>>But like it or not, we have a serious problem in American agriculture.
>>And that is that farmers aren't making enough money to even consider being
>>a sustainable operation.
>>AND WHAT GOOD IS IT TO TALK ABOUT SUSTAINABLE PRACTICES IF THE MINUTE THE
>>HEIRS CONTROL THE >DEED THE FARM IS SOLD TO THE LARGER OPERATION DOWN THE
>>ROAD? Farms have to be profitable >enough to encourage future generations
>>to continue to farm.
>Farmers around where I live have stopped farming and now lease their
>acreage out to corporations. This has meant increased overdraft of the
>water supply, increased chemical applications (to get four crops a year),
>decreased care for the land.
Still plenty of small farms left in my area. Most are down to the last
unless something changes. And most don't support families without off farm
>I believe we need to ask larger organizations (perhaps non-profits whose
>goal is to preserve farm land) to step in and support farmers who wish to
>continue farming but will promise to try sustainable techniques. That way
>others in the community can see examples of how sustainable ag will work,
>and at a profit, after the initial transition. Here in California, we had
>over $1 million in state funds for farmers wishing to transistion to
>organic practices left last year because no farmers had applied for it.
>Perhaps your state also has funding for transistion farming--check it out.
No state funds in Indiana for organic transtition. Perhaps Rich Molini or
will correct me on this one. I wish they would correct me, but I think they
would have told me of the funds already. I'm involved with an organization
dedicated to preserving farmland. They have a web page that deals entirely
with profitibility of farms and those farms then remaining in agriculture.
Farm profitibility is a huge issue in farmland preservation! I still
beleive of the three issues of sustainability--environment, social, and
economics, long term profitibility has to be at the top of the list. How
many of these
farms you talked about earlier would be renting to the corporations if they
could make more farming it themselves? We don't have to get rich, but we
have to make enough
to support our families!!!
>>Most don't see an alternative. AND most haven't found any low cost
>>sustainable alternatives to continually getting bigger.
>The alternatives to farming with chemicals exist and some are less
>expensive that fertilizer and pesticide costs. Again, I would suggest
>researching in your state. Also check the WEb for organic farms near where
>you are to go and visit. Perhaps others here on this list know of resources
>for you. They exist--just not many yet--but alternatives are growing.
I strongly agree that alternatives to chemicals exist. Thats my point
are talked about at sustainable ag conferences I attend, but I don't see
much on the sanet. I also know of probably half of the organic growers in
And by the way, I spend a huge amount of time answering emails and phone
people wanting information on sustainable pasture hog production. I'm one
of those people who have a web site with at least 10 pages of material on
the the American Farmland Trust's www.grassfarmer.com web page.
The point I was trying to bring up is do we spend our time talking about
the problems or do we spend our time helping beginning sustainable farmers
join agriculture. Perhaps I am naive, but I think some of the problems can
be cured by more low
cost sustainable producers.
>>So should we be arguing about chemical use, or should we be discussing the
>>practicalities of >getting more small sustainable farms.
>Hopefully we won't argue but rather discuss the pros and cons. I believe
>both these issues are related, so when you talk about, say decreasing and
>finally stopping chemical use, you are also talking about increasing
>sustainability. A farmer willing to begin increasing sustainability will
>have a better chance to survive as a farmer IMHO.
>The market for foods without chemicals is growing daily as people either
>get ill or know someone who is ill, and find those illnesses have a strong
>relationship to pesticides.
Yes, I agree the market is growing, but a large part of this market is
very un accessable to Indiana farmers. How many options do I have to sell
raised pork? Actually, I am going to sell a load that will go to California
week because of a Practical Farmers newsletter post on the Sanet. But its
a big enough market for all my pigs, how local is California to Indiana, and
how about a rating on infastructure when I have one marketing alternative.
And that before I even
start to touch on the issues of non seasonal production requirement that I
brought up in a post last week. I have 5 conventional hog markets within 25
miles of my farm and I am a firm believer there isn't much competition in
the conventional livestock industry. How do you think I would rate the
sustainable livestock market?
>>And the working models for sustainable farms are few and far between.
>This is true, but with the Internet, you can *visit* these farms and talk
>with the farmer, hearing first hand of the problems and the wonders of
>changing the way we farm.
Yes I agree. But are any more farmers aware of these web sites than are
of programs such as ATTRA and SARE?
>> Do we encourage low input sustainable farms and allow a good percentage
>>of these farms to see >organic transition as an eventual step. (Some will
>>never make the transition and can be >perfectly sustainable!)
>That depends on how you define sustainable. The definitions I've seen
>include the air, water, and soil, and those cannot be sustainable when
>contaminated with chemicals, so organic seems inherent in the definition to
We differ on this one. Sustainability doesn't have to be organic. Its
the reliance on chemicals that seperates sustainability and conventional.
Organic is a good marketing alternative for sustainable farms.
Cover crops, management intensive grazing, buffer strips, reduced tillage,
all prime examples of sustainable practices that don't have to be organic.
look at the list of the Practical Farmers feild day topics. It gives a very
good idea of
what topics I would see as sustainable practices. Where is the discussion
of the practical management tecniques for these innovative practices?
>As far as the term *low input* goes, do you mean *low chemical input* or
>something else? Because organic farmers certainly have input into their
>soils--to condition them to reduce pest damage. I am currently exploring
>the use of cardboard as mulch and compost--hope it works (I'm seeking
>information on if the ink on cardboard boxes is toxic, if anyone knows?)
I meant a lot more than chemicals. I meant all production expenses
including labor and land.
I feel low input farming refers to farming practices that substitute
off farm purchases.
>>there are only a few products which have legitimate organic markets in my
>This too will change, but foods and farm products often are shipped to
>where the markets already exist. Do you have a local farmer's market where
>you live? Why not talk to a few more farmers about starting one? This
>information too is on the Web. Also a CSA--where you sell your crops
>directly to consumers---that information is there too--do a search for CSA.
I'm looking into all these alternative markets. But lets not forget that
marketing is a
lot of work. I've been raised to be a farmer and thats what I do best.
a whole different set of skills and a lot of effort for me. We really start
to get few and far between when we look for farmers that have combined
production and marketing skills
at a superb level.(I'm not one!) And how about the long term outlook for
the organic market? Whats to keep it from going the consolidation route
conventional agriculture has taken?
>>For example, in just the last ten years we have lost 60% of the hog farms
>>in the US. Do we >need more regulations on large hog farms or do we need
>>more small lower cost producers?
>Or do we need some other options? Regulations will occur as the pollution
>from large operations impacts local water supplies. Smaller operations will
>start up when there is support for that at the state level (which begins at
>the local level). But perhaps some other options will help envision the
>future: hogs as a part of an operation that also grows food products and
>grain and corn--as part of a system. Like the old days! What a concept.
I'm sorry I didn't clarify my post. When I talk about small, low cost
operations, I am talking about a symbiotic enterprise that lowers the
requirements of a grass, grain, or vegetable enterprise and in turn the
or vegetable enterprise lowers the cost of the hog production. Only, we
make a few modifications from the old days. It costs more to raise a family
And the "technology" is here to raise enough animals and still have a low
requirement for a good quality of life. Black plastic pipe, energy free
waterers, electric fence, 4 wheelers, round bales of straw, etc. Do we see
any talk about sustainable hog production on the sanet? I'm a firm beleiver
that livestock production is an essential
element of sustainability on midwest farms.
>Young people around here are itching to get into organic farm
>production--maybe some of you in Indianna would want to advertise here for
>apprentices as one way to pay for the transition.
>Solutions exist for every problem--and always more than one. Keep
That is exactly what I would like to see discussed more often on the
sanet. I envisioned a sustainable agriculture list would be a discussion
group to diseminate sustainable farming practices. I still stand by my
earlier comment that a farmer that
happened onto the sanet wanting information on sustainable agriculture
practices would not stay long.
I look forward to your comments on my thoughts.
BTW, 15 people at our field day this afternoon. I'll give you one guess
what the majority of their questions centered around.
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