Thursday, February 28, 2008

"Fatal Harvest"

**I am so sorry! I can't believe I did this, but I forgot to put up my post today. I wrote it last night, but didn't remember to get it up on the blog. Whoops!**

I have to give credit to Kelli of Sugar Creek Farm again for the link to this article. I don't know how she finds all of these great articles for her "Ag Speedlinking", but I'm glad that she does it! Anyways, the article that I read was titled, "Speaker at organic farming conference derides corporate agriculture", and written by Joe Orso for the La Crosse Tribune. The article stems from Andrew Kimbrell's keynote speech at the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) Conference this year.

Mr. Kimbrell is the author of "Fatal Harvest: The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture" and that was also the title and theme of his address at the conference this year. One thing that he said in the speech (according to the article) that really made me think was this, "What they never saw coming is you. They thought they had the future. They thought they had successfully taken the culture out of agriculture." The "they" he is talking about of course are the people involved in "industrial agriculture".

I have to admit that the first thing that popped into my mind was, "Do 'they' really even know we exist?" In my question the "we" are the alternative/organic/sustainable farmers of the world. Are they really concerned about losing market share to the small farms popping up around the country? I readily admit that I don't know the ins and outs of market effect, but are they noticing us?

My first reaction is no way! They aren't a bit worried about losing market share to a few farmers that sell pork or beef at the local farmers market, but then I started to think about it on a larger scale ... There seems to be a number of these farms beginning and growing around the country and while they may seem small when taken individually, but on the whole they can have an impact. And with some of the bad publicity hitting the airwaves more and more people are beginning to think about their food choices.

What does all this mean? Well, on one hand it really means nothing to me. I'll still do what I am going to do and market my farm the way that I feel will work. But, on the other hand I think it gives us something to be optimistic about. Maybe the big agri-businesses are thinking about the growing market share small farms are commanding ... if that is case we need to work together to open doors for the small farmer, educate the public, and produce a high quality product.

Make sure you read the article! It has some interesting stuff to think about. In fact I would love to hear you thoughts after reading the article.


sugarcreekfarm said...

Judging by the number of times the USDA shows up in my website visitor statistics, I'd say they're noticing.

Yeoman said...

Well, having read Fatal Harvest, I'll throw in a bit of a dissenting voice here.

There's a lot of good books out there with the Agrarian point of view, some of which have been discussed here. But Fatal Harvest doesn't really seem so much Agrarian or sustainable ag, as it does alarmist. I sort of wonder if some of the folks who wrote sections of FH are interested in agriculture at all. Oh, there's some good articles in it, but it is sort of the Gloom & Doom Dire Prediction genera.

One thing I think most farmers have is a healthy dose of skepticism. As those who have read my comments since I started clogging up Ethan's blog know, I'm probably more willing to have the government, etc., intervene on behalf of the small farmer than anyone else here. But I suspect FH really is about something else, which I suspect is that Humans Are A Menace. I don't think that, so I'm skeptical about a lot in this book.

FWIW, there were some good books that came out about the same time that were much more farm-centric.

Anyhow, I think we're off the radar screen for the most part for most folks, but we're not off the map. Things are far from hopeless, particularly considering the increasing awareness of the necessity to be sustainable, and the increasing cost of hauling everything around.

Mellifera said...

sugarcreekfarm- LOL.

I'm sure I'd normally have something to say about this but am somewhat under the weather and not all that intelligent right now. I got a copy of this book at a book sale but have yet to read it... maybe that can be a future project, and I'll get back to you. : )

Ethan Book said...

Sugar Creek - I think you are right ... they are noticing!

Yeoman - I really can't comment one way or another on the "Fatal Harvest" book. I haven't read of it and actually had never even heard of it until reading the article. The only reason I brought it up was for identification of who that guy was... I too am skeptical of "alarmist" type of stuff, but mostly I think that is because I remain positive and try to look at things from an optimistic viewpoint.

Mostly, I was just wondering if the "big ag" was beginning to take notice of the smaller farmers. One analogy I thought of was Mac vs. the PC world. I'm a Mac guy through and through and I realize the don't have the largest market share when it comes by computers. But, it is evident that if you look at the evolution of the Windows operating system that they have kept tabs on the Mac and do feel they are competing with it ... of course like I said, I love Macs!

Mellifera said...

As to agribusiness's self-defense vs. smaller farms, check out this op-ed from a recent NYTimes. (The Times is a little hit-or-miss, but they often have good ag news.)

The gist of this one is apparently, if you convert Big-5 subsidied cropland to produce, you not only lose the grain subsidy (well, duh) but may be somehow penalized the market value of the produce that comes off your land. That's a little ridiculous! This legal oddity is of course championed by the big year-round fruit and veggie growing areas of California, Texas, and Florida such that they don't have to compete with local produce... the 3 or 4 months out of the year it's available...

This is hitting expanding organic producers hard because they usually expand by renting somebody else's cropland, which was always in corn/soy/etc before, and the renting farmer ends up having to charge them a couple extra thousand dollars at the end of the season, since they don't find out about this law until a little bit too late.

(Now being a Florida citizen, I wrote some letters to Congressmen. I love the political ramifications of living in Florida. Anything else anybody wants me to write? ; )

Mellifera said...

I'm not sure if that link will work. If it doesn't, try googling "My Forbidden Fruits (and Vegetables)."

Ethan Book said...

Thanks for the link to that article Mellifera. It is always good to stay informed on all of the things going on in the agricultural world.

I am continually hoping that everyone else gets as much from this blog as I do!

Yeoman said...

"Do 'they' really even know we exist?"

Based on the Agricultural Census form (which I'm late filling out), the USDA must. Quite a few new questions on this sort of topic.

Mellifera said...

Yeoman- that's good to know. I'm curious- what kind of questions are they asking? What trees is dey barkin' up?

Yeoman said...

"Yeoman- that's good to know. I'm curious- what kind of questions are they asking? What trees is dey barkin' up?"

Have I direct marketed anything, and if so, what, and how much did I make doing it?

Do I raise anything organically, and if I do, do I certify it organic?

Ethan Book said...

We received that mailing too (as all farmers did). Pretty nosey questions and it quite a stink arose on the Homesteading Today board.

Pat & Marcus said...
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