The article is great, and covers a lot of topics which expand even further in the comment, including the impact of choosing industrial-style farming – right down to imported, Irish butter – over finding and choosing locally produced butter.
“I suppose farming will keep on going how it is”
I think that is pretty obvious. Climate and economic instability make our ability to feed our neighbors, our nation, and the world an issue worthy of concern. The current affluent-era, industrial style farming currently meets that need. I don’t see anyone winning anything if industrial style farming were dismantled before local, sustainable, superior food quality production is ready to replace it.
The currently aging industrial farm population, without an incoming legion of apprentice and journeyman farmers supporting, learning, and preparing to continue the practices make such a transition not just desirable, but pose a looming threat to food security.
The current debt deflation crisis (eroding the affluent credit market that makes industrial, Monsanto-style farming feasible) and rising energy costs, as well as threats to oil availability as world demand continues to erode the ability to produce enough oil to meet demand (that is, erratic availability and rising prices of all classes of energy) contribute to that looming threat.
I think looking at so-called “modern” farming practices, and farmers, is the wrong focus. Yes, there will be some fringe few willing to experiment and change. One focus might be to influence state agriculture colleges to investigate alternative practices and promulgate better ways through state extension services. Unfortunately, the focus on what a small farm can do doesn’t relate well when an operation is already at the level of 500 head of livestock, or several thousands of acres under cultivation.
One thought I had was a form of homestead program. An area of an existing, large farm might be set aside, and leased out in a rent-to-own proposition to “homesteaders” – people that would occupy and farm the land, perhaps a 10-40 acre parcel, for 10 years at modest rent (much below industrial-style farm land rent!). County extension or some similar service would be ready to educate, equip, and counsel the occupants on low-energy, sustained fertility, sustainable farming practices. The donor farm and occupants should receive tax benefits during the “settling” years. At the end of the 10 years the occupant would acquire clear title, the county tax base would increase, and hopefully the local food security would improve. Possibly applicants could be targeted to those with backgrounds or interest in farm life – or just desperately unemployed but educable. Farm life, after all, is scary as all get out, for those used to a highly structured corporate or union life.
I don’t see getting all the pieces ever getting put together for such a scheme. But there may be opportunities, where a local farm ceases to operate on the death of the operator – and China and other nations are kept from buying the land for producing food for their own people.
Many of today’s farmers have families that provide ballast that keeps them on the track they are now. Convincing an adult’s mate to choose chores over convenient shopping, making do over the latest advertised fashion or widget, or tearing up part of the yard for (more) garden space goes way beyond the issue.
It gets all the way back to how we choose a mate. The “pioneers” that took wagon trains from their beginnings back east picked a mate, for the most part, that was capable of and willing to work for security and survival. Many mates today are chosen for willingness to cuddle or whether they dress and act like Playboy or Chippendale icons. I can see revering a school football team – with a success record of providing a high number of armed services soldiers and sailors. The local acclaim that is the most any teams today boast is pretty petty and transitory – but it gets a lot of couples together, that have little cultural guidance or values established that emphasize respect, honor, and character. Or service. Too many people in the last several generations have known only the relatively forgiving, affluent life we see eroding around us today.
The real place to start for change, is going to be with the children. This is something the government in the 1950s and 1960s convinced my parents and grandparents not to do – that the nation needed every child to be an engineer (or fashion model or trophy wife), not to learn the culture and craft of their family and neighbors.
Check out Matron‘s delightful photography and presentation of her various small farming techniques – all chosen to maintain and improve the fertility of the soil, improve the quality of the beef and produce she raises, and joy in her life.