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. 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
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.’
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. 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
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
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.