I have been thinking how to convince small farmers that they are facing a big opportunity, and if they will use this opportunity, it will strengthen the socio-economic position of their farms. First of all this chance depends on their own activities and initiative, not that of the government, and their appreciation of the value of what they have. If we don’t take any action, we will be blamed by future generations that we allowed the destruction of Polish traditions, culture, and the countryside landscape, and voluntarily allowed colonization by the EU. Based on my observations during my visits to Western Europe and the U.S.A., I can state that in general the Polish countryside is rich. This is a quite shocking statement, because for many years we have been taught that the Polish countryside is poor and backward, and that we need to modernize, chemisize and urbanize the countryside. The propaganda was so strong that we as countryside people believed it, forgetting that we are the citizens of these villages, and that these foreign ideas were imposed by a small but strong group of business people. Why is it like this? Simply because the interests of countryside people and these business people are different.
Behind the idea to reduce in Poland the number of farms, and instead to create big chemical industrial farms, are for example big international corporations which simply want to make a business of selling to Polish farmers their seeds, chemicals, pesticides and machines. Moreover, it is very important for them to win the Polish market, because most Western countries are turning from chemical agriculture and going towards environmentally friendly agriculture. So these big business people are seeking new markets and victims.
The second group which strongly supports the idea of removing from the Polish map more than one million Polish farms, are politicians. (Already even kindergarten children know that these two groups are closely related.) Why? The politicians are afraid that products from Polish farmers will be too big a rival for Western countries. We have in Poland more than 2 million family farms, and more than 60% of these are small (less than 8 ha). These farmers never used too much chemicals. Their soils are not polluted. These farmers have a lot of knowledge and like their work. So you can easily imagine that with a little support and good policies from the government, let’s say half of these farms will turn to organic production. That would make a revolution in the European food market (In Poland it takes only 2 years to convert from traditional to organic farming). Products from Polish farmers will then be better and cheaper than projects of Western Europe. So Poland can become a granary for eco-foods for Europe. Politicians want to block the development of this kind of rivalry from Poland right from the start.
While supporting the reduction in the number of small Polish farms (more than a million) and the modernization and chemicalization of big farms, no one is speaking about the consequences-destroying the environment and impoverishing the landscape and biodiversity, destroying the traditions and culture of the Polish countryside, and creating a big wave of unemployment. No one is saying what the farmers will do without their farms, where they will find employment, if they will be able to live in the big overcrowded cities, and if there will even be a place for them in these cities.
There are values which make the Polish countryside rich. They are so familiar and common for Polish farmers that we are not able to see and appreciate them? (But people from Western countries do appreciate them.) First of all, most Polish farmers own their own farms. Not the banks like in the U.S. and Western European countries in many cases. This means that the farmers can decide what to produce and how to produce, and not clerks from the EU or from the banks. Second, most Polish farms have unspoiled soil, and can produce ecological food, supply consumers with high quality food, and get a good price for it. (Under competition with the EU, our only chance is to sell high quality food.) Third, traditional Polish farms are very attractive and their qualities are recognized in Western countries. So we can market these qualities. Fourth, thanks to the big number of small farms, our landscapes are very picturesque and attractive to tourists. And our landscapes are very rich in biodiversity. And this is the base for developing ecological tourism to farms, which will provide farmers with additional income. Fifth, before the Second World War we had a good tradition of cooperation and support among farmers at the local level. So we should come back to this. We also have very beautiful and rich countryside traditions, which have passed from generation to generation, and it is our duty to save these traditions for posterity. All the above-mentioned values cannot be bought. And no amount of money can restore them if they are lost. European countries and the U.S. in their mad, materialistic ways, destroyed many of these values in their own countrysides, and that is why their countrysides are now very poor. A highway or supermarket can be built in a year, but it takes at least 50 years to grow a big tree.
Let’s not make ourselves crazy by thoughtlessly importing any foreign solutions. We should remember that not only the economy is involved, but also the whole way of life can be changed for the worse. And no one will calculate whether the result is good for the country, but only whether a company is making a big profit.
It is high time that the citizens of the countryside start to feel like the real owners of our own land, and start to fight for our rights, so that we will bring into the EU the real values that we received from the past and still have.
This opportunity that Polish farmers have now is exceptional, because both the EU representatives and the Polish government are now declaring support for organic agriculture. By strong grassroots pressure from the farmers, we could very effectively convince them to fulfill the promises that they have made.