23 May, 2011
In considering the recent spate of exploding watermelons in China, I realized that one of the challenges of the future, especially in first world countries, is the lack of farmers who understand the ramifications of farming in a way that is not currently framed in conventional farming education. We need to grow more farmers! Farmers who can farm organically and sustainably, to use modern catch phrases - but the bottom line is, really, to grow smarter farmers.
Conventional ag has had its day for far too long. The only studies that were being funded came from big agricultural firms that intended the results to show they were right and debunk alternative ideas about farming that would have cut their profit. In Example A, I would like to show that there are no worm-funded studies in recent times - nobody (who's 'anybody') has figured out how to support a multi-million dollar corporation on the backs of worms.
I was gratified, then, to come across the website for Practical Farmers of Iowa. On their page, one can read about their current and upcoming field studies on organic methods and local farm/consumer studies. This is the kind of work we've needed for a long time - the idea that the only farm that is profitable dumps poisons on the food, grows with mangled DNA that is described as 'Frankenfood,' or destroys the land that has been so productive for over 150 years has to be debunked and put to rest. The last 50 years must be revealed as being America's slow-burning 'Chernobyl' event.
Once the studies have shown what common sense knows to be the truth, the pseudo-science can begin to crumble and we will be left with the crises of who will fund the agriculture colleges and maybe this time we will get the answer right: everyone who eats food.
I am not stepping out on my own in this idea - it just comes to me more forcibly this morning. I first came across this a serious reality a year ago reading 'A Nation of Farmers: Defeating the Food Crises on American Soil' by Sharon Astyk and Aaron Newton. Astyk has long been one of my heroes and I devoured the book. I recommend it, with the caveat that they spend far too much time dwelling on the crises that I thought got a little tedious - but I suppose you have to write expecting that a good portion of your readership is saying, "Crises? I don't see no crises!"
The good news is that many, many people are working at different solutions. I believe we need to do ever more work in the cities themselves (most of the best farm land is buried, either figuratively or actually, in the cities and it just happens to be right where there are a lot of people needing to eat!).
I hope we are doing enough fast enough.