“In America we made a Faustian bargain regarding our food supply: We gave our food production to agribusiness in exchange for the promise of a better life.”
“In America we made a Faustian bargain regarding our food supply: We gave our food production to agribusiness in exchange for the promise of a better life. This arrangement has resulted in unintended consequences: the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, eroded soils, herbicide-resistant weeds, CO2 in the atmosphere, and the list goes on. It’s time to assess our bargain, determine the costs and decide whether the entities with which we contracted are going to hold up their end and go on feeding us. And if the bargain is off, what then? Then we need to support a New Green Revolution.”
[Note: Not a “Green New Deal”! The reference is to the so-called “Green Revolution” of the 1950s and following, which has caused a lot of the problems we face today, in the agricultural realm. Read the essay for more!]
A most excellent article from a very wise woman – and one I have had the pleasure of meeting, talking to, and spending time with, albeit some fifteen or more years ago, now. Joann S. Grohman, author of the splendid Keeping a Family Cow, and the thankfully now-back-in-print Real Food (not to be confused with an also-excellent book of the same name by Nina Planck), author and life-long small farmer / family-cow owner, is a woman with her head on straight.
One minor caveat: she writes that “Any system that requires plowing, which exposes soil to oxidation (the greatest source of agricultural CO2) and artificial fertilizer (second greatest source), as well as harvesting and processing using yet more fossil fuel – that system does no good to anyone but Big Food’s bottom line.”
That is certainly 100% true with regard to industrial agriculture. But “no-till” agriculture requires the kind of vast chemical inputs – herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers – which she rightly condemns, and many crops cannot be grown without one or the other. Joann is also correct that our commodity-grain-based system of commercial agriculture is vastly problematic and needs to be exchanged for more regenerative and restorative forms of agriculture, that are healthier for both consumers and the environment.
But in the context of small, diversified farms, with proper rotations of crops and animals, plowing is not necessarily the worst thing that can happen. Amish farmer, author, and philosopher David Kline discusses this question at some length in the Introduction to his excellent book, Great Possessions: An Amish Farmer’s Journal, which I also highly recommend. Otherwise, however, Joann is squarely on-target!