From the Soap Box….

by David

Sometimes it seems to us that farming is a bit like the canary in the coal mine, a kind of early warning system.  It’s the farmer who first saw the dangers of modern, industrial agriculture.  He tried to tell us that not only was he being shoved off the land, but that the corporations replacing him were using industrial, mass production practices that were ultimately destructive to the land.  But because the  immediate result, as far as most consumers could tell, was lower prices, no one paid any attention to the warnings.

Even when, like the canaries, millions of farmers keeled over and died.

Only now are scientists beginning to worry, and write, about our diminishing water supply   Few seem to be aware of the danger posed by the decline of our other major resource:  land.  Forget oil, folks, what we’re really running out of is top soil.  And as FDR said more than 70 years ago, when a country destroys its top soil, it destroys itself.  Civilizations have disappeared for just that reason.

Here at Thistle Hill, our land and water management practices have not only resulted in cows so visibly healthy it is one of the first thing visitors notice, but in cleaner water, a more efficient use of rainfall, and even the creation of top soil.  When we started in the cattle business, the first shift we made in our thinking was to realize we were raising grass, not cows.  The cows were simply the machine we used to harvest the grass to convert to energy.  Wooz likes to say they’re “harvesting the sun?”

Now we understand that our job is really to grow earthworms, and more accurately, all the trillions of little bugs and microbes beneath the surface which create the top soil.  When a traditional farmer sprays his field, he’s not only killing weeds he’s killing the very life of his land.  Ironically, most devastating of all is the application of commercial fertilizers.  That may make crops grow faster, make the grass look greener, but year after year it requires more and more chemicals to get the same result.

The land itself is dead.  And with the death of all those little beasties in the ground, we lose much of the nutritional value of the food we eat.  We even lose the flavor.  If you sometimes feel vegetables or meat don’t taste quite as good as when you were younger, you’re right.  It doesn’t….it’s dead food from dead soil.

And, I believe, that’s why in recent years we’ve paid  less for our food but a lot more for our health.  This giant health industry we’ve created, and can no longer afford, is the result of our national agricultural policies.  It is not only the family farmer we’ve destroyed.   You want to know why we’ve suddenly become a nation of overweight kids, a third of them needing drugs to function?  Check the labels on what you’re feeding them.

Here’s a shopping suggestion:  if it has a label on it, don’t buy it!

Supermarket prices may have been low for the past 50 years, but the bill is now coming due.  The concentration of production in a handful of food giants coupled with disappearing natural resources is now being reflected at the checkout counter.

They say our Thanksgiving dinner is going to cost 13% more than a year ago.  It’s no wonder that, when they calculate the cost-of-living index, they no longer include food prices.  And in most families Thanksgiving is the one remaining dinner a year that still features mostly unprocessed foods.  There’ve been studies that indicate the actual price of food, consumed every other day of the year  from  boxes and cans, has increased perhaps 22%.

To reverse all the forces at work that have brought us here, seems almost impossible.  It’s a battle every mother will have to fight at her own table.  Unfortunately, they’re too busy.

Next:  what are the Chinese up to?