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Industrial farming – the approach is just wrong

I’ve realised for a while that the way we farm is just wrong (I’ll explain below). We’ve somehow fallen into believing that the large scale, commercial, industrial farming is what we need to feed the world. I don’t believe that’s true. I think it’s what large corporations need to make profits, and the system is designed to ensure that the actual farmers get little benefit – all the profits go elsewhere, to corporations, and that’s wrong.

Just a couple of days ago, I found this short video;

where “Three Farmers Come Together To Research No Till And Cover Crops“. Of course we don’t need to till, or dig over, the ground – nature doesn’t do that and plenty of things grow in nature. Paul Gautschi demonstrates this so well in his garden and in the documentary “Back to Eden“. It’s also interesting to see the farmers soil right now and how poor and lifeless it is. Tilling and modern industrial farming practices that try to get crop after crop out of the soil, with the help of artificial fertilisers and pesticides, really just kill the soil after a time. In the video, the farmers say they are going to do a five year experiment because they can see how long it will take to get the soil healthy again.

industrial farming

Compare our industrial farming to nature

Let’s compare how nature works to how our farming does.

Nature

  • no harvesting except for when animals come through and eat
  • no artificial fertilisers, no pesticides
  • many plants grow on the same piece of ground
  • no ploughing of ground except for the disturbance created by the feet of animals
  • when plants die, their organic matter falls to the ground and enriches the soil
  • the bare soil is very rarely exposed

Our industrial farming

  • first we clear away all vegetation and expose the bare soil
  • then we plough it to soften it and plant seeds in rows
  • all the same plant in a large area
  • we spray artificial fertilisers to get nutrients into the soil
  • we spray pesticides to kill pests (the pests that like this one crop are having a great time)
  • we harvest all of the crop and take it away leaving the soil exposed again (no natural organic matter to enrich it)
  • then we plough it once more and start again

We’ve completely broken the way soil works are are trying to manage it using artificial fertilisers and pesticides. Actually, what is happening is that the worlds soil is just getting weaker and weaker.

A report from the RSA

I never knew what the RSA really was. I thought is was just about arts, but it’s actually the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, and they say their mission is “21st century enlightenment: Enriching society through ideas and action – Our mission is to create the conditions for the enlightened thinking and collaborative action needed to address today’s most pressing social challenges.”

Next thing I learnt about the RSA is that they setup a Food, Farming and Countryside Commission in 2017 whose role is “to think afresh about where our food comes from, how we support farming and rural communities and how we invest in the many benefits the countryside provides.”

This is all really good stuff that will help ensure we’re living our lives in the right direction. Now, the RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission has released a report call “Our future in the land“. This is an excellent report (supported by the Soil Association). It talks about all the truths that need to uncovered. Here’s a typical quote from the executive summary of the report;

“In the last 70 years, this relationship (between the health of people and the health of the land) has been broken. Driven by poor policy and perverse incentives, the food and farming system has become one of the main drivers of human and ecosystem crisis. From deforestation, loss of wildlife and soil degradation, to widespread pollution and spiralling diet-related ill-health, people and planet have suffered alike. Far from being the sector that nourishes us, and the land on which we all depend, the system has damaged and depleted our precious and finite resources.”

How did we get into such a poor state?

I believe we’ve ended up where we are purely because of greed and I think the following chart is a good reflection of this;

One hundred and fifty years ago almost 65% of people in the United States were concerned with working the land and farming. Today, barely 2% of people are involved in agriculture while more than 85% of people are involved in services (compared to just over 20% one hundred and fifty years ago). Wow, what a change!

Why has this happened?

There are many reasons people can suggest, but they all come down to this – corporations find it difficult to make profits from farming but they can make huge profits from “value-add” services. That’s it. When 60% of people were farming, they grew their own food and didn’t really need to pay large sums of money to any corporations. Today, very few of us are involved in farming and we all buy our food from large corporations.

Don’t we need even more productive industrial farming?

People say we need better farming practices to feed the population – bollocks! – it’s all about profits. For example, we clear vast areas of land and grow single grains on it, not for food, but for making alcohol (just one example of many) – we don’t need that to feed the population – companies need that to make money from selling alcohol. The same goes for growing crops to make animal feed.

This is not a good situation and it has to stop.

Let’s simplify life.

Stop buying food from large, faceless organisations who rely on industrial farming and buy food from a local, organic farmer. Better still, learn how to grow some of you own food. That’s the quickest way to claim back our independence from profit mad corporations that just want our money, not our welfare.

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