Monday, 13 October 2008

Farm Policy

Via Edstock, a proposed agriculture policy. Much food for thought. Literally.

This corner likes the core concepts espoused, especially the notion that In fact, well-designed polyculture systems, incorporating not just grains but vegetables and animals, can produce more food per acre than conventional monocultures, and food of a much higher nutritional value. But this kind of farming is complicated and needs many more hands on the land to make it work. Farming without fossil fuels — performing complex rotations of plants and animals and managing pests without petrochemicals — is labor intensive and takes more skill than merely “driving and spraying,” which is how corn-belt farmers describe what they do for a living. (You really do have to go and read the whole thing. The 9 pages cover a lot of territory.)

All the farmers I know are splitting into 3 categories. The first category are the farmers discouraging their children from entering agriculture and are themselves getting out of the business. The second category are growing into "factory farm" megaliths in order to compete and stay alive. The third category, are "part time" farmers. Individuals that have full time careers, and yet find the time to raise chickens, a few dozen pigs, or a couple of cows that then resell that meat to friends and family. A mini farmers market if you will.

My point is, the last category are people that are truly enjoying farming and are already incorporating aspects of the suggested policy above. They don't have the budget for big-time sprayers and large harvesters. They have to rely on traditional, or organic, methods. They work and they work well. And you can make money at it. What they lack is a proper distribution network.

When I worked in grocery, the store manager would often buy produce from local farmers. All summer long we were pulling in and stocking produce. This is something we've lost in the last 20 years. Now many stores aren't allowed to purchase anything that doesn't go through a central warehouse. The result is international products pushing locally grown foods off of the store shelves. My wife and I have noticed that Ontario produce is only in the large supermarkets for a week at most, and then we're back to Californian. As a result, more and more of our produce and meat are now purchased at a local farm.

Anyway, I'm going to stop rambling now, go read that article. He makes a better argument than I can.

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