Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Is Anyone Ruining Farming?

Here is a continuation of yesterdays blog post... Later on in the e-mailer wrote this, "So many comments on the blog are geared to how "we" are ruining farming. Where do you think the line is between "lifestyle" and "profession"? What makes one better or worse?" I have to admit that this one is a tough one, but it is also a question that I have thought about quite a bit from time to time. It is also a question that can be very divisive, so I'll just throw out a couple of thoughts.

There are probably a few comments from me and others on this blog about how the larger farmers are ruining farming and I will stand by that to a point. I do think that a 20,000 acre grain farm can have a negative impact on farming ... just as I believe that Wal-Mart can have a negative impact on shopping and consumerism. I honestly believe the bigger is better mentality is ruining our culture.

I see it in all of the teenagers that I work with, whether it is on the soccer field ... at church ... or in youth group. There is a trend even among the Middle School students that goes something like this, "I need to have this to fit in ... I can't live without a cell phone ... I don't have 15 minutes a day to just sit and be quiet." And it just goes on and on from there.

I have a feeling the bigger is better in agriculture comes from the same through process that the teenagers I work with have ... I got to have it because it just seems like I need to have it or just because I can have it. Just because you can have it doesn't mean you need it! The same goes for 20,000 acre farms I believe.

But, I think the biggest thing is brought up from the Top Producer columnist himself. Remember what he said: "Phipps said in his spring column in Top Producer that there has been little discussion about the long-term impact of an ever-increasing productivity in an industry with a fixed land base."

I don't think it is a question of where you draw the line, I think it is a question of why are we doing this and how is it going to turn out... Again, what are your thoughts?


Anonymous said...

After reading some of your posts this week, I think you should go back to what you DO know, building a house, being a Dad/Husband and working your 40 acres!  Your Blog is so much better when you talk about your personal experiences rather than business/farm topics you know nothing about but somehow have formed a negative opinion about.  Some day one of those BIG farmers may help you out or the BIG Wal-Mart store my let you in on their "buy local" program and give you a chance to sell your home grown produce.  You just need to remember it takes ALL types to make the world go around.

Steven said...

Anonymous, the word may go 'round with all types, but that doesn't mean it takes all types to keep it going. It's easy to say that someone doesn't know what they're talking about, but why don't you just give your opinion? Do you really think that Wal-Mart's buy local program is going to make much difference for a local family that may grow veggies and sell at a Farmers Market? How will selling wholesale to Wal-Mart help them out?

Anonymous said...

I agree with bigger is not always better and many times it is worse. I enjoy the discussions but hate to see things get divisive. My question about education is what is the best way to do it?

Do we point out what is going wrong and risk making those doing it upset - but making others aware? Do we point out what we are doing beneficial and not mention what we think others are doing wrong hoping they will figure it out on their own - not making as many upset but maybe not making as many aware? What is the best way to be an example in farming - to those who don't farm and at the same time to those who do?

It seems like when people do something it is because that is all they know and or that is what they strongly believe in. How do you present something different wihtout defenses going up?

No answers from me. I don't have it figured out myself with my own presentation.

I do appreciate discussions and education, but I hate to see division.

Ethan Book said...

Anonymous - Sorry that I haven't been able to keep up this week, but it has been very crazy. I understand your frustration and agree that I need to be doing stuff that I know how to do (of course I don't really know how to build a house, but I'm doing it anyways).

But, I just wanted to throw a couple of things out there about this Mondays and Tuesdays posts. I do want to reiterate that I did say that beginning/transition Titan Farmers do face challenges ... I said what my knee-jerk reaction would be, but then I told you what I really thought. I know they face challenges ... everyone faces challenges

Secondly, I am helped by big farmers all of the time. There are some in my family ... hopefully I'll be getting rid of some fence posts for some bigger farmers in the next week or so. But, I do believe I can offer up my opinion on the blog ... just like I believe you can.

As far as the BIG farmers helping me ... they have. As far as the BIG Wal-Mart helping me ... well, I do shop there, but I don't see them helping me in my marketing and I don't really want to see them do that.

You will notice that what I wrote is what I believe ... and my last paragraph does leave it open ended. I do not have all of the answers, but I don't see why I can't be in the discussion... Just a few thoughts.

Ethan Book said...

To All ... I guess this just goes to show there are varied opinions ... wow, imagine that. I don't have any answers and am better at asking questions or presenting a contrary view most of the time. But from time to time I do tend to spout off a little bit.

If you didn't enjoy these posts then hopefully you'll like the next one better ... I'm curious if it receives the amount of response as this one did.

Dave_Flora said...

These posts about the "why's" of farming are as important as the "how-to's". I grew up on a small farm, and have a couple of college degrees in industrial manufacturing, so I've seen a bit of both sides of "small production" and "large production", and I can tell you that biological systems don't scale well. In manufacturing widgets, if you make one, you can probably scale the process to make a thousand because it's inorganic. There are fewer variables.
However, in a biological system, things don't scale. Just because you're a good parent to 3 kids doesn't mean that you'd be as good a parent to 300.
The only way to produce organically on a large scale is by being dependent on a large amount of (increasingly expensive) artificial inputs.
It's just not sustainable.

Kramer said...

What I've learned through this process of producing food through "unconventional" methods, (even though they are methods that have been around forever)is that education is key. Then an informed consumer can make a decision to change their habits or continue on the same path.

For instance, as I am at work today, I filled in at a different station, working with fire fighters I have never worked with before. Since we all have side jobs, the first question they usually get into is what do you do on the side. Once I said grass farming, they have a ton of questions, especially when they see that what we do is unconventional for most farmers today.

I sat and talked to about 6 guys for about an hour. Answering questions they had and making them aware of what big ag has done to our food system. They were amazed and shocked.

Now of the 6 people I spoke to, maybe 1 or 2 will begin to change what they eat. At least 1 immediately wanted to see what kind of meats we had available.

Point being, we need to educate everyone that asks about what we do. Do I tell them they are wrong for what they do and need to change, no. They are grown men, who can reproduce, and make their own decisions. However, now when they make their decisions, they fall into the "stupid" category verses "ignorant".

I would love for 100% of the population to eat locally produced, grass based products but in reality, only about 20% will. So we have to have the huge Titan Farmers come in and provide low quality, cheaper products through govt. subsidies. Unfortunately, these are also the ones who would prefer the govt to bare every burden for us and bale us out when we make mistakes. Just because the 80% don't want to make informed, wise choices, doesn't mean they don't get to eat.

Anonymous just needs to get his feelings unhurt and go with what he feels is right in his heart. I wish he would tell what he does with his land and what benefits does it offer to agricultural goods, and land sustainability.

Yeoman said...

"I have a feeling the bigger is better in agriculture comes from the same through process that the teenagers I work with have ... I got to have it because it just seems like I need to have it or just because I can have it. Just because you can have it doesn't mean you need it! The same goes for 20,000 acre farms I believe."

I suspect that same view is ruining a lot in American Life in general. People seem to have forgotten that they have a life to live, and that's not to acquire as much stuff as possible.

It may be because I've had a particularly aggravating week, but I'm pretty convinced that the emphasis on the accumulation of money, which is a species of the emphasis on accumulation of stuff, is an incredible corrosive.

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