Florida’s Farmers and Friends Are Saving Not only Farms But Also Rural Areas

by Bobby Reyes

Florida Orange Grove | Photo by MmacBeth via Wikimedia Commons

Part XVI of the “Florida, the State of the Future” Series

Florida’s farmers and their friends are saving farmlands and rural areas. They formed the “Save Our Rural Areas” (SORA) and have a Facebook Group. They accepted this columnist’s membership application.

The “Save Our Rural Areas” is a 501-c (3) non-profit organization founded in 2006 by concerned residents of rural NW Marion County, Florida. Their mission is to preserve the rural life and open spaces of North Central Florida. Yes, “Keep the Country County.”

After its administrators advised me that I could already post in the said SORA Facebook Group, I posted this note: “When I ran in 2016 for governor of my home province of Sorsogon (Philippines), I included in my socioeconomic platform the creation of a Governor’s SWATT Team.

For the 2020 presidential Democratic primary, I proposed the SWATT idea to Mike Bloomberg, but my handler in his campaign organization said it would only be acted if he wins the nomination.

As also posted in the “BLEAK LIVES MATTER (‘Born Against’ Movement)” Facebook Group in 2020, I wrote: How Do We Help “BLEAK LIVES”? We may be able to field in rural towns what we call the SWATT Teams.

SWATT is the acronym for “Social Workers, Agriculturists, Teachers and Technicians.”

To the limited knowledge of this columnist, the SORA may be the only group with advocacy for saving rural areas and farmlands, of course. Even if one searches online for “entities for saving rural areas,” Mr. Google can produce hardly any similar-sounding entity. Google can only present government agencies like the USDA Rural Development Summary of Major Programs and other government-run programs.

Perhaps the SORA (being a not-for-profit entity) can spearhead the SWATT Team project. Almost a thousand farmers in Texas and the Deep South, including Florida, committed suicide in the past decade alone. Why? Because they were despondent about losing their farms, as they could not pay back the bank loans that they borrowed to keep them afloat during lean times.

This columnist also said that he could write more about the SWATT idea and more details about how to help the destitute farmers preserve their agricultural holdings. The initiative can be done in Florida as a pilot project.

I invited the SORA members to look at the cover photo of a shanty in which a poor Filipino family has to live. It has old-and-used tarpaulin for the roof and cardboard boxes for the walls. It has no kitchen, no electricity, no tap water, no toilet, and not even a sink. I took the photo myself. It really broke my heart, as on that small island, more than 70 indigent families were living in it.

The homeless communities in the United States do not even have the “luxury” of a similar shanty that local authorities tolerate in Third-World countries like the Philippines. If the SWATT idea flourishes in Florida — as spearheaded by the SORA and its coalition partners — other states and countries can use the Floridian SWATT experience as a template and perhaps copy it.

This journalist also told the SORA Admins that he founded a Facebook Group called “Come Visit (Or Sail to) Rustic Philippines” on October 9, 2011. Thus, we have similar words, rural and rustic.

There are more environmental projects that the SORA may spearhead — if it raises substantial funding as it recruits more members. Perhaps it can be a national federation and even an international entity. If the SORA approves the ideas, this columnist may assist it not only by writing about the need to “save rural (and rustic) areas, especially farmlands” in the United States and also in the Philippines and Mexico, for a start.

My Fellow Filipinos, especially Sorsoganons, can help the SORA and its affiliated entities or branches plant, for instance, mangrove seedlings and saplings in designated areas on North-American beaches and shallow portions of the coast (where the seabed appears during low tide).

“An international coalition of SORA federated entities can also move to help financially-strapped farms become cooperatives, with co-op new members (even non-farmers also becoming stakeholders).”

We can also assist the SORA in building artificial (man-made) islands. This columnist registered the domain name “Islands of the Future” at www.islesofuture.com. It will eventually operate a website to document the building of man-made islands that can reduce storm (or hurricane) surges so as to minimize destruction on the mainland. They can also raise oysters that filter seawater and make it cleaner. And at the same time, plant mangrove saplings so as to accelerate the formation of mini-” forests in the waters surrounding the artificial isles.

And inland, we can make barren mountains become green and alive with wildlife. It will just cost environmentalists to help recruit part-and-full-time “tree farmers” in the Philippines (and in the Third World) by paying an annual salary. Yes, a full year’s compensation (for maintaining “tree farms” on government land) is the equivalent merely of one-tenth (1/10) of the annual salary of the minimum-wage earner in the United States. Here is Part VI of my 2007 series on the “Ecology and Environment that discussed how to fund reforestation as a solution to Global Warming.

An international coalition of SORA federated entities can also move to help financially-strapped farms become cooperatives, with co-op new members (even non-farmers also becoming stakeholders). Then corporate sponsorship can be tapped to further increase the efforts to secure more human-and-financial resources to protect more “our common matriarch, Mother Earth,” as this columnist has coined and used in many of his writings about the environment.

It is up to the SORA to discuss among its members if they make like to go to the next level and become an international movement. As soon as the SORA members approve some if not all, of the suggestions, then task forces can be formed to make operational the projects the Board of Directors (Trustees) officially approved. Then joint ventures with multilateral and foreign entities can be negotiated and signed.

Helping Mother Earth, and in the process, assisting in saving our planet, mankind, and all wildlife, is not easy. But perhaps we should paraphrase President John F. Kennedy, who said that Americans should use to launch the Moonshot Project because “it is not easy but a hard and difficult project.” The SORA of Florida can be a trailblazer — just like President Joe Biden, who has also initiated his “Cancer Moonshot” Initiative.

Yes, we know that many of the senior leaders in the SORA and this columnist are now senior citizens. But as this journalist wrote an article for President Biden, “it is now time not be old but to be bold” — even in helping Americans, mankind, and Mother Earth.

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