by Holli Elliott
This week we had a group of young people (ages 8-16) from the inner city come out for a tour of the farm. These well-behaved, bright beings had several thoughtful questions. One young man in particular had a lot of questions about production. How much do we produce? How many pounds from each bed are harvested each week? How much do we sell for? How do we sell? Who do we sell to? I could see him calculating numbers, trying to understand how, or if farmers make any money. I got the feeling he was trying to decide for himself if there was a future in farming possible for him. We went through the numbers as a group and came to the very rough conclusion that we can make approximately $80 per bed per week for the high production months between June and October. The group’s conclusion: A farmer needs to have a lot of beds to make a decent living!
I asked the young ones what they thought most farms were like. Most of them thought they were small, like the ones they have toured, walkable. Family or worker owned, with hand planted crops and maybe if they were large enough would have cows grazing in open pastures. This fairytale farm is far from reality. How does one farm family maintain enough beds to make a living? Well, the answer of the last century was that everything is mechanized. Everything is mass scale. In the early 1920’s it was discovered that when adding vitamins A and D to the feed of animals, the animals no longer required exercise or sunlight in order to grow, and Factory Farming was born. The most animals on the smallest amount of space = Bigger bottom line. Add this to our little math lesson, $80 bucks per bed, and the young ones could see how needy humans got attached to their practices of creating revenue through larger and larger scale farms. Did you know that, in the US, the average farm is 650 acres? There is little actual contact with the Earth. Farmers ride on equipment and spray chemicals to make sure this grows and to make sure that does not. It makes our little 8 acre site seem miniscule and insignificant. (Or sacred and vitally important.)
Sacred and vitally important! This upcoming generation has recognized how mass scale is severely flawed. Even those grand 650 acre farms with many many beds rely heavily on government subsidies because the mechanization methods cost so much to implement. We have seen how mass scale poisons our rivers and land. We are beginning to understand the ramifications of feeding GMO grain to caged. crowded, anti-biotic filled chickens – and then eating those chickens. The current system is broken. Anyone who looks can see it. I am so glad someone is encouraging the young ones to look, and to engage their creative genius to create a new way.
Some of the thoughts that we came up with last Wednesday: 1. Value good food (vs. factory food), either by paying more for it or by offering farmers other goods and services at discount. 2. Teach everyone to grow good food on whatever land they have available. 3. Stop government subsidies for mass scale GMO production. (Ok, they didn’t come up with #3, that’s my idea, but I did go ahead and plant it in their ripe, fertile minds. Stopping government support of factory farms would cause a huge collapse, from which authentic healthy eco-systems and communities could be rebuilt.)
Click here to read more from Field Notes.