Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Farmer Perspective Part II

As farmers, we get our "industry trade news and/or journals" that relate specially to farming and ranching of which keeps us up-to-date on Ag current events. One of the publications we read is called the Capital Press and within it contained articles on Michael Pollan's visit to Washington State University (WSU), of which I also attended. The Pollan presentation was advocating a return to a diversified agricultural system to once again begin harnessing the sun to feed ourselves and wean ourselves off of the fossil fuel diet, thus the title "The Sun Agenda". He is referring to the oil and natural gas required to make fertilizer, fuel and pesticides. This was based off of the premise that today's food chain closely resembles a factory model from which most of us get our food. Before WWII, the food system was ecologically efficient advised Mr. Pollan and it generated 2 calories of food energy for every 1 calorie of fossil fuel energy that went into it. Now, he said agriculture produces 1 calorie of food for every 10 calories of fossil fuel it uses. He alleges this stuff, but where is the actual proof this is acurate? He can say all sorts of things and not really have to back up his facts with proof...... In his talk, he spoke of a rancher who had 100 acres of ground, grazed his cattle within sectioned off fields, then after a period of time moved the cows to a different field to graze. Then in the recently grazed field the rancher would turn out chickens to eat the maggots from the cow pies, who would also spread out the cow pies, plus leave their own droppings in the field and thus helping fertilize the ground. Then after a length of time, the cows would return to the 1st nice green fertilized field and the process was started all over again. It was the perfect "ecological balance of man, nature and food" according to Michael Pollan. While this was very interesting, it is not a practical solution to feeding the entire USA, not to mention the rest of the world. Farmers are not against new ways of doing things, it is just that we are charged with the duty to effectively produce better and higher yielding crops off of the same acreage and do this all while trying to make a living. At a prior event to the Pollan lecture, there was a poster that said, " A hungry man does not see right from wrong, he only sees hunger". I want to re-emphasise that farmers are good stewards of their land, why would we abuse the ground that is our livelihood? We live here, we raise our families here, we feed ourselves and the world with what we produce, so why is it that people like Michael Pollan feel the need to tell us that we are doing it wrong? It is reported that Micahel Pollan receives between $20,000 -$45,000 per lecture. Apparently this is how he makes his living by observing from afar how we should be farming or ranching and then charging a speaker fee that perhaps is a yearly wage to some. Interesting.

Mr. Pollan noted that the average family spent 24% of it's income on food in 1910, 18% was spent on food in 1960 and just 10% of our income was spent on food in 2009. " In his observation, as food got cheaper to produce, it become more loaded with calories and it was also processed into less healthful forms of food. As a result, 2/3 of the US population is overweight and 1/3 is obese, and a recent Emory University study predicts more than half of all American will be obese within 10 years." Excuse me, but why is the American farmer being vilified for making people fat? Americans demand, and I might add receive top quality food at affordable prices, so I would think that the average person makes their own shopping decisions while at the grocery store on what they put into their basket and on their dinner table. While one of the things that Pollan did advocate and I do too, is that people should eat the foods that their great grandmothers would recognize. He also advocated planting a garden and cooking healthier things. I agree on that, but I cannot tell someone what to buy or eat, that is their choice. So consumers have the power to change what is available in stores, not farmers.