A 'New-Fashioned' Food System That Helps and Heals

Author and "renegade farmer" Joel Salatin calls for food producers to tell a better story of a "new-fashioned" food system that rejects the industrial agriculture paradigm while embracing technology.


| December 2014/January 2015



Cattle Electrified Fences

Electrified fences mean cattle can be moved frequently — better for the cattle and for the land.


Photo by Brenda Palmer/American Alps Rance

Calling something “old-fashioned” might encourage tourists and antique buyers to take note, but it does not captivate the hearts and minds of our mainstream culture.

Too often, the Earth-stewardship movement positions itself as one of returning to a bygone era — to the good old days, pre-electricity and pre-petroleum. While washboards, hoop skirts and hearth cooking may have romantic appeal, living that way doesn’t inspire the imagination of today’s solution-seekers.

Even the majority of people who yearn for simpler times and a slower lifestyle don’t really want to go without electricity and automobiles. Those of us who strive to bring about a sustainable food system need a message that’s dynamic enough to convert fast-food junkies. The industrial food system spends a lot of time and resources refining its message. Along with disparaging the do-it-yourself ethos, pastured livestock and fertilizing with compost, it promotes phrases such as “technology,” “futuristic” and “feeding the world."

These catchwords have emotional appeal. Savvy people like to hitch themselves to that kind of engine. Solving problems, meeting needs, going places — these phrases capture hearts and minds. On the other hand, if impressions can kill a movement, stodgy, anti-tech and stuck in a rut are the last ways you want to be seen.

This is a ticklish talking point for those of us dedicated to the proven environmental stewardship principles that predate electricity and petroleum. Part of our worldview is that in a horse race, you bet on the proven winner. For example, carbon-centric soil building beats out using chemical “inputs.” But how do you commend this time-honored methodology that so beautifully mimics nature without seeming backward and unscientific?

Let’s Reframe Food and Farming

As I see more and more anti-ecology propaganda emanating from industry and government agencies, I lie awake at night trying to figure out positive sound bites for our team. If I decry the giant pork corporation Smithfield’s sale to China, I’m either xenophobic or childishly protectionist. If I denounce genetically modified organisms (GMOs), I’m naive and anti-science. If I disagree with a food-safety policy that criminalizes an artisan who sells homemade yogurt to a friend at church, I’m an anarchist.

janetpesaturo
11/22/2014 8:18:37 AM

What an excellent article! Two things I just love: 1. Your focus on language to convey the positive, forward thinking of the new and "integrated" kind of farming, and the backwardness of industrial farming. 2. Your embracing technology as something that expands the possibilities for "integrated" farming. I do think it's a mistake for organic, diversified farmers to be anti-technology, as so many are in the homesteading and survivalist movements. Not all technology is bad. We can choose to develop technologies that we can use in positive ways. Readers interested in this topic might enjoy this article: Survivalism, Technology, and Sustainability: ouroneacrefarm (dot) com/survivalism-technology-sustainability/


janetpesaturo
11/22/2014 8:17:24 AM

What an excellent article! Two things I just love: 1. Your focus on language to convey the positive, forward thinking of the new and "integrated" kind of farming, and the backwardness of industrial farming. 2. Your embracing technology as something that expands the possibilities for "integrated" farming. I do think it's a mistake for organic, diversified farmers to be anti-technology, as so many are in the homesteading and survivalist movements. Not all technology is bad. We can choose to develop technologies that we can use in positive ways. Readers interested in this topic might enjoy this article: Survivalism, Technology, and Sustainability: ouroneacrefarm (dot) com/survivalism-technology-sustainability/






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