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Subject: RE:New Papers on Web Page
Author: UE-SUSTAINAG-mg at MU-ETCS-HUB
Date: 12/5/97 3:18 PM
Three new papers on web page:
John Ikerd, Sustainable Agriculture, University of Missouri
1. Small Farms are "Real" Farms
It's common knowledge that the vast majority of farms in the
US. are classified as small farms by USDA -- having less than
$100,000 in annual sales. However, the conventional wisdom is
that small farms are mostly hobby farms, rural residences, homes
for retired farmers, or for some other reason are not "real"
farms. The "real" farms are said to be those large farms that
make up 15-20 percent of total farm number and produce 75-80
percent of total agricultural production. Small farms are not
"real" farms -- so the conventional wisdom goes.
However, a closer look at USDA farm statistics provides
convincing evidence that the conventional wisdom is wrong. For
example, of those who consider farming to be their principal
occupation -- meaning they spend more than half of their working
hours farming -- over 70 percent operate small farms. Even after
retired farmers are taken out of the count, well over half of all
US. farms are small farms. A farm that requires over half of the
working time of a farmer, who is not retired, is not a rural
residence or a hobby farm. It is a "real" farm. A family quite
likely is depending on this farm for a significant part of their
livelihood. And over half of "real" farms in the U.S. are "small
farms." In terms of people, "small" farms are both real and big.
2. Reclaiming the Sacred in Food and Farming
Farming is fundamentally biological. The essence of
agriculture begins with conversion of solar energy through the
living process of photosynthesis. The food that sustains our
lives comes from other living things. If life is sacred, then
food and farming must be sacred as well. Throughout nearly all of
human history, both food and farming were considered sacred.
Farmers prayed for rain, for protection from pestilence, and for
bountiful harvests. People gave thanks to God for their "daily
bread" -- as well as for harvests at annual times of Thanksgiving.
For many, farming and food are still sacred. But for many more,
farming has become just another business and food just something
else to buy. But, as we have taken the sacred out of food and
farming, we have raised the questions of sustainability.
Intergenerational equity if the fundamental motivation for
wanting to make farming sustainable. Most agree that the
ecological, economic, and social dimensions are all essential and
inseparable dimensions of sustainability. However, few seem to
recognize that spirituality provides both the foundation for
intergenerational equity and the fundamental framework for
sustainability. Spirituality reflects a perceived need to find
harmony with an unseen order of things -- to farm in harmony with
the order of things -- past, present, and future. We can no
longer assume that things spiritual will somehow unconsciously be
given adequate consideration to ensure long run sustainability.
We must be willing to address the spiritual -- directly,
honestly, without apology. To achieve sustainability, we must be
willing to reclaim the sacred in food and farming.
3. Top 10 Reasons for Rural Communities to be Concerned about
Large-scale, Corporate Hog Operations.
I was recently asked by a rural advocacy group in Missouri to
"list some logical reasons why people in rural communities should
be concerned about effects of livestock factories." I considered
this to be a reasonable request and thus developed a list of
reasons why I think rural residents should question whether or not
they want large-scale, corporate hog farms to locate in their
As I indicate in my response to the request, there is no
scientific consensus on this issue. Thus, there is no set of
scientific "facts" to either "prove or disprove" the validity of
these concerns. There is research to support many of the
concerns on my list, even though they cannot be proven. However,
most of the concerns on the list are based primarily on logical
reasoning and common sense.
Admittedly, there are reasonable arguments in favor of locating
large-scale corporate hog operations in specific rural
communities, some of which are listed in the paper also.
However, rather than argue these points, I have chosen to provide
a logical list of reasons why people might be concerned about the
location of large-scale corporate hog operations in their areas.
The people of rural communities have a right and responsibility
to weigh the evidence and logic on both sides of this issue and
to make their own decisions. To carry out this responsibility,
they need to be aware of the arguments on both sides. The
proponents have strong economic incentives and the financial
means to make their case to the public. The opponents must rely
on grassroots, nonprofit, and charitable organizations and a
generally reluctant public sector for the information needed to
articulate their concerns.
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