Sunday, February 20, 2011

Should Be Interesting

I'm reading a book called Wisdom of the Last Farmer by David Mas Masumoto. It's about his organic farm in California that produces peaches, nectarines, and grapes. It kind of blows my mind because their entire farm is 80 acres. That's a hobby farm around here. So far the writer/farmer is discussing how labor intensive his farm is, and I feel for the guy a little. Until he says they "readjust [their] equipment to accommodate different scales of operation and procedures than those on automated industrial farms." This is on page 5.

Here is my bone of contention with organic farmers: I understand that it is different. You pull weeds by hand or use a cultivator, disk, plow, or whatever else you've got to get rid of weeds. That is the life you chose. Please don't try to encompass everyone else by saying we are "automated industrial farms." We don't exactly enjoy paying out of the nose for chemicals. We still use cultivators here. And I can remember walking through acres of soybeans wearing irrigation boots, carrying a machete, chopping every weed I could find. 

Here's my point: whenever I read about organic farmers, they almost always make a snide remark concerning farmers that still farm the conventional way. Yeah, organic food would be awesome, but until someone figures out how to do it on a huge scale that is profitable for everyone involved, it won't happen. If consumers think food is expensive now, they have no idea what it would be if they ate only organic food. How many of you have a garden? Do you do a good job of keeping it weed free? Can you imagine doing that on 80 acres? 250 acres? 1,000 acres? I can't, and I don't really want to.

There is a place for organic farming, and I respect those guys. It's a completely different way of life and much more labor intensive. I wish the same respect could be returned to farmers like us that farm on a large scale. We have no less skill in management, weed control, or marketing. We work long days and sometimes nights. What we produce is no less important than what Masumoto produces. The world has to eat. There are companies making some amazing products from soybeans - foam for car seats, spray oil and lubricants that aren't harmful to the environment, clothing, and of course, bio-diesel.

I'm going to continue this book, because it's pretty interesting so far. I just hope I don't continue to run into the "industrial" farm concept. I'm not ashamed to raise corn and soybeans on a large scale. I love what I do. My family's been doing it for a long time and God has blessed us over the years to be able to stay here, and I know He will continue to provide for us. To any fellow farmers reading this - good luck to you as spring approaches and God bless.

1 comment:

  1. I thought you'd never answer my question about organic farming. :)

    Unless everyone goes back to rural, self-sustained living, we'll need to hire other people to produce our food. The number of "people who need food but don't grow it themselves" compared to the number of "people who grow food for others" necessitates large-scale operations, and like you're saying, we don't always eat what comes out of the field either. I want a soybean coat, too.

    At the same time, I'm someone who's very interested in one day owning a "hobby farm" size spread (organic as much as possible) and doing something with the food I grow there, too. And the demand for local, organic produce is on the rise, so maybe there's a place for that. And I'll do my best to recycle any weeds into paper that can be used for functional yet beautiful greeting cards (I'm only kind of kidding.)

    And, yes, God bless people who grow stuff on small or large scales.