Fascinating blog…. I like your ideas, and certainly agree that everyone should grow a garden, and be more knowledgeable about where their food comes from. But,I must politely disagree with your analysis of modern farms. When you use the term “factory farm,” you are slurring hard-working individuals who produce food for the world, namely my family, community, and neighbors in rural Iowa. My family uses modern technology to produce meat and grain, and we find it a very honest, and rewarding lifestyle. Have you ever visited a confinement farm personally? If not, please seek out a local farmer’s organization to see if you can’t find a farmer willing to show you a modern operation. It sounds like you have done a lot of homework on alternative production methods…. but not so much on modern methods… please, I invite you to read my blog and learn more about today’s farmers from a real farmer instead of profit-motivated movie producers.
It’s been a while since this comment appeared in my inbox. I didn’t know what to think. I still don’t. So, in the spirt of my favorite art professor, who always told me if I’m pushing someone’s buttons I must be doing something right, here goes . . .
First things first, let me be clear. I’m a card-carrying supporting-member of the Canadian National Farmer’s Union. I support farmers. All farmers. Even farmers who are making bad choices, or who have no choice left. I support families and small towns and the idea that everyone should be able to make a decent living wage doing honest work. The man I am about to marry comes from a small community, where he grew up farming. For many of his family that is still the only life they know. Our dream for our children is to know that life as well, as best we can in a part of the world where a spot of land big enough to even call a hobby farm will set you back a million bucks for starters.
Yes, I said it: I want to be a farmer when I grow up.
Now that that’s out of the way . . .
What you are doing is not farming. I refer to so-called modern farms as factory farms because that is what they are. They are factories producing living beings instead of widgets on the factory floor. Modern farmers in the industrial system have become serfs to the kings of agriculture; Cargill, Monsanto, ADM, Tyson. That’s not to say that your family and others like yours aren’t hard-working, honest people, doing the best you can. What it means, is that like the rest of the industry you are a part of, is that you have gotten really good at hitting the bulls-eye of the wrong target.
I thought it was ironic that you challenged my understanding of industrial agriculture when in your blog you describe holding the shit from your pigs for a year before you spread it on your fields as “organic” fertilizer. Manure from medicated animals that has sat for a year and become anarobic is NOT organic. Composting manure from organically raised, non-medicated pigs, or allowing it to fall as it may in the fields – THAT is organic fertilizer.
From my father, to families of my childhood friends, to my future in-laws, I have been surrounded my entire life by the industrial food production industry. A commercial dairy put food on our table and a roof over our head, and I put myself through my first two years of university by flipping burgers at McDonald’s (hence my subsequent 6 year abstinence from meat). So no, profit-motivated movie producers don’t have a monopoly on my knowledge and understanding of industrial food production. I get that most hog farmers aren’t killing their sows by hanging them from a chain around their neck strung up on a forklift. I watch and write about films like Death on a Factory Farm because sometimes it takes extreme measures for people to be motivated to make changes, myself included.
The fact that factory farming even exists makes me mad. It makes me mad that others have the right to pour poisons into the shared treasure that is our freshwater. I get furious that I have known not one, but three beautiful women, who lived healthful, organic lives and were still ravaged by breast cancer, two struck dead, partly, the doctors say, because no one can avoid the pesticides and herbicides in our air and water.
So ya, I get riled up. I take it a bit personally. I’m sorry if that offends you and your neighbours – but if you want a future for your family, if your son wants to grow up and be a farmer, you have to take responsibility for your role in this and make change before it is too late. One day IT WILL BE TOO LATE. How long will it be before the petrol for the tractors become too expensive? Before you can no longer afford the petrochemicals? The medication? What will happen when your “organic fertilizer” has polluted the ground water to such an extent that YOU can’t even drink it, never mind your hogs? What then?
As a farmer, as a community of farmers, you have the knowledge and the power to be the driving force of change that just might save our world. I don’t know what your situation is; how much you owe for your buildings, what your contract is to the meat companies, how big your mortgage is. I know enough to know that many farmers, most, are caught between a rock and a hard place and might have to chose between putting dinner on the table and making positive changes, and the decision would be an easy one for most. I know that the big companies like Monsanto are making it high-near impossible for farmers to actually FARM, chasing after seed-savers as though they were baby-killers. It’s disgusting and non-farmers need to join that fight if you have a hope in hell of beating them. I know that getting certified organic costs the earth, and takes years and mountains of paperwork.
Despite of all those obstacles, others are doing it. They are blazing new trails and saying enough is enough. And there is a groundswell of people like myself who are ready to stand up and support them. We will support you. I have told anyone who will listen about Big Bear Ranch where I get my pastured organic meat. I am becoming one of those crazy, evangelical word-of-mouth-advertising consumers that the marketing people die for; people just won’t do that for Tyson or ADM.
At the end of the day it comes down to this:
You have to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.
We desperately need more farmers. I saw the pictures of your beautiful children and I hope to heaven that they will grow up and farm. We all depend on them.