Monday, August 30, 2010

Factory foods, recent egg recall

I scream for Americans to wake up. Why have we let this happen? Why is what we eat no longer important? Why do we think of food a merely a commodity like oil? Why do we no longer respect real farmers or the crops they farm? We spent much time debating escalating healthcare costs but put little thought in how we can be healthy.

And now we will push for more regulations (such as s.510) that will have very little to do with how we farm but will be more about sterilizing the end product. This will result in dead foods where beneficial organisms for digestion will be eliminated just to kill the dangerous ones that need not be present. Wake up America while you still can.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A time again for Independent farming and foods

There are many problems in the US, jobs, health, hunger, energy, housing, environmental disasters, population concentrations etc. etc. How many of these issue have to do with something as basic as our approach to food production and farming?

To understand how we got to where we are you have to look back in history. As we first settled in America of course our first needs were food, shelter and basic products. Much needed to be imported as we worked to built our infrastructure and independence and grew our population. The industrial revolution demanded labor which was in short supply. Much of the labor was on the farms so if farming was industrialized labor could be freed up to build cites and manufacturing of other needed products. Energy was abundant and cheap and could be used to mechanize agriculture and grow products taking less labor. We often here of figures of how many farmers it has taken over our history to feed and provide fiber for people. Energy in the form of oil and natural gas drove increased production per farmer. These energy forms powered the equipment, was the source for fertilizing the land and the base for the chemicals to controls pests. Though somewhat successful in a sense in the past this approach was not without many shortcomings that we are now starting to understand.

Have the driving forces changed in todays situation? Is labor still in short supply? Is energy still cheap and abundant? Is irrigation water still cheap and abundant to add to soils were chemical fertilizers replaced organic matter nutrients that conserved water needs? Is chemical pest controls still the best approach? Are genetically modified seeds really the new answer to some shortcomings? Can we really survive on corn and soybeans and only a few crops that work well with an industrialized food system? Presently, how safe and healthy are these products to people and the environment.

Now I'm not saying there isn't a role for industrial agriculture. But the new broadly called sustainable agriculture movement I feel can also have a role in dealing with many of the issues I first mentioned. It has much room to grow and can as it has in the recent past actually help to improve many of the approaches of the past industrial ag. monopoly.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


With the popularity of local farming, production can not keep up with demand. Consumers are attracted to a more direct relationship to foods and those that produce them. Whether it be freshness, farming practices, transparency, variety, local economic benefits, food education, environmental stewardship, job creation, sustainability, energy considerations, safety, farm integration crop security, chemical reduction, etc. etc. there is much to offer. For most of our history, family farms were passed down from generation to generation. This has changed in recent times.

Many of the people now interested in farming are not coming from farming families and many traditional family farms now find their next generation may just be interested in another career. How might we consider new ways for transition?

The cost of getting on a farm can be very prohibitive. Lenders have always considered a farm as very risky due to the lack of control of impacts of nature.

Is it time to consider examining how we might create workable independent farming systems for the future?

Fortunately, we still have our state based Land Grant universities and Cooperative Extension service that could help to develop the essential understandings and dissemination of information for a new approach.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Land Grant Universities

The state based Land Grant universities were established and given the mission of being the heart of state based local farming systems. They can also be involved in national and global initiatives as long as they fulfill their local obligation. When the local systems were disbanded the primary focus shifted to national and global programs. With the increasing interests in the revitalization of local systems they must again recognize their local obligations.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The National Farming System

During the past century it was believed that a completely Nationalized farming system could work. Abundances of products produced with maximum efficiency for low prices. USDA/FDA would provide the needed oversight and be responsible to educate and inform the public. The state Land Grant universities would shift their efforts from local farming systems to supporting the ever expanding national system.
Once the full commitment was set by mid-century, those farmers along with what was left of the infrastructure that had been part of the local farming system were warned that unless they shifted to the national system they would become extinct. US Secretaries of Agriculture used statements such as "Get Big or Get Out!" and "Adapt or Die". At that point there were no longer any managed state wide local farming systems.