Sustainable Agriculture vs Industrial Agriculture

Virtually everything I have to say is viewed through a lens of who I am and what I do, it can’t be helped. To be honest in this world is to offer the insights you have on the subjects you know. Most people have all kinds of opinions, but they don’t know what they’re talking about or even how they came by their beliefs.

There are two ways of producing food- and by this I mean consumables which is produced via the natural process, not in a laboratory.

Sustainable farming is one means, Industrial agriculture the other. A vegetable produced through sustainable farming produces more calories for consumption than it consumes in production, examples of this are tomatoes grown organically in soil fertilized with rotted compost made from animal or vegetable matter/waste or beef that comes from an open range farm where stocking density never exceeds a carbon neutral fix. Sustainable farming produces more than food as an end product and most of these end products are either invisible to the end consumer- and so unimportant to them if they are unaware of them, or intangible to anyone outside of the process.

Some of these unseen products are carbon locked into the soil, increase in the tilth of soil, decreased erosion, improved water quality, improved pasture, humane welfare of livestock, improved bloodlines and overall health of animals, minimal use of hydrocarbons in production, zero use of chemical inputs to soil, water or foodstuffs produced, development and sustainability of rural economies, increased health and vigor of farm families, decentralized production, fewer food borne illnesses, etc In fact it would take a lot more than an essay to list all of the benefits. The main negative- especially in our current economic position is higher cost for end product.

Industrial agriculture is based on the premise that food is no different than any other profit making good and as long as the dollar value of the end sales exceeds the dollar value of production, any other effect is immaterial. It is less farming and more akin to strip mining calories from an acreage.

It requires an ever increasing amount of chemical inputs, it reduces soil health, erosion, water retention in soil, and fouls watercourse. It usually demands inhumane practices of livestock due to overcrowding, alteration of living animals (docking of tails and ears, teeth/beak clipping, muscle degeneration, unnatural life cycles, pharmaceutical supplementation, increased risk of food borne pathogens and fatalities spread rapidly via centralized distribution, destruction of rural communities, loss of generational knowledge of natural cycles and remedies, etc. The key to this type of agriculture is cheap hydrocarbons which have risen fivefold in price over the past fifteen years and are no longer inexpensive.

Bottom line? By continuing along a path of industrial agriculture as a means of providing cheap food we have lost virtually every supplemental benefit and maximized every possible deficit. The vast majority of lands now under industrial agricultural use would not be fit to farm in the event of a halt in hydrocarbon inputs. The vast majority of people involved in industrial agriculture would no longer know how to “farm”. It would be like taking newly returning combat infantrymen and placing them in a neonatal unit without training.

The fact that virtually anyone in the US can obtain some cheap food at any given moment is not indicative of a healthy or sane system- in fact it is just the opposite. It is evidence of a system so focused on keeping people fat and pacified through the consumption of non-nutritional calories put together through a combination of heavily centralized, soil and water damaging processes controlled by large corporations whose bottom line depends on inhumane treatment of livestock, environmental destruction, erasure of generational skills and knowledge and the malnutrition of its end users.

I understand where food comes from and how to improve the quality of soil, water and environment because my life depends upon it. I was called to farming the way a minister is called to the cloth and view my obligation as sacred having taken a vow of poverty (or near) in order to do it. I speak from limited, but deep experience and I can tell you that while this is not the same discipline as the one Jim has discussed in his piece about our economic situation above, it is tied to it and is an integral part of it.

I am not a predictor of collapses, I have no special knowledge of where our nation is heading, but I am observant and I can tell when something is unhealthy and when something is heading towards death and if our nation were a woodlot, I would anticipate that the next time a dry season came along and an errant spark drifted by that it will burn to the ground. Pretending that everything is right with the world because you happen to have a full belly and a working Internet connection is a shallow means by which to assess the current conditions. I have no idea what the elites know about the future that they are not sharing with us or if they know anything at all and are simply operating like the most ignorant EBT card holder in the hood, getting while the getting is good, but I do know that the path we are on is unsustainable, politically, socially, culturally, economically and naturally.

Make of that prognostication what you will.

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