“The demise of the small family farm has been a long time coming;” writes New York Times journalist Quentin Hardy. The solution to escaping this demise? Get big. Get REAL big, through investing heavily in expensive, mind-boggling technology in order to stay competitive in the world of corn and soy. In last week’s article, Working the Land and the Data, Midwestern farmer Kip Top was interviewed about how his implementation of the newest technology and data (drones, GMO crops, infrared cameras, GPS combines, iphone apps for irrigation, cloud computing systems and satellite imagery) has allowed him to increase his production from 700 acres in 1970 to 20,000 acres today.
Joel Salatin shared his retort with the Greenhorns:
As a puff piece for industrial agriculture, the Nov. 30 NYT Working the Land and the Data story about the 20,000 acre Indiana farm does an incredible disservice to earthworms, soil life, and the entire integrity food movement.
At the risk of sounding ungrateful, many of us think farming this way is terrifying, violent, and harmful. The world has twice as many obese as hungry. Frankly, we don’t want or need these bushels. They destroy soil, create chemicalized riparian dead zones, produce nutrient deficiencies and depend on taxpayer subsidies.
To insinuate that those of us who create intricate multi-speciated bio-mimicry farms are technologically backward is not only incorrect; it’s disingenuous. On our farm, we use computer micro-chip electric fence energizers to manage cattle so they don’t even need corn. How about that for futuristic? And yes, the production per acre is the same while building soil, hydrating the landscape, and sequestering carbon.
And if I don’t bow to Monsanto, I’m not using business principles? Dear me, it is precisely because of business principles that I think Monsanto is the Devil. The real kicker in the accompanying video, of course, is the notion that the featured Tom farm is smart. The obvious insinuation is that the rest of us aren’t smart. Pardon me, but I’ll take the smartness of nature’s template over the contrivances of Monsanto anytime.
And by the way, my family enjoys being with me on our farm. It’s an aesthetically and aromatically sensually romantic place. What a horrifying thought that I would need driverless tractors in order to spend more time with my family–the ultimate segregated farm. How tragic. Diminishing farmers indicate a weakening civilization. And yes, farmers include backyard gardeners.
Armed with our laptops, electron microscopes, and a deep awe toward ecology and food integrity, a whole new generation of farmers is realizing that community-building diversified farms enjoy more economic, ecological, and emotional resiliency than industrial models.