Feeding the world

I’ve begun to wonder when the idea of feeding the world first became a moral imperative among farmers. Why is it that farmers have inherited the responsibility to feed everyone who has decided to do something else no matter what the personal cost?

I think I know how this idea came into being. As scientists and governments conceived of the idea that there were “too many farmers” back in the 20s and after, more and more people stopped farming to do other things. Yet, these people still needed food, so they came to rely on the people who continued to farm more and more. Now, the number of people who farm has decreased to less than 1 percent of the population (which also begs the question what the more than 99 percent of everyone else is actually doing), so the rest of the population is desperate for the farmers to keep farming, whether they realize they are or not.

Further, the non-farmers are often terrified of any suggestion that farming might need to be done differently, because changes that fail could spell no food for them. In a lot of ways, farming has become like social security: let’s not change it because changes might affect me, even though I am doing nothing to contribute to the system’s success as it currently exists.

Meanwhile, the system itself is failing. Because so few people farm, very few people know what it actually takes to feed the world. And what it takes is a huge amount of equipment and fuel, both of which are becoming so expensive that fewer and fewer farmers can afford to continue doing it. If things continue the way they are now, eventually farmers won’t be able to feed the world because the world will have made farming to expensive to be done by anyone.

I understand that many, many people will counter what I am saying here with variations of the argument: “how is paying a farmer to raise food for me any different than paying anyone else to do something for me I can’t or won’t do?” To me, the answer is that most other things you pay people to do for you don’t necessarily have to be done and you probably won’t die from them not doing it.

So now, the question for me is why am I doing this? I know the answers, and I have come to realize that I am not doing it to feed the world. I’m doing it because I want to convince the world to feed itself.


Never again

I went to the stock auction today because Keba and I hauled our calves there over the past couple of days and I wanted to see for myself what their business was all about.

I will never take my animals there or buy animals from them again.

We took nine perfectly healthy, vibrant young calves to that place, where the people who run it proceeded to give them a battery of sixteen different shots, antibiotics, and tests then to sedate them so that they would behave in the auction ring. From there, those poor little ones are probably destined for a feed lot somewhere where as many as half of them will die from sickness, overcrowding, or malnutrition before they end up as meat in a grocery store or restaurant near you, full of a year’s worth of drugs and food they were not designed to eat.

I understand that I raise cattle for food, but my goal from the first moment I set myself to that task is to do so as morally and humanely as possible. What they do at the stock yard is wrong and I will have no more part in it. I would rather stop raising cows and go back into information technology than knowingly participate in a process that robs humans and animals alike of their essence.

Instead, I will humanely raise only the number animals I can sell directly to the people who will consume them as food. I will control my herd to ensure its numbers, and I will never give my cows drugs in order to increase their size or the density of the herd.

I understand that death is part of the harsh reality of food production, but it will be death under circumstances that I control, and my animals will not suffer years of torment before they die.

I also want all of you to think about what I am saying. Yes, we can feed ourselves cheaply and efficiently by going to big box groceries, but at what cost? When we make that kind of choice, we reduce ourselves to essentially the same fate as those nine calves: eating food that makes us sick and then pumped full of drugs to compensate for it.

I understand that what I am suggesting here is reactionary and revolutionary, but it is my understanding of history and human nature that it often takes both in order for change to happen. I pledge that I will no longer be part of the problem. How about you?