…and on his farm he had a what?
A cow milking machine?
A warehouse of chickens in cages?
A crop dusting plane with dangerous pesticides?
Do you have a family recipe that’s been past down for generations? Well, even if you were Grandma’s #1 helper, what you cook today is just not the same. Its not the order and amount of ingredients, its the source and quality.
To meet the needs of a swelling population, farming in the 20th century completely transformed and, unless you only judge progress by the amount of food yielded, not for the better. Here’s a list of the major trends:
- Small Family Farms → Giant Agriculture Corporations
- Regional, Seasonal Production → Global, Year-Round Production
- Polyculture → Monoculture
- Organic Practices → Heavy Pesticide Use
- Grass Fed Cattle → Fishmeal, Corn, Soybean Fed Cattle
- Free Range Cattle → Warehouse Cattle
- Heirloom Seeds → Genetically Modified Organisms
- Market-Valued Prices → Federally Subsidized Prices
These changes have caused the following:
- Widespread Pollution of Water Sources
- Elimination of Vital Nutrients in Soil
- Contributions to Climate Change
- Human and Animal Diseases
- Reduction of Plant Varieties
- Bankruptcy of Family Farms
- Consumer Separation from Food Sources
What can we do? Well, as with any social-environmental issues, we can support sustainable farming with our wallet buying local & organic food at farmers markets; with our voice sharing facts with friends and family; and with our vote supporting legislation that encourages sustainable farming.
Another idea, although unlikely, is to consider food labels that address more of the issues above. Currently, most of labels detail positive practices (organic, grass-fed, free-range, no GMOs) with the exception of a neutral label for location. What if producers had to label all the harmful practices and harmful results of their practices as well – cattle conditions, use of GMOs, environment degradation, energy use, and worker conditions? Rather than seeing any of this content on our current labeling, we are presented a picture or logo that taps into our ‘Old McDonald Fairy Tale.’ As common to most industries, our awareness and regulation of technology significantly lags behind the development and implementation of technology.
For more detailed information and news, check out the following great resources and articles: