Good Farming

(revision two)

 

          What is it that defines good farming?  Is it living off of the land, for the land, and by the land?  Perhaps good farming is implemented and enforced by the inherent values of an area, entirely independent of the pettiness of economics[1].  This agrarian tradition calls upon people to care for future generations, be neighborly, and carry dignity in their work.  It is also possible, however unlikely, that a corporate entity might somehow come to embody the values and traditions of a small, family-run farm, caring for the land, owning up to the community, contemplating how their actions will come to affect later generations (this will be in the interest of the company, as the corporate entity will have become a close-knit group, and end up handing down their positions to future generations of corporate family farmers).  The point is that good farming is indeed the way to go.

            In his article Good Farming and the Public Good, Donald Worster[2] gives us three strong points supporting ‘good farming’: it makes people healthier, promotes a more just society, and preserves the earth and its network of life.  Let us take a look at these points and see what faults and truths have been introduced into these ideas of good intention, dragging them down and emphasizing their importance.

            Good farming makes people healthier.  This involves producing and delivering food of the highest attainable nutritional quality and safety.  Modern agriculture fails on its knees here in its primary mission as quality and safety are go missing or become corrupted by gradually rising amounts of chemical toxins.  A very serious calamity appears when the very food that we know and have come to trust falls suspect and could now be labeled as a potentially dangerous commodity.  Where we once gingerly examined and looked closely for worms and insects in apples and ears of corn, we are now faced with the wonder of the possibility of an invisible and invincible enemy called cancer has found yet another way to leak itself into our bodies.  Remember, we are trying to keep people alive, not send them to an early grave—no gain in export earnings or profit margins, no marginal gain in harvesting efficiency or eternal radiation of rodents justifies the risk put upon human life or can excuse/set aside putting the public’s health in danger. 

Thinking or acting without the public’s health as the ultimate concern sets aside the very laws of ethics on the same level of practicing bad medicine or poor parenting.  Somehow, this lack of moral integrity has not only become common practice in much of the modern farming community, but regular news to consumers and government agencies alike has become commonplace—all in the name of ‘more efficient’ mass production.  This is then worsened by ethical and un-ethical farmers alike turning their crops over to numerous processors under companies in seek of a continually higher profit margin.  What sacrifice is made for this profit margin?  Nutrition.  Besides the use of numerous additives, many of them take healthy food and ‘manufacture’ nutritiously insulting snack cakes and cholesterol-filled treats. 

 

Good farming should also promote a more just society.  Layers upon layers of farmers and producers, employers and employees handling the food leads to a system, which is not only complex, but also filled with holes for poor farming practices to get through.

As this happens, it is the duty of the people to be more sensitive and firm with their moral consciousness; a more elaborate and expensive system based on public control—but who really has control?  The fact is that there is a heinously unfair distribution of wealth in this country which not only encourages a continuous (or continual) gross distribution of the fruits of labor, but it has taken away the possibility of __continual hope__ for those who have lost everything of fear that they have no other opinion but to simply give up.  Only but a hundred years ago it was almost possible to simply pick up everything you owned and move ‘further west.’  Where once there was always more land to move to and claim, to farm and to own, to live on and with, now there seems to be nowhere to turn for the desperate.  Now almost ALL land is owned by someone, somewhere—some person, some corporate entity, or some government. 

This puts an awful burden on the rural families of the world striving for the continuation of ‘rural’ values: to fight an ongoing uprising against the distribution of the general public (‘s) wealth.  The fact of the matter is that five percent of our nation’s landowners own fifty percent of the land; in some parts of the world it possible to find a mere one percent of the population controlling as much as forty-five percent of the land.  Not only do rural farmers need to persist in the rigors of daily rural agricultural life, but they must now take the role of a rebel force, raising hopes in everyone around them that a war must be fought or a movement must be made to ‘lop the top off of the rural pyramids of wealth.’[3] 

This is also not a movement that they should have to fight alone.  Urban consumers should make an effort to augment this movement by starting and fighting for their own sub-movements; paying higher prices for food of a higher standard of production method.   Urging their state, local, and national representatives and officials to improve the current system or to invent new plans or government policies to help out this gross distribution of wealth.  This does not necessarily mean breaking up large corporations—it may mean higher wages for corporate-based farm hands, or implementing progressive or relative salary caps for executive positions.[4]   Perhaps a plan could be implemented where government money should be put towards global marketing campaigns that promote the glorious nature of rural life/farming.  Examples could be made.  Heroes could rise.  Ill-minded corporations and individuals would fall.

When our farm experts and leaders rediscover the ideal of a rural world where few have too little and even fewer have too much, American agriculture will be stronger and more successful than it is today. 

 

Good farming will preserve the earth and its network of life.  Agriculture involves the reorganization of nature to bring it more into line with human desires.  It should not involve exploiting, strip mining, or anything that destroying the natural world.  The need for agriculture does not forgive us the moral duty and common sense to farm in an ecologically rational manner. 

Even when it uses it, good farming will protect the land.  It may take abuse for a while, but ultimately it will not tolerate having its limited resources drained at an accelerated rate.  It will not endure poisoning of animal creation to rid us of bobcats and coyotes.  It will not stand knocking down shelterbelts to squeeze a few more dollars from the land.  It will not stomach draining rivers dry, thieving an area of its life-blood, causing irreversible damage to the surrounding ecosystem, destroying flood planes, water sheds, wet lands, and perhaps escalating the problem of flooding; thus promoting national disasters for the simple excuse of making more profit.  This is an especially poor use of resources when used for trivial implementations such as irrigating the desert or drying out a swamp.  The Earth will not bear massive erosion of topsoil.  It will not tolerate these ways of bloodshed, but this is what American and global agriculture has come to as of late, being pushed by a market concerned only by ‘more and faster’—pulled even more strongly in the past few decades by the Information Technology industry consistently posting double performance results every twelve to sixteen months. 

            Good farming will make people healthier.  Good farming will promote a more just society.  Good farming will preserve the earth and its network of life.  Good farming will let us live sustainably.  Good farming will save the world.   



[1] Charles Talliaferro, Family Farm article, Part I, p. 4.

[2] Environmental Ethics, pp. 348-353

[3] Worster, p. 352

[4] C. Scheidecker, Progressive Salary Distrobution and the Advancement of a Global Economy, 2000.  In this paper I describe in detail how it would be possible to provide a distrobution of wealth, including progressive salary caps (the more people you have under you, the more you make, but at a decreasing rate), government-paid family farmers, price subsidization, and the progressive cure to world hunger (including how not to destroy the global economy in doing so).