Gene Logsdon and Friends

Small Scale Farming Really Isn’t Small

In Gene's Weekly Posts on February 3, 2016 at 8:54 am



​Economists sanctify expansion in agriculture as the way farmers survive but in the very act of saying that, they are also pointing out why farmers don’t survive. If all the land is occupied, for every farm that expands, another ceases to exist. So it would be just as accurate to say that expansion is the way farmers don’t survive. And that leaves us in a situation where, according to the statistics, as quoted in a new, soon- to- be- published book, Miraculous Abundance, some 80% of the arable land on the planet used in intensive mechanized agriculture is owned by multinational corporations. Meanwhile, the proponents of big farming continue to flaunt their challenge: “get big or get out.” When all the land is owned by one big corporation and it still doesn’t make enough of a profit to satisfy the stockholders, what then?

​As a matter of fact, small commercial farms and so-called hobby farms are on the rise again and whether or not they are profitable by today’s money standards, they are generating a lot of other economic activity which in aggregate becomes quite significant. These farmers are creating a different economic model than that of industrial production. They are successful because they really aren’t about how much money they can make but how much of what they do make they can keep in their pockets while they spend their time doing what they really want to do in life. As they proceed, they generate all sorts of other small businesses and avocations that in turn prompt more small business.  More…

The Kingdom of Corn

In Gene's Weekly Posts on January 27, 2016 at 10:21 am



You can find a stunning photo of the kingdom of corn in, of all places, the Sunday New York Times travel section Jan. 7. I stared at that photo on and off for three days, transfixed by what it silently said for all of us who know corn. In the photo, taken in rural Iowa, there’s one lonely farmhouse, surrounded by winter corn stubble as far as the camera can see. Miles in every direction of nothing—nothing — but corn stubble on low rolling hills, as forlorn a sight of human habitation as an artist could depict to me. To a corn farmer the scene probably brings more good feeling than bad because the thickness of the stubble indicates a very good crop there last year. All that stubble also indicates that little erosion will occur there over winter and as it decays and is worked into the soil, the fodder will add to the organic matter content.

But there is an ominous message in that photo too. The photographer could easily have taken a similar picture just about anywhere in Iowa where the farmhouse would be abandoned. Corn has been replacing farmsteads for fifty years at least because it looks like an easy and comparatively uncomplicated way to make money but requires constant expansion to do so, like all industrial businesses. Over the years pasture and oats and even wheat dropped out of the kingdom of corn. Grazing livestock and fences disappeared. Woodlots vanished. Crossroad and village stores closed. The number of farmers dropped precipitously.  More…

Sex Is Such A Botheration

In Gene's Weekly Posts on January 20, 2016 at 9:23 am



After food, sex is the most important factor in keeping life going but it causes almost as much sorrow and pain as it does joy and pleasure. I have often joked about how much easier it would be if we could mail order babies like we do baby chicks and I am not entirely sure that won’t come to pass some day.  In the meantime, in the world of animal agriculture, we are very much headed that way and in no sector more so than small scale husbandry.

Sex really is a pain for small and mid-sized farms— for all farms actually. Bulls and rams and billy goats can be downright dangerous and hardly worth the risk and effort for only a few ewes or cows. Part of the time they have to be segregated from the females unless you don’t care when the calves, lambs or pigs come. Artificial insemination (AI) has therefore become the standard practice even with many larger farms. Operations that keep male farm animals for AI will most likely become even more lucrative in the future as a side effect of the new interest in small scale husbandry. AI is a botheration too and not as sure as physical mating, since you have to catch the females in heat at just the right time, a skill that takes time to acquire. But the advantages are many. You not only don’t have to worry about getting gored by a bull, but you can use semen from the top bulls in the nation and so improve your herd quicker. More…