the death of the russian peasant

posted February 20, 2017

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My great grandparents immigrated from czarist Russia in the early years of the twentieth century, worked five years in the coal mines to save money, and bought a small farm in an agricultural community in New England on which they raised a diary herd, tobacco, and four children who had no interest in farming. The rural town in which they lived, like so many rural communities in this country, has had less farms every year since they died in the middle of the twentieth century.

I assume that this story is familiar to you: that I do not need to outline the history of increasing mechanization of agriculture, the consolidation of farms, the suburbanization of the countryside and the slow crawling deterioration of the remaining rural places.

What I do want to suggest is that when we think of this story, we often tend to centralize the American experience in the narrative of industrialized agriculture. My mental landscapes, at the least, still imagine pastoral countryside in less developed regions of the world– places where subsistence farming and rural fabrics continue to thrive.

But, as this piece in Al Jazeera brings to light, the reaches of industrialized agriculture far exceed the boarders of North America. were I to visit the homeland of my ancestors today, the plight of its villages would resemble the plight of my own. As Moscow-based journalist Mansur Mirovalev bleakly demonstrates, a coalition of forces– rapid urbanization, industrialization of agriculture, and the decline of the Russian economy– have created a situation in which half of Russia’s 13,000 villages have populations of 10 or fewer. As one elderly woman explained of her town, “Only old people are left here. And what do we, old people, do? We die,”

It’s worth reading the full article here.

But! It is also worth noting, as this 2014 NY Times article argues, that just like in the United States, small farm-to-table movements and organizations are present, vibrant, and might have something to gain from more stringent trade borders.

 

 


industrial vs. regenerative farming

posted January 13, 2017

The list of drawbacks to industrial farming is alarmingly long and frustratingly many. From soil erosion and water contamination to a lack of diversified crops and a reliance on chemical fertilizers and pesticides, industrialized agriculture is far from an ideal way to feed the planet.

Enter regenerative agriculture!

As a result, a growing number of farmers are transitioning over to more sustainable and regenerative methods that do not rely so heavily on chemical and technological means. While regenerative strategies may appear “novel” to born-and-raised city slickers, it’s really more of a revival of ancestral knowledge.

This ancestral knowledge includes tried-and-true agricultural practices such as crop rotation, crop diversity, cover crops, no-till growing, agroforestry, integrated herd management, and more.

In a clear and concise article, Dr. Joseph Mercola breaks down the case for regenerative farming over the big business of industrial ag. He also provides tips of how to grow your own food and resources to learn more about regenerative practices. Check it out HERE and pass along to friends and family!


nytimes photo essay gives mind-blowing bird-eye view of industrial ag

posted October 6, 2016

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Photgraph by George Steinmetz of the New York Times

We can’t more strongly encourage you to view and share George Steinmetz’s New York Times Magazine‘s piece “Super Size: the Dizzying Grandeur of 21st Century Agriculture.” It, in no small way, puts things in perspective.


NPR’s the salt puts spotlight on industrial ag workers

posted July 27, 2016

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Photo by Dan Charles/NPR

We don’t often see mainstream media outlets report on the often invisible farm workers that hold up so much of American agriculture– let alone do in depth and humanizing interviews with them. So, in case you missed it, we wanted to bring your attention to a series created by Dan Charles for NPR’s The Salt in which Charles interviews the largely-Hispanic migrant immigrant workers on sweet potato, apple, orange, strawberry, and blueberry farms. Even for those of us who have worked on smaller-scale farms, a look into the lives of workers on these gigantic combines is both fascinating and critical. We can’t recommend a listen more highly.

You can read Charles’s summary of his findings here and follow his links to listen to each piece individually.


who owns organic?

posted February 7, 2016

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An updated version of Dr. Phillip H. Howard’s Who Owns Organic info graphic is now available here. When Howard, who is an associate professor at Michigan State University, first made the info graphic is 2012, a number of independent organic brands had been acquired by larger food corporations. Howard updated the chart because, as he writes, “A second wave of acquisitions has been occurring since 2012. Few companies identify these ownership ties on product labels.”

For those of you out there who try to be as social responsible as possible with your dollars, information like this may be overwhelming and, perhaps disempowering– but there’s a small silver lining in this story. For your sake, we’d like to note that Howard has a different chart showing major independent organic food brands and their subsidiaries. You can still feel good about supporting these guys!

independents



hollywood babes are getting it together for consumer awareness

posted November 26, 2015

The beauty of the land cannot mask the brutality of a farm town. As harvest draws near, Betty confronts a terrifying new reality and will go to desperate lengths to save her family when they are threatened with being forced from their land. An old friend, struggling to keep his own farm profitable by any means necessary—offers Betty a way out. She refuses to get involved, but as the pressures mount for her family and they are on the brink of eviction, her husband, Frank, reveals that he is seriously ill. How far will one to go to take care of one’s own? Recalling all that is heartland Americana, this film combines an ecological urgency with a compelling yet sensitive story.


national geographic’s ‘five steps’ won’t feed the world: an iowa farmer’s view

posted May 10, 2014

The following essay written by George Naylor was published published by the Huffington Post on May 9, 2014 and is deserving of attention.

George NaylorPicture via National Geographic

The brief article, “A Five-Step Plan to Feed the World” offered by Professor Jonathan Foley in the latest National Geographic magazine, clearly states the stark features of a global society on the brink of overshooting the capacity of the ecosphere. I highly commend Professor Foley and his colleagues for being honest about the depth of the crisis because in the general media, and especially the farm media, one wouldn’t know that anyone should be alarmed at all. Here in Iowa where the landscape is plastered with millions of acres of genetically modified corn and soybeans along with their poisonous herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and fertilizers polluting our lakes and rivers, our institutions deny that Silent Spring has arrived, let alone that anything needs to change. In fact, politicians and educators of every stripe bow to the god of Norman Borlaug, mesmerized by the World Food Prize mantra that we must feed the world using whatever new technology the chemical giants offer to deal with new problems turning up every day. Alarmingly, looking at the title of Foley’s article, we see the same mantra! Click HERE to read more—–>