J500 Media and the Environment

Family Farming to Industrial Agriculture by bpirotte

My grandfather, or “Granddad,” as we call him, grew up on a farm in western Kansas.

My Granddad outside his one-room school house, near the farm he grew up on in western Kansas. Photo by Ben Pirotte

Like most of his generation, he grew up healthy, happy, and with strict values. One of those values: frugality. But why is frugality such an important value of a person who grew up in the Depression? Because they had little to nothing. So, surviving on just a few dollars a week, and only buying the materials necessary to clothe, feed and house your family became what was important.

Just a few years ago, my family and I were able to go visit the land my great-grandfather used to till. Strangely enough, there’s a plaque installed on the property marking the geodetic center of the lower 48 states! Today, it is an “active cornfield,” which goes to show just how important farming is in the makeup of the United States, being right at its heart.

However, much has changed from the days of Granddad’s childhood. What used to be a country of many small farmers that made up 21% of the US workforce, all insistent on making a new life for themselves and their family, has now turned into just a few “desperate” farmers trying to make ends meet, and a few giant business conglomerates.

So, has the nostalgic, pastoral idea of farming died? With the mechanization of farming as an industry, and with yields from farming being more productive than ever, large, mono-crop facilities produce the vast majority of our food at a cheaper price to the consumer. But what about the cost to the environment? Industrial agriculture requires more use of pesticides, and with mono-cropping, soils are depleted through time and eventually need more and more fertilizers to create the same output. There seem to be alternatives to this model–such as buying organic and local. But are these ideas realistic?

While it is clear that we most likely won’t be returning to the days of small farmers in places like western Kansas, there is a need to reform our food system. Industrial agriculture is imposing a problem not only to the quality of our food, but is also a major problem to the health of our environment. Small steps can be made to reforming the system, but until our world as a whole is able to factor in all the costs associated with industrial farming, and not just the cost to grow, produce, harvest and ship a product, we won’t be able to see the necessary change.

–Ben P.

America’s Dilemma by alyv

Trojan PinataIllegal immigration is about so much more than taking jobs away from Americans.

At any time, there are between 12 million and 20 million illegal immigrants in the United States, according to the Census Bureau’s best guess. Most hold jobs Americans consider too lowly to do – jobs like those in agriculture.

Illegal immigrants usually work as seasonal workers, picking oranges in California or harvesting cranberries in Maryland. It’s no secret that illegal aliens work for cheap.

But as much as people complain about lower wages making job competition fruitless, it’s the cheap labor of immigrants that helps put food on the tables of most Americans, and most of the world.

Industrialized agriculture provides a large majority of the food for the world, so they employ a ton of people, some being illegal immigrants. Let’s think about what would happen if the America were to completely stop the influx of illegal immigrants.

• Big Ag would lose its stake-holdings in American agriculture, leading to an increase in the need and development of local farms.Immigrant-crossing sign
• The surge in local farming would decrease the methane, carbon dioxide and the rest of the pollutant cocktail that comes transporting food thousands of miles away or herding millions of pigs into tiny spaces.

But …

• Food production would plummet.
• The cost of food would skyrocket.
• Millions of people wouldn’t have access or be able to afford food.
• Starvation and undernourishment would affect thousands more than the 900 million people already suffering from lack of adequate food.
• The U.S. economy would go into the tank.

So, stop illegal immigrants, give Americans more jobs, reduce emissions and increase local farming? Or grant them amnesty and a chance to improve their lives, continue to feed Big Ag and risk the earth’s sustainability?

Is there a right choice?


Thanks to Guinness Wench and More Marin for the pictures.

Thanks to You Tube for the video.