I’m a dodo bird. Or maybe a passenger pigeon. As a corn and soybean farmer, a chemical spraying, fertilizer spreading, genetically modified-seed planter, I’m as passé as a phone booth. I may be walking around, but I’m actually dead. I’m a zombie farmer.
I came to this conclusion after spending a couple of days at the Food for Tomorrow conference last November, held at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, a farm, restaurant, and conference center a few miles north of New York City.
The New York Times was the lead sponsor of Food for Tomorrow. If the speakers—Times food writer Mark Bittman, food theorist and journalism professor Michael Pollan, professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health Marion Nestle, organic farmer and food philosopher Fred Kirschenmann, et al.—are correct, the kind of high-yield farming that I do can’t possibly last. Although the speakers and those in attendance devoutly believe that Genus Farmer, Species Industrial has had its day, they presumably weren’t calling for farmercide. They’re confident I’m already obsolete. I’m a Kodak Instamatic in a GoPro age.
The hell with it. I’m an industrial farmer, proud to be one, and have no desire to return to my family’s peasant roots, subsistence farming being wildly overrated by people who’ve never actually spent a day swinging a hoe or pulling weeds by hand.
It’s pretty strange, when you think about it. Bittman comes by his fame from trading recipes. Pollan teaches journalism. Most of the other speakers had little background in actually growing food. As I tried to engage the attendees in conversation, I was reminded again and again of the contempt the self-proclaimed leaders of the food movement have for industrial farmers. This disdain is counterproductive and shortsighted. The average farmer is 58. He’s been farming for decades. He has knowledge both deep and wide of the land he farms, the animals he raises, and the climate in his small part of the world. Not only that, but he and his kind own or control most of our farmland, and they’re making the decisions about what happens to that land. If your goal is to change agriculture from the ground up, it might be good to include the people who own the ground. Does our experience, the knowledge hard won through drought, flood, and pestilence, count for nothing?
Read full original article: But What Do We Know?