Reclaiming Our Farming Heritage

Factory farms, industrial agricultural, and concentrated animal feeding operations have become the norm for producing our nation’s food. Even “organic” labels have become mired in controversy and diluted, still relying on heavy doses of fossil fuels, byproducts of the industrial system (e.g. chicken manure from factory farmed chickens), and practicing confinement raising of animals (e.g. Horizon Organic and
Aurora Organic, which control over 65% of organic milk production, buy their milk from dairies which largely confine their lactating mothers – see http://www.organicconsumers.org/nosb2.htm).

Continued production of grain for feed in certain areas of the country and the wholesale transportation of this grain and its soil nutrients to feedlots and surrounding areas, CAFOs, chicken farms, and distilleries, has led to an uneven distribution of phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium where we get eutrophication on the one hand, and desertification on the other.

While advocates of industrial farming point to increased efficiency in the mega-system, this system relies heavily on fossil fuels, has a small genetic pool, leads to inhumane treatment of animals, and relies heavily on antibiotics, not to mention a lackluster food-product devoid of flavor and lacking in nutrients.

The underlying paradigm in this country supports this trend. Our population is concentrated in cities and dependent on fossil fuels for all aspects of our modern life. Our legal system continues to support the notion that all food must be produced in sterile conditions meant to justify procedures and systems appropriate for the slaughter of thousands of animals per day or one per week--- its all the same.

Food production has been relegated to the mega-agri-experts and we must take it back, but how? The answer may lie in some further questions: Why don't roosters crow in the middle of the city? Why do agricultural proponents insist that food must be raised in an environment devoid of people and multiple dwellings? Why do we truck animals hundreds of miles to nameless facilities, lock up the offal as hazardous waste, but cry foul only when the most egregious examples of neglect are brought to our attention? How have we let Monsanto get so far in generating a monopoly on seeds?!

In promoting small farms, local food, and sustainability, we need to think broadly about where we want to be, and act incrementally to bring about change. Here are a few ideas:
  1. Have a flock of chickens and roosters. Roosters symbolize growth and fertility. Locking them out of cities means we all rely on factory farmed eggs if we choose to raise chickens.
  2. Tear up your lawn and plant a garden
  3. Invest in small scale ethanol and bio-diesel production plants. Why not gas up at your local farm that is converting available materials to alcohol and composting/feeding the spent mash? Why do ethanol plants have to be corn-based only, in the midwest, and enormous? (see http://www.alcoholcanbeagas.com/)
  4. Buy beef, pork, lamb, & goat by the side from local farmers using mobile butchers. We've found that the farmer and consumer both benefit when meat is purchased by the side (the only loser is the USDA which loses an opportunity to impose a strangling and ridiculous set of regulations into the process).
  5. Write to the Oregon Department of Agriculture telling them to grant state approval for mobile chicken processing facilities to allow small producers to flourish.
  6. Encourage small-clustered developments in rural areas. This is an area we are working on currently--- to figure out how to get more community on and around our own land. What we're lacking is a social fabric that truly supports small farms. Send me an email if you're interested in talking about this particular topic further!
Post a comment if you have further thoughts on reclaiming our farming heritage.