Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"Sow" Frustrating

I am the first to admit that farming is a way of life. It's hard to argue that point when my brother is a fifth generation farmer in Pratt County and my husband is a fifth generation farmer along the Stafford/Reno County line.

But there are those in the world today who would prefer that farmers go back to Bible times. They would prefer we scatter seed by hand, like illustrated in the stained glass window in a Philadelphia church (October 2007 photo).

Or it might be OK if we evolved to using a horse for farming.

In the November 2010 edition of "O" magazine, there's an article titled, "From Urbanite to Farmer." A freelance journalist from New York City interviewed a Pennsylvania farmer, fell in love with him and eventually traded her 4-inch high heels for work boots and life as a farmer's wife.

Evidently, she couldn't give up part of the New York address because they then started a farm together in northeastern New York state. That's all well and good.

But I was struck by this statement:

"We use no pesticides or herbicides, and most of the work is done with draft horses instead of tractors."


The article is under the banner: "Live Your Best Life." UGH!

For the record, I don't order "O" magazine myself. It's a gift from a friend.

I don't look at "O" for farm news. I have "Kansas Farmer" and "High Plains Journal" and a myriad of other publications for that.

But it does concern me that the little glimpse of farming offered for "O" readers is this cockeyed view that farmers should be using draft horses instead of tractors.

I can't help but find the whole view ironic. In this same magazine, the "O" List shares suggestions for things Oprah finds essential to life. In November, there's an eye makeup kit discounted for "O" readers to a mere $106, a $180 pair of earrings, a $595 Burberry coat, a pair of $200 flats and a $158 sparkly scarf.

The same people who want farmers to turn back life to the early 1900s still want the speediest internet, modern cars, cell phones with every feature, $200 flats and grapes in the grocery store in December for themselves.

So why is it OK to think agriculture should return to the Dark Ages?

Yes, farming is a way of life. It's a way of life I love.

But it's also a business. If we weren't able to make money, we couldn't stay in the business. Neither could our neighbors. Many of us have off-the-farm incomes supplementing our farm income.

Some of us don't make it in the business, just like some restaurants in New York City fail and some car manufacturers in Detroit go bust. Farming is about efficiency and productivity, just like it is with every business.

In 1900, approximately 80 percent of the U.S. population made their living in agriculture. Today, it's approximately 3 percent.

Technological advancements have made it possible for 3 percent of the population to feed the other 97 percent of U.S., plus export feed grains and meat to feed people all over the world.

We aren't going to be able to do that if every farmer trades in his tractors for draft horses.

We also can't feed the world without advancements in crop genetics and the application of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.

I don't have a problem with farmers who have made this their niche market. I understand there is a market for organically-grown food and that "local" food is all the rage right now.

If consumers want to spend the extra money for organically-grown produce and free-range chickens, that's their business. And power to the producer who is making a living doing it!

But the general public needs to realize that if all of the U.S.'s food was grown this way, America's farmers wouldn't be producing as much food. And with lower production, prices at the grocery store would rise astronomically. And people in some parts of the world would starve because we wouldn't have food to export to them.

Because we farmers couldn't farm as many acres with horses, some of the city dwellers would need to give up their jobs in the city and return to the farm if we hoped to raise enough food to feed everyone in the U.S.

Hmmm ... Wonder how that would go over?

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