Gene Logsdon and Friends

Today’s Farmer: Nine Hours Daily On A Computer

In Gene's Weekly Posts on June 20, 2012 at 5:42 am

From GENE LOGSDON

I promised not to use his name because I wanted him to speak freely which is not easy to do these days when society is in such conflict. He is a fortyish farmer, articulate, engaging, a delight to talk to. He and his brother grow upwards of 5000 acres of corn and soybeans, much of it rented. The first time I met him, several years go, I remembered him saying that a farmer needed to spend two hours a day on the computer, hedging and marketing his grain. Talking to him a few days ago, I recalled his remark and he smiled. “Make that 8 to 9 hours today,” he said. That included time he spent marketing for other farmers who evidently recognized his skill in this regard.

I was aghast. Just think of that: a man who considers himself a farmer spends his working day almost entirely in electronic grain marketing. His brother “tends to the farm machinery.” They employ five people and “we pay them very well because it is really difficult to find people who have a real work ethic.” (None of the hired help has gone to college and it occurred to me that here was an opportunity to make a good living without spending a hundred thousand dollars to get a degree. Are there any guidance counselors pointing this out?)

Meeting this farmer again, I decided to take advantage of his experience to ask my favorite question these days.  “I keep sticking my neck out and saying there’s going to be crash in farm land prices. Is that the case in your opinion?”

“Not yet,” he said. “Unlike the crash in the 80s, much of the land expansion now is being done with cash, not borrowed money. If prices drop, most farmers are in a better position to ride it out.”

“But accountants who handle farm business tell me that while farmers are paying half or more down with cash on new land purchases, the borrowed money is still about the same amount because the land prices are so much higher than they were in the 80s. And, say the accountants, the farmers are very heavily in debt from updating machinery.”

“In some cases that’s true,” he said. “And that new big machinery, by the way, is often just a bunch of junk. Breaks down all the time.”

Then he got down to business. I wasn’t taking notes so these are not his exact words, but the gist of what he was saying.  “Things are changing much faster in farming than hardly anyone realizes. We thought we saw lots of change in the last decade of the 1900s. But from 2000 to 2005 we had as much change as in the whole preceding ten years. Than in the next three years we had as much change as in the preceding five. Now, in the last two years that pace of change continues. It’s breathtaking.  The guy who owns 400 acres outright and rents another 400 and is content to farm with old, outmoded machinery is in a solid position if a downturn occurs— especially if there’s a spouse with another job. The farmer who is farming a thousand acres and trying to move up to 2000 or thereabouts is at risk. The fellow going from 2000 to double that is even more at risk. But the farmer who has 5000 acres and is going for more, the ones on the high side who are good money managers and have been expanding with cash more than credit, and have good landlords interested in the operation’s success, not just in making money, these are the farms that will continue to grow larger. What we are looking at is the end of farming as we know it, replaced by giant investor-financed land trusts and worked by salaried employees. The real financial winners will be the descendents of the present landowners, the inheritors of these trusts, who may never even set foot on farmland or have any direct connection with it. Sort of like families who inherit oil fortunes.”

I asked him if he thought there was any really big movement in the opposite direction, in small scale, local, organic food, which he has also dabbled in.

“I think this will always be a minority thing. Most people care nothing about food except the price. If the organic or local food is higher priced, they won’t buy it.”

Trying to keep the conversation light and friendly, I said I thought that if I could live another 40 years, I could point my finger at him like a shriveled old man is prone to do, and say: “See, you were wrong.”

He smiled and replied: “I’ll be about 80 then and I will point my finger at your memory and say: “See, you were wrong.”

Will this country allow the land to go into giant trusts where the workers are all employees of inherited wealth? This would mean that what we think of as free enterprise capitalism will dissolve into the ultimate kind of socialistic plutocracy.  If it goes that way, I am glad that I’ll be dead.
~~

  1. Why do you say it would be a socialistic plutocracy? It will certainly be a plutocracy, but if the Republicans can succeed in dismantling Social Security and Medicare, and continue destroying unions and thereby getting rid of pensions, it won’t be a socialistic plutocracy.

    They say Obama wants to turn America into France. Well, what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. I say Romney wants to turn America in Mexico (where his father was born and raised), where the rich get richer until a few families own everything, run everything, and the rest of us are just peasants fighting over the scraps.

    The richest man in the world is a Mexican. WTF? Blessed be the job creators.

  2. He is right on Gene! I am a little sorry to say this but it is very true as he explains it.

    I have the same job you did at one time and have seen just the precise changes that he speaks of in my last 30 years with SCS/NRCS.

    I have producers (we don’t really called them farmers anymore) buy and sell grain or other farm products such as manure or fertilizer on their smartphones at the counter while I provide service to them.

    It is a different world on the farm these days. We have less than half the farmers we did when the first Farm Bill came out so this is a natural evolution for agriculture to survive.

    Yes, I still work with many small farmers and organic prodcuers too but unfortunately many are struggling to survive. I wish it wasn’t so…..

  3. Thanks for squashing any hopes I have of large scale farming trying to reduce fuel consumption. Looks like greater and greater pressure towards monocultures, continued pesticide & synthetic fertilizer use and ongoing loosening of organic standards. Not to mention the increasing impossibility for truly organic farmers to be isolated enough to remain organic. Sigh…

    This is an idea that on paper makes logical sense, but when you factor in mankind’s love of power and domination it’s only a matter of time before it becomes corrupt. Makes me think of breadlines….

  4. Plutocracy is right, but that wouldn’t be socialism — at least, not if those land trusts are in private hands, rather than state-controlled.

    I think the word you’re looking for is “feudalism.”

  5. Reblogged this on Eclectic Amateur and commented:
    This is not a pretty vision of the future of American farming.

    Logsdon calls the consolidation of farmland into land trusts (worked by employees, not owner-farmers) “socialistic,” but I think that’s inaccurate.

    What he’s describing is really more like feudalism. *Without* the reciprocal obligations that medieval lords had to their serfs.

  6. Your friend has fallen into the “if current trends continue” trap.

    Humanity, as a whole, is ill-equipped to deal with curve reversals, which nature tells us happens all the time. (In fact, nature insists that growth-curver reversals happen!)

    I don’t know when it will come, or how it will look, but a reversion to the mean is inevitable.

  7. I think Zach pretty well has the correct term here. I am seeing it happen in my neck of the woods. A few folks with deep pockets are buying up the best land. They don’t live in the area and they employ aggressive young farmers with no ethics as their “front men.”
    Sure you might rent a couple hundred acres from them if you get lucky, but you are still nothing more than a tenant farmer, share cropper with $100,000 worth of tractor payments instead of a mule and a plow.
    Those of you who start talking democrat vs republican politics are idiots and need to step back and take a look at that programming you bought in college.
    I think the screwing of the individual has in fact crossed party lines.
    There needs to be another option but I don’t know what it is! It certainly is not Romney and Obama.
    (in my humble opinion)

  8. Sorry for the typos in my previous message. I cannot type very well on my iPAD or smart phone and hate auto spell check.
    Do not lose hope small farmers!
    I have faith small farmers can thrive and prosper if they can keep their debt down and be good at marketing niche products locally.
    Our family is down to 20 acres now. We raise grassfed beef, milk goats, heritage breed pigs and many types of fruits and vegetables. I have a Mennonite friend who nets $70K per year on 7 acres! It can be done but is also a lot of work. Many people are not capable of hard work anymore due to be overweight and out of shape.
    I spend more time marketing sometimes than farming and farm with antique equipment. I am not just doing this for the money but for the lifestyle and having the very best food to eat.
    Big Ag is going nowhere. Even if we run out of oil that is certain to happen within 50 years, they will run their equipment of alternative fuels or natural gas or air or whatever new technology John Deere or Case/IH comes up with.
    The successful family farmer of the future will have over 10,000 acres and be incorporated. It is already happening in my area. I work with producers who have as many as half dozen separate entities. Part of this is to maximize farm subsidies in the past and spread out the risk. I have 3 neighbors with combined acreages of over 40,000 acres. They raise primarily potatoes, corn and wheat.
    Land acquisition is very aggressive right now. It is nearly impossible for anyone to get started farming as every 40 acre or greater parcel is being purchase by neighboring farms that keep growing.
    There will still be plenty of small parcels that are too small or with topography not capable of having center pivot irrigation installed. Buy one close to an urban area and grow organic strawberries, eggs or heirloom tomatoes. Read all you can from Joel Salatin. His books are great. Unfortunately, everybody does not have northern Virginia demographics as he does.
    Much of the food production within 50 years will be located within urban areas. Mega farms will continue to produce monoculture crops primarily for supplying feed for mega dairies and other CAFOs (Confined animal feeding operations) and for ethanol.

  9. When your friend says that someone with 400 acted that he owns outright is in a good position; I assume he is not including organic farmers with 400 acres?

    I had a discussion with a colleague recently. I told him about the 30 year study done at the Rodale Institute. That study showed that over the course of 30 years, organically raised crops did as well as ‘industrial’ raised crops. His response… wait for it… “You can’t feed the world with organic farming.”. Oh, my bad. I guess we better continue as we are now so we don’t have starving peo…

    By the way, who says we have to feed the world? Give a man a fish…teach a man to fish…just sayin.

    • Totally agree Brian. Out style of “helping” usually is in the spirit of creating a dependent market for some corporation. I love the Tiller’s International way of helping…

  10. I’m inclined to agree with Jan. Whether it’s peak oil or the debt and dollar bubbles (if you haven’t read “Aftershock,” I recommend it — it’s a chilling but necessary read, IMHO; think 40-60% unemployment for a start) I think things are going to change pretty drastically in the next few years. I’m sure there were plenty of folks who were convinced the economy would “stay on the curve” on Monday, October 29,1929…
    By the way, I’m a rancher. I spend about 4-5 hours a day on the computer but that’s because I am also a freelance writer.

  11. Interesting topic, Gene. You ask if the country will “allow” farmland to go into big trusts, and the cynic in me has to say, that phrase implies we have a choice or some control over what might happen, and that just ain’t so. If the scheme makes financial sense to investors and can be executed well enough to be profitable, it’ll keep happening. The gap between mega farms producing monoculture commodities “feeding the world” and the small folks growing real food will grow wider, until as Jan says, the inevitable “reversion to the mean” occurs.

  12. I think you both are right. Corprate farms will keep getting bigger because that is what most corporations do, buy out their competion, but I also think more small farms are going to be started because of the interest in growing fresh wholesome food with out the chemicals and antibiotics. With corprate farms sollowing each other the cost of food will keep risisng sending more people to the cottage farm to grow there own food.

  13. Dear Gene,
    I hope we’re both around in another 40 years to see how this all plays out! Great post as always.

  14. I am afraid bigger farms will happen, it is the economics of quantity. But small farms are much more productive and employ much more people. The USA for instance ranks 47th for wheat yield, behind Latvia and Kenya, while the Netherlands tops the list at almost 3 times the American yield.

    http://faostat.fao.org/site/567/DesktopDefault.aspx?PageID=567

    When farmers are as big as elevators used to be, it’s no wonder that they spend more time selling their crop on the market than growing it.

  15. Not sure why the phrase ‘Farms to big to fail’ pops into my mind. Think of all the addtional money making activities for Wall Street hedge fund managers and commodity traders. Finally a path into America’s bread basket.

  16. I went to the grocery story today (something I do less and less often) and witnessed a family squabble in the parking lot. An older man and two middle-aged persons were arguing over something the older man had refused to buy, “You kids just don’t get it,” he yelled. If you can get _____ for $2.39 instead of paying $3.39 for ______, that’s a dollar saved!” I realized that the middle-aged “kids” were unemployed and that the man was on a fixed income and probably trying to support all 3 of them.

    Food is going to be too expensive for a lot more people to buy and things will continue to “crash” (you see, I think things already are crashing if not farmland prices yet). Then people will produce, buy, sell, and barter on a smaller, more local scale because it will be what they can afford to do and what is available to them. Some of us are already doing this and I have to say we eat better for less and enjoy our lives and each other’s company more.

  17. The “kids” probably wanted to buy organic apples for their kids and the older guy probably wanted to feed the little ones Nabisco Appl Snax… I made that product up, but just imagine some sort of cheap non-food item.

  18. Food hubs are one way of counteracting corporate culture and give small farmers better access to markets

    http://www.ngfn.org/resources/food-hubs

  19. Yeah, I think the reality that this farmer is missing is that we’re in for some serious turbulence over the next couple decades as the American empire continues to fall apart and the Industrial Revolution begins to reverse course to a certain degree due to lack of cheap, high-density fuel and a coherent and functioning money system.

    I would place a pretty large bet on the continued growth of small-scale farming. Large operations with significant investments in complicated machinery and dependent on massive amounts of fuel and inputs are going to struggle mightily.

    There will be a huge increase in personal gardening, a huge increase in the non-money economy (trade, barter, gifting, etc.) and a huge increase in the number of people who want to learn to farm as they realize the importance and necessity of that. It’s happening now and will continue to happen.

    Not that we’re going to completely switch over to a new system overnight or that large farming is going to go away anytime soon. It’s still going to be a long process, continuing the trends that we’re already seeing. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it was further accelerated by the inability to resume standard economic growth and the continued increase in fuel prices. The industrial model just isn’t going to work well in a future with limited and costly fuel.

    I won’t hazard too detailed a guess as to how it will all settle, but I feel pretty confident in saying things are going to trend toward smaller, cheaper, jerry-rigged, and informal. It’s going to be about making do and getting by, not growing at break-neck speed, mechanizing and standardizing.

    It’s not going to be easy and we may end up pining for the last couple decades–which, for all their issues, have provided a level of luxury largely unseen throughout human history–but I still prefer the philosophy of small, adequate, and functional that I think is going to be dominant in the near future to the standardized, industrialized, get-big-or-get-out philosophy that’s dominated in recent times.

    Or, as I always like to say, I could be totally wrong. Certainly have been before.

  20. Feudalism is a well-known construct. It does not mean large farms. It means serfdom and castles. It means tenants, serfs, and slaves toiling and fighting over small patches of land. They share their crop with the lord or else. It thrived before coal and oil, and will rise again soon we are well over peak-everything. In many parts of the world feudalism never went away, like in central and west Asia. Go see how beautifully it functions (for the lord, of course) before you can no longer afford a plane ride.

    • The lord of the Castles may have to employ food testers, for the serfs toiling in the fields may pass along tainted food to the master and keep the good food for themselfs.

  21. You are right, Gene and your farmer friend is wrong. Ask him what he thinks will happen to the mega-farms when the oil runs out.

    • The “oil” will not run out. There will still be fuel for future mega farmers.

      60% of the corn crop now goes for ethanol and even more cropland could be devoted to producing biodiesel. Propane is also an option as well as natural gas. Large agribusiness corporations will continue to thrive into the future.

      I say this as a small organic and sustainable farmer who also works in the business full time for my day job. I work with every type of farming operation and see all sides of the business from small farmers with a couppe acres to others with over 10,000 acres.

      • “The ‘oil’ will not run out.”

        Have you looked at this in any detail?

        Each unit of energy that comes from ethanol requires 1.3 units of energy from oil to produce! Ethanol is a net energy loss!

        By some accounts, biodiesel has a very slight energy gain, but it is still going to track the fortunes of petroleum.

        (I won’t even get into the ethical implications of 60% of a food crop going in to power SUVs. Corn does not power farm machinery, which are 99% diesel-powered.)

        Propane and natural gas appear to be abundant at the moment. This is an illusion, due to government subsidies producing a temporary over-abundance, which depresses the price. My folks heat their 200-year-old farmhouse with natgas, and I recall my Dad whining about the cost just a couple years ago, and I expect to hear him complain again, because the reality is that natgas is getting harder and harder to extract — most of the current over-supply comes from subsidized “fracking” and other high-tech techniques that have a lot of petroleum supporting them behind the curtain.

        The US uses 50% more energy than is harvest by all the plants in the US. You aren’t going to “fix” that situation by turning plants into fuel.

      • From middle of elections in Papua New Guinea with no subsidies for farmers, only for Resource Exploiters.
        Vote for the removal Government subsidies for ethanol and any other economy distorting assistance for big farming. They have the money and you have the vote. Use it wisely.
        Tony Flynn, farmer witha small “f”.

  22. Like others, I must quibble with some of your wording, Gene.

    “Land Trust” implies that it is land held for the common good. Typically, a “land trust” is a tax-favoured charity that is supposed to have the public good as its mission. A real land trust would hold farmland in perpetuity, and lease it out on favourable terms to farmers (rather than employ them), who would work it as they see fit, possibly with some coordination among leased plots.

    I think what we’re seeing is nothing like a land trust. It’s a “land grab.” Corporations are buying up productive farmland so that they can control the food supply, through employee-farmers. This is akin to feudalism, as others have pointed out.

    Another tactic is through contracting farmers to grow food to specification — large chicken farms come to mind. The contracting corporation can then dictate all sorts of terms to the contracted farmer, such as the use of confined feeding operations. The farmer must comply, or risk losing his contract, which would mean losing his land, which is typically leveraged to the hilt. This is akin to indentured servitude.

    When the state supports or even takes part in corporate land-grabs, the proper term is “fascism,” which Mussolini himself defined as “the merger of state and corporate power.” Through the generally disastrous bi-decadal Farm Bills, the state clearly supports large corporate farming — made infamous by Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz’s admonition, “Get big or get out.”

    Where does “socialism” fit in all this? Not very well, actually, according to the dictionary definition as “state ownership of the means of production.” I don’t see that happening anywhere, much less to farmland.

    Henry Kissinger said, “If we can control fuel we can control the masses; if we can control food we can control individuals.” It looks like the first task has been accomplished. They’re working on the second.

    • Well said Jan!! My Grandfather told me when I was 18, (43 now) that if the Government could control the food, they would control the people. Thankfully he taught my Dad, my brother and I to farm small scale, sustainable and debt free as we were all growing up. Long live the Family Farm. Like my guns, “they’ll” have to pry my land out of my cold, dead hands, before I willingly give it up!!

    • I have found a book very pertinent to this matter.
      As You Sow.
      Three Studies in the Social Consequences of Agribusiness by Walter Goldschmidt
      Published in 1978 and available from villageearth.org as one of 1000 items in a DVD set.
      It explains very well how developed American rural society is being destroyed and is a look into the future for us in Papua New Guinea. In recent years, Agribusiness has gained control of 5.2 million Hectares of customery land and is already displacing villagers. This is in addition to the pre existing land use for development, towns, plantations etc.

      http://www.actnowpng.org/content/sabl-commission-inquiry-transcripts-february-2012

      Tony Flynn

  23. Gene, the issue as I see it is not how farming has changed but in how it is being financed, distributed and regulated. Plants and animals still have the same requirements and, with a few recent genetic improvements, still grow roughly within the same timeframes, climates and seasons. It appears that the main concerns you and your readers have (as do I) are about the off-farm constraints and demands, based on very unagricultural/horticultural principles, that are being applied for one reason or another – usually for off-farm gain. I guess that this also ties in very nicely to the last blog you entered and how the efficient and sustainable farmers of Asia in the past degenerated through local and/or national political and financial interference in a similar manner to what is happening today. As the old saying goes, “what goes around, comes around” or in more earthy terms “shit happens!”

    As a longtime, smallscale, sustainable farmer I believe there are only a few options available to us; continue under the current situation (or whatever the next unholy regime is put upon us), agitate loudly and forcibly against it, use a form of Thoreau’s civil disobedience (the recent Wall Street protesters perhaps?) or ignore it and just plain opt out. Just talking and railing against it only engenders anger and frustration at a personal level. I cannot speak for others but I am of an age and experience where I would encourage others to follow their hearts and to try and make a better difference for the future of everyone however they see fit; regardless my path will be to continue to grow and show as many others (preferably of the younger generation so skills are not lost) how to live this way and the benefits and joys inherent in it and leave those better equipt and suited to taking on the powers that be than me. It is as important (perhaps even more so in my humble opinion) to educate and instill in minds how to live and sustain ourselves harmoniously with Nature than it is to confront and oppose those who would place themselves in the way for their own gains.

    This is not the cop out it appears as my past has always been marked with standing up to perceived unfair attitudes and stances (usually to my own detriment unfortunately!) but more a recognition that perhaps education (of all types) has been left in the dust more than it deserves while the rather more newsworthy fisticuffs of the verbal or physical kind tend to hog the media and attention of the general population. A sad but rather true summary of modern day life (unless you live on a small scale, sustainable farm that is!!).

    Keep up the good work Gene. You may bashfully deny it but you are a true eco-warrior or perhaps the phrase ‘environmental patriot’ may be a better term. Just be aware that you are not alone. A burden shared is a burden halved as they used to say.

    Cheers my friend.

    John.

  24. I agree with John, it’s hard to change things from the inside–just makes the little guy a target. Opting out, if enough of us do it, will drain the beast of its power more quickly than direct assault–and perhaps we can live more peaceably in the meantime. There is an adage something like “whatever you give your attention to just gets bigger.”

  25. Farming is like every other aspect of our culture now; it rewards capital over work. We don’t value labor anymore, we mostly value wealth, especially inherited wealth.

    I’m curious if your young friend looks into his crystal ball and sees a point in time when “farmers” are well off enough that they no longer require the assistance of the taxpayers who bankroll the “programs”. Where crop insurance will be funded by “farmers” instead of taxpayers? Does he see a point where these agribusiness men pay the same percentage of taxes on their incomes as I do, before their accountants work their magic? Unfortunately, I’ve agreed with his vision for the last thirty years: I live in an area where two brothers and their wives cash rent over 30,000 acres. I don’t know how many crews they have, but the crew that works in my area is awesome to watch. They have two of everything! It makes me proud to pay taxes. Every year the people who inherited the least equity get peeled off the land, and the landed gentry cash rent now. I’ve often wondered what would happen if the 30,000 acre people went belly up: people who cash rent now would be hard pressed to find equipment to till their fields. Bain America has a good point.

    • Roof, I deliberately stayed away from farm subsidies in that conversation. I wanted to encourage him to talk and feared that pointing out to him how farm subsidies financed industrial farm growth would turn the conversation too negative. But you are right. Jan Steinman, John Finlayson, Bain, Betty hell you are all right. Whatever the right term to call what’s happening, it is frightening. Gene

  26. You have better people skills than I do, Logsdon. That may be why you are a successful writer and I’m the next Ted Kaszinski waiting for a JW to light my fuse. Keep writing good stuff, please.

  27. I have no arguments with your comments on alternative fuels Jan. I am speaking strictly about how large farmers will continue to farm when the cheap oil runs out. I think it is a shame we have to grow corn to power stupid useless vehicles (SUVs).

    I get 50 mpg in my Honda Hybrid and shake my head every morning watching 80% of commuters getting less than 20 mpg. My farm truck stays parked except for when I need it.

    My use of the word ‘oil’ was as a metaphor. Tractor engines can made to run on natural gas or propane with little retooling at the factories that now build diesels.

  28. No need to worry about those big “farms” taking over. When the heat really gets here they can just eat their ipods. Any body noticed anything funny about the weather? Little flood here and little drought there, but lets don’t think about that and don’t say anything. It might upset the grandkids. What part of six degrees C don’t you understand? Cancer kills next month or next year. Ebola kills next week. Heat kills today.I’m sorry to bring it up but it seems like an otherwise thinking bunch of folks here. I been loving Gene’s writing for forty years. I’ve lowered my pumps as far in the wells as they can go. Oh well.

  29. Gene, I’m just wondering if you have any thoughts on the new Farm Bill that was just passed in the senate. I know it’s slightly off topic

    • Mixed feelings, Menachem. For years I wrote against direct payments and was roundly criticized by farmers for doing so. So I should feel vindicated. Not so. Direct payments were kept in place as long as big money needed them. Now the biggest farmers can continue to expand without them, especially since the subsidized insurance program relieves them of most of the risk. Gene

  30. Large farms have already taken over as I am reminded this morning with the crop duster at the neighbor’s spraying poisons that drift over on our farm.

    The last 80 acres I rented for 3 years waiting on a government loan to buy was purchased for cash last year while we had the sale pending by a hog CAFO needing a place to spread manure.

    Subsidies still exist under the CSP program administered by NRCS that will pay you well if you are willing to conform to a certain method of farming. The new Crop Insurance ‘safety net’ will encourage poor farming practices as one can still stay in business and be a poor farmer.

    Climatic variability has existed since the earth came into existence. Our current problems have been exaggerated since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Not to worry. Monsanto, Dow and Syngenta have a plan to mutate crops so large farmers will be able to thrive until the next wave of pest invasion gets too bad and then they will then mutate crops and alter their chemicals again. It is all part of the master plan to control the food system.

    I will ponder and discuss this at the Farmers Market this morning selling my organic lettuce, strawberries and kale with all the other small growers trying to survive in this agricultural system we have built in our country.

  31. He will be wrong, Gene. Looking MUCH too narrowly at what’s happening, in the US and in the wider world. John Michael Greer — who does very small-scale garden-farming besides several other things — understands the whole picture exceptionally well. Much more convincing.

  32. Jim Snyder, this is a little off topic, but what farmers market do you sell at.? I’m always looking to support local folks working hard and producing great stuff. If you’re near by, I’d love to stop by and say hi.

    • Hi Jeannie. Downtown Edmore, MI on Fridays Spring and Fall. The drought and heat is really slowing production. Lettuce and peas will be gone soon and strawberries too. Check Local Harvest for zipcode 48829.Thanks Gene.

  33. I’m about to shill a TV show, so I apologize up front. Moyer and Company is easily my favorite program on PBS, and last evening he talked with Matt Taibbi about Taibbi’s article about the trial “U.S. of A. v Carollo, Goldberg and Grimm”. Louisc, you would be interested in how Taibbi describes derivitives, as well as some of the other miracle financial vehicles we’ve invented recently.

    The other half of Moyer’s show was about some of the causes and solutions of income inequality, which sort of ties in with some of our discussions. For things to change, more people need to be aware of what is going on around them. I do not want to always be a contrarian. I aspire to be mainstream, and maybe Jamie Dimon could be a contrary farmer.

  34. I am not that much of an optimist and I am just a little on the grumpy side. It is pouring down rain and while it is great for the corn I really should be making hay.
    I think we farmers tend to look at our little communities and make our predictions of trends from what we are observing.
    I do a lot of no-till planting around my neighborhood and I’ve kind of kept my ears/eyes open as to what is going on here.
    Farms are being bought up by “out of state” investors and big local farmers. I have quotation marks on that as I think it is a dodge to keep people from knowing exactly who is buying the ground. This is not limited to conventional farms. There is a person or trust which buys up small parcels which are then farmed organically.
    Some of my neighbors who have small organic farms think they can stay in business because they are local and sustainable and they go to the farmer’s market.
    With one stroke of a petty official’s pen farmer’s markets can go away. Small scale organics can go corporate almost as easily as large scale organic farms have gone.
    History has shown that consolidation of land ownership is the rule and the idea of individual citizen land owners is just as revolutionary now as it was in Jefferson’s day.
    Wearing scratchy wool underwear and congratulating each other for being local and sustainable will not buy long term security. Of course we are all American farmers and we certainly won’t organize. Remember the grain bins with NFO painted on the sides? How well did that work out?
    How relevant is the Farm Bureau?

  35. We are seeing the formation of a modern version of the “latifundia”, the giant slave-worked farms that existed from the middle republic era of the Roman Empire. These farms had economies of scale that allowed them to drive the small producers out and send them to the cities, where they were then kept quiet by feeding them the cheaper produce from the latifundia. Of course, machinery is unlikely to rise up in slave revolts, so this modern system is more stable. On the other hand, fuel for the fertilizer and machine operation is likely to become a bigger and bigger problem. A portion of the latifundia was set aside to raise food for the slaves; will we see the huge land trusts of the future operating their own ethanol plants?
    There will always be parts of the country that do not allow large-scale farming, simply because of geography. I can see organic farms migrating to those areas (which has in large part already happened) because of the lower land prices and in some cases, the availability of mini-climates for specialty food production and more proximity to markets. I do not see a horizon-to-horizon organic farm existing in Dakota, or Illinois or Iowa. They will continue to produce cheap food for the masses (who indeed only look at price) until some event causes the whole system to fail, whether that be crop disease/pests attacking the monoculture, or the end of any sort of cheap fuel.

Comments are closed.