I am 70 and grew up during the time when small family farms were still very numerous, but feeling the pressure of pubescent factory agriculture, and processed food had yet to account to account for most of what we consume at each and every meal. In fact as a small boy I can remember that breakfast cereal was a novelty and how “neat” I thought it was that my friends’ parents let them eat such for breakfast. I remember feeling deprived because my mother made me eat breakfast that she made for me every morning and not sugar coated corn flakes that I wanted instead. Over the years I watched the product lines at the local supermarkets change dramatically. By the time I was hiding out for a year at a local junior college waiting to be drafted into the military and sent to Vietnam I was working part-time for a regional grocery store chain as a frozen foods manager. By then there were a couple of hundred different frozen foods available up from just a few vegetables I saw as a kid. Of course processed foods became the king loaded with salt and other chemical compounds to really help pack on the pounds to help get us and keep us fat. We all know what that has led to as we push our carts down aisle now laden with our own personal choices of the flavors of our slow deaths.
My first summer job was working for a farmer that was one of our neighbors driving equipment for him (I had my driver’s license at 14). We were practicing semi-sustainable practices in the late 50s and early 60s but family farmers in attempts to remain competitive were being forced to rely more and more on chemicals to remain competitive. The problem is not that we DO NOT KNOW how to farm using methods of sustainability but that the Parasitic Capitalistic world-wide system of governance we live under demands maximum profits from all human endeavors.
We also can no longer look at farming as just growing vegetables and grains. We also need to look at integrating the production of protein through systems of aquaculture. Aquaculture where ponds of fish are used in place of chemical fertilizers, especially in areas with nutrient depleted soils, can actually produce vegetables at a quicker rate in most cases thereby increasing yield in many climates.
Another thing we desperately need to look at is our land policy - especially in urban areas and this will go directly against our pre-programmed American sensibilities. Many cookie-cutter cracker-box housing developments across the US are now being sold with very, very small yards stacked with as little room between them as possible and this onerous deed restriction: NO gardens allowed! Urban residents, not going through the charade of title, need to have access to land on which to grow conventional or aquaponic systems in order to supplement their families food supplies. As good healthy food sources become less affordable for more and more of us this becomes even more critical than it is now. More than anything else it is essential that sustainable agriculture not just be talked about and the typical go nowhere attempts be made to revive family and sustainable practices by getting rid of factory farms and nostalgically returning to family farms. We must make sustainable agriculture personal. We must enact laws and fund programs that teach us all how to provide for ourselves. Sustainable agriculture does not end and begin with the farmer. It begins with us.
Overheard in a bookstore: “Look, a recipe for pie crust. I thought you just bought that.” “Why bother,” someone answered, “just buy a pie.”