A couple of years ago I was on a certified organic farm in the
American agricultural heartland, and it was clear that soil
degradation was a persistent problem in the Corn-Soya "rotation."
Since 100-bushel corn ground can quite reliably produce 5-ton hay, I
asked the farmer what was the worst price for hay locally in the last
ten years. He said $60/ton. At that point organic corn was bringing
$2.80 a bushel ($112./tonne) and the local hay market was $75.ton.
After pointing out by several methods that hay grossed more per acre
than corn, for substantially lower cost of production than corn --
quite apart from the obvious benefits to the soil -- he was still
resistant to the idea of broadening the rotation to include hay.
Eventually, in frustration, he blurted out the *real* reason he didn't
like the idea, even though he understood it was more profitable and
better for the land:
"But real farmers don't grow hay, dammit!" he sputtered, and in a
moment I understood the dimensions of the challenges we face.
I have felt, ever since, that the most difficult frontiers of
sustainable agriculture are social and human, not agronomic.