HOMEGROWN Life: HOMEGROWN Life: A Word on Efficiency (and Productivity and Sustainability)

| 10/22/2012 1:42:55 PM


This post appeared originally on HOMEGROWN.org

For those of you who might not know me personally, I should probably help set the table by telling you a little bit about myself. First off, I’m the butcher’s son of a butcher’s son. I live in one of those rural tribal places where I’m kin to many people throughout the area, my family having been in West Missouri now for going on seven generations.

But I’ve had a pretty different life than most of my friends, family, and neighbors out here on the Osage Plains. I’ve dabbled in poetry. I found a wife all the way over on Missouri’s East Coast (that’s St. Louis). I’ve eaten raw oysters right out of the Puget Sound and the Chesapeake Bay. Heck, once I even joined with several hundred people protesting on Karl Rove’s lawn on a sunny Sunday afternoon for blocking the DREAM Act that would have protected immigrant children from getting deported when they turn 18 years old.

For several years I worked as a community organizer, trying to help stop industrial livestock facilities from further encroaching in rural Missouri. (Note: Farm Aid was a key partner in helping to support this organizing effort by funding great organizations like the Missouri Rural Crisis Center.) It was challenging and fulfilling work that involved equal parts politicking, translation of confusing legalese into legislative language, and haranguing people to hold their public officials accountable. There were wins and losses in this struggle. And today, the battle for the future of agriculture rages on.

In reflecting on these experiences and my return to living and working on the family farm where I grew up, I am haunted by the concepts of efficiency, of productivity, of sustainability. Industrial agriculture would have you believe that “modern agriculture,” as they call it, is the only way to feed the world. In this circle, genetically modifying seeds, driving gigantic machines from satellite-positioning systems, and producing fossil-fuel-based chemicals are thought to be the most efficient practices. In this circle, housing livestock in giant indoor factories or crowded feedlots is the only way to be a productive member of the modern livestock-producing class. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard politicians parrot the line, “America’s farmers are the best and most efficient in the world,” in an attempt to claim their undying allegiance to those of us in the food-producing regions.

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