new year and farming season, I am grateful for all those I've met in recent years who are helping to create positive change around the world in their own lives, communities, farms, and businesses. 

For now, I am narrowing my focus on my family and building something beautiful that will last longer than myself. It is a very cool and unique project/business. More on that later this year. But I am optimistic there are wonderful things on the horizon. 

These Days

Courtesy Sacred Voyages

Courtesy Sacred Voyages

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in these days we live. Read or listen to the news, it appears we are all nothing more than murderers, thieves, arsonists, terrorists, cowards, and fools. Listen to our political leaders or read the latest laws they’ve signed, sealed and delivered, it is obvious the country is run by megalomaniacs and corporate whores. Every major industry from politics to economics to agriculture to healthcare base the majority of their decisions to generate cash for themselves and the hell with everyone else.

Has this mentality, this existence of greed and gluttony spilled its way into the streets, into our blood, reprogramming our DNA? Are we slowly becoming more mechanized, more corporatized, more monopolized by all these lies and screen-staring contests? It’s a good question to ponder. It’s a relevant subject to wonder.

Here in my corner of the universe, on the edge of the desert where the prairie was born, I stare face-first into the horizon of what is now and what is coming fast. Have we slowed it down at all? Are we settling for less, lowering our expectations as more hammers fall? Or are we rising above these ashes, daring to stand strong and proud, daring to speak louder than ever so we are heard over the moans and groans, the wails and nashing of teeth? Are we organized, prepared, and ready to move forward through the cinders of smoke and bellows of flames? Are we constructing a new paradigm or clinging on to the old?

These days, it’s easy to stand frozen in horror or disbelief. These days, strength is needed. Hope is needed. Change for the better. Hopefully we are not standing around, waiting on government or some other phantom hero to bail us out, to save us from the swift currents churning all around. For it is only us, only ourselves who are here to take such a stand and make the necessary change of direction…that only comes from a leap of faith, strength and hope.

Thoughts Upon Return from The Big Apple

Image by Anna Brix Thompson

Image by Anna Brix Thompson

Coming back from my whirlwind trip in New York City, I had a couple of days to rest, relax and regain some perspective on this food movement, as well as the relationships I continue to build along the way.

It’s amazing how fast this is spreading. For years I was frustrated as it seemed  most Americans didn’t or would never care about our food, what has happened and continues to happen to our food and seed supply. But I sense that more and more people are tapping into this awareness on many levels – not only the GMO issue but food in general and how intertwined the health of our body is to the health of the food we eat.

Each trip, each event, I come in contact with so many people who are doing some incredible things in this life. Whether activists, artists, farmers, community organizers, or groups and individuals rethinking and restructuring business models to work in harmony with their own environment, I tend to find many courageous leaders and revolutionaries. It is inspiring.

Was blessed to do an interview with Sean Kaminsky, who is the director/producer of an upcoming documentary called Open Sesame: The Story of Seeds. We had a wonderful conversation in Prospect Park and talked extensively about the importance of a healthy natural seed supply.

Also did an in-depth interview with journalist Helen Zuman of Brooklyn. It was hands-down the most intelligent questions anyone has ever asked me about agriculture/nature/life in general. One carefully constructed and well-thought out question after another, Helen dug deeper into the subject. A talented and deep being, I look forward to reading more of her writing.

The interview on the Leonard Lopate Show went well. It was my second time on Leonard’s show and have really enjoyed discussing topics with him and the folks at WNYC.

A big shout out to Don, Marco and all the cool people with At Home in Brooklyn. It is a beautiful B&B located right on Prospect Park in the Park Slope area.

Also thanks to Theodore with Dreamriver Press for putting on a cool book launch party for me in the West Village. We had a strong turnout and met many incredible people.

I’m glad to be back home now, where we have actual “winter-like” weather for the first time. Temperatures dipped down into the 20s last night, but they are expected to stay there only a couple of days before going back up into the 60s again. Crazy weather.

So, I go back to farmer things: building fence, working on tractors and preparing for next year’s crop. But every time I visit the concrete jungle, I always come back with a slightly altered perspective juiced with a little more inspiration.

Ignore Propaganda: A Letter to California on Prop 37

Dear Californians,

It’s not unusual for all Americans to be lied to from Labor Day to Thanksgiving. This being an election year, the manure is getting piled so high, waders are needed to cover your coveralls.
However, it is unusual for you to be told lies about the food you’re eating, the meals you’re preparing for your children and what we consume daily in our entire food system. But we’re eating more than just lies by the spoon and fork-full. We’re also eating poisonous genes in 90 percent of many meals involving corn, canola, soy, sugar beets and cotton. Soon to join them are alfalfa, wheat and much more.

Prop 37 is perhaps the single most important vote in the entire 2012 election. Forget the empty suits and promises. This is about the stuff that keeps us alive – food. The people of California can get GMOs labeled in this country. For the first time since GMOs starting dominating agriculture (mid-1990s), we could actually have the right to know whether or not we’re eating food with herbicide and pesticide genes imprinted into its DNA, and eventually our own DNA.
You’ve seen some of the ridiculous commercials stating it will run farmers out of business. Lies.

You’ve heard in other ads, it will cost everyone more money for their food. More lies. What it will do is inconvenience many billionaire food and seed companies. They’ll actually have to monitor the poisonous ingredients they’re selling us and put a label of truth on their food. As a fourth-generation farmer, I’ve seen the horrific impact GMO crops have on local rural economies, as GMO companies charge farmers 12-15 times the amount of natural seed. I once planted genetically-modified cotton. Once I found it what it was in 2006, I haven’t planted another GM seed since and never will.

Billionaire companies like Monsanto rely on the same trick as most of our politicians: they’re counting on you to be lazy and uninformed. They’re counting on you to continue to ignore the real truths screaming behind the one-dimensional packaging ingredients. They’re counting on you to believe more lies in the form of propaganda.

They want you to believe this manipulation of genes is high-tech, the wave of the future. They want you to believe we have to have these GMO crops to feed our growing populations. In the same breath, they want you to avoid years of research that it causes cancer, liver atrophy, spleen damage, that it weakens the immune system and poisons your digestive system like a slow drip of rattlesnake venom every day. They also don’t want you to believe that GMOs have anything to do with food allergies and the ever increasing rates of neurological disorders in children like autism, ADD, and ADHD. No, not the same company that told us Agent Orange was perfectly safe. Not the same company that told us DDT was harmless. They couldn’t be wrong again…could they?
As long as you believe the lies, they win and will continue to manipulate, dominate and poison your food. And they’ll expect you to thank them for such wonderful technology that weakens your body, mind and spirit. Ignore the lies. Ignore the propaganda. Ignore so-called “experts.” Just think about this issue, think long and hard and use the non-GMO parts of your brain. So on behalf of all living creatures, I ask that all Californians vote YES on Prop 37 this week. When you go into the voting booth, use your own common sense. Vote with your mind, your heart and your stomach.

 

Part of the Whole

For many years, I lived separate – separate from Nature, separate from friends and family, separate from what I ate, drank, or even loved. Coming back home to the family farm was an awakening, or better yet a reawakening. Being a part of the Earth, a flesh and bone guardian angel of the soil, gives one a clearer perspective that everything is one…not separate.


The great gold coin slips into the slot of night’s jukebox.

The great gold coin slips into the slot of night’s jukebox.

The great gold coin slips into the slot of night's jukebox.

On this farm, I’ve learned that everything is connected. What I do to the Earth, I do to my children, my parents, my ancestors, my neighbors, and myself. Everything is alive – the soil, microscopic organisms, earthworms, bees, lady bugs, hawks, sparrows, rabbits, coyotes and much more. Water flowing above and below ground is our life source as is the soil from which we grow our crops. Healthy water and soil grows healthy food. Healthy food nourishes our mind, body, and spirit. Healthy humans are more complete beings, more fulfilled. Without healthy water and soil, we are unable to reach our highest potential.

In Son of a Farmer, Child of the Earth I wanted to reach people with common sense principles but with a soulful purpose. This book reaffirms the importance of our connection to all things. Through educating people about our food and water supply, GMOs, herbicides and pesticides, government policies and every significant aspect of agriculture, we are literally exposing the root of many problems in our culture – environmentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.    Nature is not a commodity. Nature is an extension of ourselves. We cannot change this world for the better if we do not know what the problems are. We cannot solve those problems by using the same methods that caused them. We are the necessary change that must occur on this planet. As humans, we are the flesh and bone collective consciousness with a tremendous honor and responsibility – healing the Earth. We cannot heal ourselves until we heal the Earth. We cannot be who we were meant to be until we accept that we are part of the whole, not separate, not any better or worse, but privileged to be in the position to make this transition of higher consciousness by connecting to all things.

In Surviving Ourselves, I wanted to dig deeper into our relationship with Nature and reveal how everything we do to the planet, we are ultimately doing to ourselves. We’ve removed our existence so far from nature that we are collectively segregated. In many instances, we consider ourselves superior, thus widening the gap between us and the rest of the whole.

By making this connection with proper actions, true living begins. This message that beats within our chests is the same song sung by the river’s flow, the mountain’s summit, the prairie’s wind, and the desert’s cry. Together, it is a song of harmony. Fragmented, it’s just noise.

Contemplating Modern-Day Survival

On a daily basis I contemplate the consternation of the present and the uncertainty of the near future. A quote from Charles Darwin has imbedded itself upon the window of my skull ever since I moved back to the family farm in 2005.

Darwin said, “It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the ones most adaptable to change.” Somehow, I take comfort in that. As unemployment soars and economies tumble, millions of Americans are finding how just how resilient they have to be in order to survive. Most of the country is spiraling downward. Ironically, the economy here in West Texas is thriving at an all-time high due to high oil prices and production.

Until this boom goes bust, our area will continue to prosper. Many families are making more money than they ever dreamed as oil companies offer entry level wages of $25 per hour. As a result, it is hard to keep workers on the farm. We can’t compete with those prices. Neither can other local businesses. From restaurants and convenient stores to commercial retail, most places are having a hard time keeping a full staff to keep their doors open as most men have plenty of motivation to abandon old jobs for the high salaries in the oil field.

As we dive deeper into this transitional time period, change is inevitable. Evolution is a means of survival now more than ever. What is evident to many of us is not accepted by the majority — the simple fact that we cannot continue to live as we have for the past 60 or 70 years. The concept of perpetual growth has its breaking point…in everything, particularly Nature. All our clever disguises of progression are surely collapsing beside, behind, and in front of our very forms.

As I say all these clever things, I continue to walk with one foot in our past world with the other frantically hop-scotching in the other. As a young farmer hell-bent on changing our commercial methods into something meaningful and sustainable, it is inevitable I still generate an income for my family in order to afford many of the items we’ll need in the years to come. Such as a large tank for rainwater harvesting, livestock equipment, gardening tools, small wagons, canning jars, greenhouse construction materials, organic seed, books, documentaries, and anything else I deem necessary for my family’s independent survival.

I’ve broken this evolution into securing four basic principles of living: water, food, shelter, and love. How profound, I know. But when times get tough, I say simplify life. We are harvesting rainwater to endure droughts, watering our garden and orchards through two rain-free months this summer. Growing our own food and storing seeds safeguards us against food price spikes and/or food shortages. Building an earthen home and reinforcing with limestone rock (from a local quarry) is insulating our home against rising energy costs and intense weather elements. Focusing on my family, enjoying my children, and ensuring I am there for my wife no matter the situation further strengthens our bond and love as both will be vital in the years ahead.

It’s easy to let these turbulent times overwhelm us, as I’m sure I have at times. But as the provider of my family, I only have to look into the eyes of my two sons to realize how much more determined I must be to ensure our adaptation to change. No, I can’t control the actions or reactions of billions of people. No, I can’t control what world leaders decide is best nor change the missions of corporate giants overnight. But I sure as hell control what I do, how I do it, and when I do it. That is my saving grace. That and hoping that somehow, someway our species will unite in purpose before it is too late…taking Darwin’s thought to heart and into action.

Mama Said There'd be Days Like This

My mama said me there’d be days like this. But she didn’t say nothin’ about two years’ worth right in a row. Even my granddad and dad have told me of their own struggles in great detail, but their experiences of past burdens do little to ease the pains of mine as a farmer.

It’s funny. With all our technological advances into the 21st century with impressive gadgets, computers, satellites, GPS, chemistry, etc., farming just doesn’t get any easier on some levels. Yeah, we’re riding bigger, more powerful tractors and pulling fancier, more expensive equipment, but our visions of grandeur come crashing back down to earth because of something as tiny as a grasshopper or rootworm or thrip.

No matter how many acres we farm or how large our tractors get, Nature has a way of humbling our labor, bringing unforgiving attention to our methods. All that blood, sweat, and tears doesn’t mean anything if one microscopic or tiny genre or family or species gets a hankering for our crops because the ecosystem gets out of balance. Their invasions can cut us down to size pretty fast, making us recognize our vulnerable mortality.

So, halfway into 2012, I find myself humbled…yet again, for the thirtieth time within 18 months. O’ farming, how you pain me. But I love it. It’s almost as if I crave these lessons so they’ll make me stronger, transform me into beef jerky, a Super Bowl Champion, and air traffic controller all rolled into one humungous yarn of chewable perseverance.

We’re recovering from the worst drought on record in 2011. Then we get our hopes up with some key rains and snow for 2012. Then the dry heat and high winds come, bringing only spotted rains, so spotted that the drops are only wet on one side. Then I get Roundup drift damage from my neighbor on my only organic field. Then come the thrips. Then the cutworms. Then the grasshoppers. Then Roundup drift damage on another field.

You get the point. Although it is the oldest profession (you can Google it), farming still isn’t that easy. But we’ll be fine. The cotton will grow out of the thrips damage. The cutworms have weeded out the weak from the strong plants. I’ll turn the grasshoppers away with a heavy dose of garlic spray. As far as the Roundup damage goes, that won’t go away. But I’m dealing with it best I can.

So although 2012 is halfway gone, I’m ready for the other half to bring on whatever it has to offer. I can take it. Afterall, I’ve had several generations worth of training…and warning.

Why I stopped planting GMOs

In 2005 and 2006, I talked my Dad into planting about 1,000 acres of Roundup Ready (genetically-modified) cotton on our 6,000-acre family farm in West Texas. It was a way for us to cut back on fuel and labor. Since GMOs (genetically-modified organisms) was marketed as the way of the future, I bought in hook, line and sinker.

But one day while planting the GM seeds in 2006, I began reading the bag. It was covered with one WARNING SIGN after another. There were more disclaimers on the bag of seed than a gallon of herbicide. A asked myself, “What exactly is this stuff I’m planting?” So I began to do a little research into GMOs (genetically-modified organisms) and Monsanto.

What I discovered through ceaseless internet pages and books was that I was severely disrupting the laws of nature. This high-technology seed was injected with genes from herbicides and pesticides. Essentially, I was planting poisonous seed. I read about studies in Jeffrey Smith’s book Genetic Roulette how the GM seed/food was creating severe health issues in mammals from mice to cows. Stomach lesions, organ shrinkage, liver atrophy, higher cancer rates, weakened immune system, sterility, infertility, sudden-death syndrome (SDS), and higher rates of newborn fatalities.

I would wake up in cold sweats during the middle of the night the remainder of that 2006 season, wondering what I was doing to wildlife, pollinating insects, and unsuspecting livestock that might feed on our cotton seed. What was I doing to thousands who would use the vegetable oil from our cotton seed? What was I doing to our soil and all the microscopic organisms needed to feed it?Going into 2007, I informed my Dad I would never plant another GM seed again. He didn’t exactly embrace my stance at first. But as he watched our crops out yield all of our neighbors planting GM cotton in 2007, Dad realized we were on the right path.

Everybody eats. Every living things is impacted by this issue. We are infecting not only ourselves with GMOs, but all living creatures. As farmers, we are the caretakers of the food chain. We make the decisions that impact billions of people and countless other beings.

When three consecutive generations are fed a purely GM diet, they can no longer produce a fourth generation. Thanks to an animal’s sixth sense, they will choose natural feed over GM feed every time. But we aren’t giving them a choice in commercial dairies, feedlots and factory farms. How many farmers, ranchers and everyday consumers buy corn to feed livestock, deer, geese and other wildlife? Ninety percent of corn is now genetically modified, as is cotton, canola, soybeans and sugar beets. This only took fifteen years for billion dollar corporations like Monsanto to dominate these five commodity crops. They now have alfalfa along with experimental plots of rice and a handful of vegetable crops like squash, peppers and tomatoes.

Currently, there are over 165 million acres of GM crops in the U.S. Meanwhile, more than 50 countries across the world have banned GMOs or require labeling on food products. We have neither. Everyone is eating GM ingredients, and they don’t even know it.

I’ve seen local infrastructure in our farming community decimated due to GM crops. Seed delinting companies, grain mills and other seed-related businesses are going bankrupt because farmers no longer support them. Farmers are forced to purchase the Roundup Ready cotton seed every year due to Monsanto’s STEWARDSHIP/TECHNOLOGY AGREEMENT. This agreement holds the farmer completely liable for any issues that arrive from the crop, and due to the arbitration agreement the only compensation a farmer can receive is the price he paid for the seed. Companies like Monsanto have patents on these seeds and will prosecute farmers for violating that patent whether intentional or not. Just ask our fellow farmer Percy Schmeiser of Canada. His organic canola was contaminated by neighbors planting GM canola, but that didn’t stop Monsanto from filing suit. Is this a company we want to support?

By supporting billion dollar corporations, we are destroying our local economy. About 80 percent of a farmer’s budget is dedicated to the GM seed and herbicide, which is now costing about ninety dollars per acre. A 50 lb. bag of seed now costs farmers over $350. With our natural seed, we have less than $30 per bag invested. While we take a few more trips across the field each season and spend more on labor, I sleep better at night knowing that I’m going about farming the right way. I’m still a farmer, an extension of the earth and not an extension of a chemical company trying to dominate the world’s seed supply.

I encourage farmers and consumers everywhere to boycott GM crops or biotech companies like Monsanto, Bayer Crop Science, Syngenta, DuPont and Dow Chemical. If we’re going to preserve agriculture for the next generation, we must do so in a natural way. Don’t fall for the snake oil sales pitch. What little money you might save in a couple of years will cost you and your community much more in the short and long term.


Thoughts from Expo West

Spending a couple more days back in California, my first taste of the Natural Products Expo West show earlier this month was quite a memorable bite. Some 30,000+ plus people attended the shin-dig over that weekend.

Hanging out with Mike Larocca, head of marketing for Beanitos.

Hanging out with Mike Larocca, head of marketing for Beanitos.

A big thank you to all the wonderful people at Beanitos. They are a wonderful food company based in Austin, Texas, producing non-GMO chips. Great people…and chips.

Met so many cool people and saw some familiar faces from the Right 2 Know March to Washington D.C. People like David Bronner of Dr. Bronner’s Soap, Ariel, Adam Eidenger, Chris O’Keefe (Right 2 Know) and several others.

Got to spend some quality time with Pamm Larry, who started the Label GMOs campaign in California and is spear-heading the petition for signatures right now in the Golden State. In their pursuit of 800,000 signatures, we’ll find out if Cali will have the right to vote for GMO labeling in just a few weeks. Pamm and I drove to San Diego for a television interview on the local Fox affiliate.

which is a great publication. Not to mention Jeffrey Smith, author and grand-daddy of the non-GMO movement in this country. It was a real treat spending time and getting to know these people face-to-face.

Pamm Larry, of Label GMOs, is the fiery leader in California.

Pamm Larry, of Label GMOs, is the fiery leader in California.

While spending time indoors in the Anaheim Convention Center, which is much larger than my hometown, I was a little overwhelmed. Sitting at the Beanitos booth and not seeing the sun, sky or outdoors threw my mind and body out of sync. But I recovered. The quick dash across the country was well worth the time and energy to meet some of the real courageous leaders in this movement against GMOs.

There is a real genuine concern now with not only consumers but food companies regarding GM foods’ harmful side effects on human health, as well as the environment. More people are starting to realize that companies like Monsanto are washing their hands of any liability so all the blame falls to the farmer and food company. It’s going to take all of us in this fight to not only get labeling but spread more awareness about the dangers of GM foods and their negative impact on life in general. After meeting more of the warriors in this fight, I am hopeful we are gaining ground.