Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A good read ...

... on agriculture and what most of us take for granted, can be found here.
Farming has always been messy and painful, and bloody and dirty. It still is. This is something the critics of industrial farming never seem to understand.
h/t Mike at the Big Stick.


soil mama said...

It hard since each side tends to sell it as a black and white issue when really there is a LOT of gray area. I agree with him that a lot of the "organic" culture and whole foods products are just BS marketing that aren't making the world any better. it's not organic vs non-organic that is the real debate. It doesn't have to be all or nothing, but you have to understand that things that are REALLY out of whack can take a bit of time to recover and come into balance. I just don't see why he thinks that sustainable ag supports think ALL technology is bad. Most educated members of the sustainable ag movement aren't suggesting farmers revert back to the turn of the century (that wasn't exactly sustainable farming anyway). It seems like there are many opportunities to use technology to benefit farming and help make it more ecologically friendly.

It's not just a matter of planting a covercrop and expecting miracles. As anyone who studies ecology knows, a system doesn't recover instantly. If the farmer in question quit using pesticides all the sudden, then he would likely be overrun with pests since the system is so out of whack and the community required to keep the system in check hasn't recovered yet. It's really not much different than taking antibiotics and getting yeast infection. once the natural microbial community is recovered, then the system can function normally again.

I have worked with various farmers on both ends of the spectrum and the ones who tend to think of the farm as an ecosystem and treat it as such tend to have many less catastrophic losses, whether they are certified organic or not.

sorry for the rambling vent, but I really dislike it when this is painted as a black/while issue....

Thomas Joseph said...

You are correct, it isn't a black and white issue. I suspect the farmer who wrote the article I linked to is responding primarily to The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. As I have not read the book, though it's been mentioned to me a couple of times over the past couple of weeks, I can't tell if this is the case or not.

We've done a lot of work in the area of conservation tillage, as well as in irrigation. The farmers have always been receptive to our efforts and experiments, and have cooperated willingly (which is the only way we can work with them). They all seem pretty cognizant of the need to protect their livelihood (i.e., the land) and look at it exactly like an ecosystem (would you really rotate crops without knowing/suspecting that?)

I'm really going to have to get Pollan's book. That could, of course, answer most of the questions about what set our farmer off in this op-ed.