This is a serialization of the new book written by Carl Flowers, owner of Silveus Plantation, the subject of "Groton's Anonymous Mistress." This 300-year-old house is accessed by Kemp Street near the boundary of Groton and Dunstable.

Part 61

By Carl Flowers

Animal life isn't the only issue concerning Good Agricultural Practices (on a farm). When fruits and vegetables are harvested, they have to be washed in chlorinated water. This isn't available on a majority of small family farms.

While GAP certification is optional at the present time, it may well slam the door shut in the face of the small family farmer. From a practical perspective, GAP certification may presently be pointed toward large corporations growing genetically engineered crops. Food safety would seem to be less of a problem in the local food system, but one never knows where the hammer will land.

Grocery stores and restaurants may become unavailable (to farmers) without GAP certification. Then, there's all the required documentation a farmer would have to supply, necessitating additional farm help. Besides the extra help, the additional cost of having an outside agency come to the farm several times each year to do inspections are seductive reasons for a farmer not to sell the farm's development rights.

These hardcore strategies kick up the cost of domestic food and reinforce our dependence on imported food from places with lower standards than those required for locally grown food. Certainly we've all heard reports about imported food being contaminated with fungicides, arsenic and other carcinogens.

Finding labor is another struggle. It's not uncommon for local workers to show up late or want to take off early. Saturdays and Sundays are seldom work days. Unfortunately, weeds don't keep the same schedule as farm help. Smaller farms struggle with labor shortages while bigger farms can bring in immigrant labor.

Immigrants can be counted on but their cost isn't a bargain, contrary to what many people might think. Transportation costs have to be paid for by the farmer plus room and board. The regular hourly rate has to be paid. The farmer might even be responsible for knowing if the foreign laborer is in the United States legally. When the season is over, the immigrant laborer can return to their home country and work on a farm where significantly cheaper fruits and vegetables can be grown and shipped to the United States without GAP certification.

I'm extremely perplexed by the scarcity of young people willing to work on a farm after being told hundreds of young people want to farm. You would think one of them would be available. Public and private organizations have been contacted without any success in finding someone. One private organization I contacted said it would cost around $6,000 to find someone to work on the farm who would be capable of taking it over.

To me, this cost confirms there are not hundreds of young people looking to be farmers. Maybe these hundreds of young people wanting to farm are gardeners and hobbyists who compete with the full-time farmer struggling to make a living. This explains why 3 percent of all the farmers in the United States today are under the age of 35 and why 100 percent of all the food consumed in the United States in the next 50 years will be imported. More than 90 percent of the food consumed in Massachusetts is currently imported, putting us way ahead of the 50-year projection.