Greg and Lei Gunthorp (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sat, 29 Nov 97 09:05:54 PST
very interesting post.
I still think it is very possible to support a family on small acreages with a diversified farm that is
powered by solar energy with the help of animals!
The farms are disappearing, in my opinion, because too many are trying to make minaturized industrial
farms out of small farms. Small farms have to be different than large farms to be succesfful. They have
to have an advantage. Raising huge quantities of food under very low margins is not an option for small
farms. Too many still try it though. I had a neighbor who just sold out. He was a dairy farmer. He had
been there since 1970. He is a very hard worker. He did everything the extension service says it takes
to be successful with milk cows. Blue silos, five tractors, combine, fancy parlor, fancy free stall barn, etc. He
farmed about 175 acres and 60-70 cows. Very typical of dairy farms in my area. They feed the world, the equipment guys, but not their families! The ironic thing is that the guy I buy fence from knows of a bunch of
guys making a very good living milking cows. I know a handful also. Almost no equipment though. There biggest investment is land, cows, parlor, fence, and water pipe.
I've got a very good freind who helps me with the pigs. It guys like him that we need to tell our story to. Most conventional farmers don't want to listen to how I raise pigs. My freind will raise pigs some day even if
I have to help him get started! He understands the concepts: collect sunshine: turn it into animal gains: sell it: don't spend any money on anthing that isn't absolutely necessary.
Thanks again Bill for the very interesting post. I should be over on the Swine-l or the Dairy-l telling them what
I think. Not the sanet-mg. Another example of telling a crowd what they already know.
> Living on the Earth, November 28, 1997: Farms
> For my friend Sam, who lived and farmed in Oxford for over 90 years and was
> an inspiration to me, and for my son Dan, whose interest in and enthusiasm
> for farming gives me great satisfaction and hope.
> For more than 100,000 years, people have been eating animals and the
> leaves, fruits, roots and seeds of plants that grow near where they live.
> For much of that time, most human beings had a direct connection to the
> plants and animals with whom they shared their environment. They
> internalized important information about the life cycles of flora and
> fauna, about the seasonality of seeds and fruits and the workings of
> ecosystems. This knowledge formed the basis of culture.
> About 10,000 years ago, with the beginning of agriculture, people began
> planting seeds, harvesting grains and keeping animals for milk, wool and
> meat. Over many generations, early farmers developed grains and vegetables
> out of their wild plant ancestors.
> Farming expanded the kinds of knowledge people acquired. Now they were
> actively involved in cultivating plants and caring for animals. Farms
> provided food for the families which worked them. Because these small
> farms fed families rather than nations, diversity and reliability were
> essential. Oftentimes, there was a bit of a surplus to sell, too.
> These farms operated within the elegant, biological reality of our planet.
> Solar energy bathes the earth. Plants, using photosynthesis, collect a bit
> of that energy and store it as leaves, roots, grains and fruits. Animals,
> including humans, eat plants (and sometimes other animals) in order to take
> in the stored solar energy that they need to be active and stay alive.
> Wastes, deposited on the ground, decompose and enrich the soil. Plants
> drop their seeds and grow into similar plants. Wind, water, wood, animals
> and people, all passing along solar energy, provide any needed power that
> the sun doesn't supply directly. The great civilizations of China, Africa,
> North, South and Central America as well as of Europe, grew out of direct
> relationships with the land and the sun.
> Now farmers are a dying breed. Advice to young people discourages farming
> as a career. Our society just doesn't need farmers anymore, I guess.
> Since about 1940, there has been a steep decline in the number of farms in
> the US. In the last ten years, about 500 farms have gone out of business
> every week. Now, there are fewer than two million farms. As the number of
> farms has decreased, the percentage of food produced by the largest farms
> has gone way up. The 400,000 largest farms produce about 80 percent of the
> food for sale in this country. Of course, the largest farms are often the
> ones that most resemble factories. They are highly dependent on fossil
> fuels, pesticides, plastics, energy-intensive buildings and equipment.
> They are also frequently the most dependent on government payments to
> subsidize their expenses. Many of the largest farms raise just one or two
> crops- wheat or lettuce, pigs or broccoli, or a million chickens. Instead
> of depending upon solar-powered biological cycles, these farms operate on
> the linear- mechanical model. They discharge vast quantities of animal,
> fertilizer or pesticide wastes into their environments. These large farms
> are disconnected from nature's cycles and consequently, so are most of us.
> Farming has been transformed from a biological process into a computerized,
> industrial production and distribution system.
> As fewer and fewer people have a direct connection to the sources of their
> sustenance, however, we discover that the knowledge absorbed by our
> ancestors from their connection to the land was vitally important. David
> Orr says that farms provide a reality check on human possibilities in
> nature. Our ignorance seriously stresses the entire planet.
> However even as small, mixed, biological farms are marginalized by giant
> agribusinesses, we find that we need farms for other important reasons. We
> need them for what they teach us about the environment. Dartmouth and
> Hampshire colleges now have organic farms. Community farms that teach
> primary and secondary school students where their food comes from are
> sprouting up in cities all over the country. Many of these also provide
> plots where urbanites with farm experience can grow food to sell in their
> neighborhoods. Nature centers in many communities are adding a farm
> component to their programs.
> Local, ecological farms produce more than just food. It's important that
> we remember this before all the farms disappear.
> This is Bill Duesing, Living on the Earth
> (C) 1997, Bill Duesing, Solar Farm Education, Box 135, Stevenson, CT 06491
> Bill and Suzanne Duesing operate the Old Solar Farm (raising NOFA/CT
> certified organic vegetables) and Solar Farm Education (working on urban
> agriculture projects in New Haven, Bridgeport, Hartford and Norwalk, CT).
> Their collection of essays Living on the Earth: Eclectic Essays for a
> Sustainable and Joyful Future is available from Bill Duesing, Box 135,
> Stevenson, CT 06491 for $14 postpaid. These essays first appeared on WSHU,
> public radio from Fairfield, CT. New essays are posted weekly at
> http://www.wshu.org/duesing and those since November 1995 are available
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