Gene Logsdon and Friends

What Truly Is Progress In Farming

In Gene's Weekly Posts on April 22, 2015 at 10:09 am


Now that glyphosate (Roundup) doesn’t work so well, the chemical industry is using the old Agent Orange in various new herbicide admixtures. When the general public learns about this, there is going to be an uproar. But what if the only other alternative is for farms to “go back” to mechanical cultivation to control weeds. Big farms probably couldn’t do that because cultivating weeds is so slow compared to chemical weed control. But if big farms become obsolete, the world would end according to current economic theory. Is that true?

It is amazing what happens to your mental calculations if you start thinking about a future based on the assumption that smaller farms are inevitable. Without the striving to get bigger in order to get profitable, agriculture suddenly becomes a very promising way for more people to live and work, akin to gardening. Instead of glorying in how many acres big machines can prepare and plant in a day, we could take pride in figuring out how many people can be employed profitably in farming smaller units. Instead of counting how many jobs that factories create while make those machines, we could concentrate on how many jobs farming could provide at less energy and carbon cost. More…

Watching The Basketballs Float By

In Gene's Weekly Posts on April 15, 2015 at 9:50 am



There’s always something new headed your way, especially if you live beside a river. I visited Wendell Berry recently and we had the most marvelous time just sitting on his porch watching the Kentucky River flow by. The whole state had been experiencing serious flooding at that time and the river was way out of banks, licking up against his garden. Not as high as the “Thirty Seven Flood,” as it is referred to in Kentucky, which covered what would become his garden. (Everyone along the river knows exactly how high that famous flood rose, either in memory and with in-land markers.) We were discussing the awful erosion this part of Kentucky has suffered because of last few years’ corn and soybean craze that suckered landowners to once again cultivate land that their ancestors had learned the hard way should be kept in pasture. We had seen lots of gullies newly gouged out the rolling landscape on our way to Wendell’s farm. I was wondering how much mud would be deposited in the Gulf of Mexico just from this flood. Then Wendell said, in that tone of voice he assumes when he is about to say something droll: “But I haven’t seen any basketballs float by for an hour or so.”

“Please?” We were at the height of March Madness at the time, but basketball was not a part of the kind of madness we were discussing.

“When the water comes up this high this fast, hundreds of basketballs and soccer balls come floating past,” Wendell said.

I started watching for basketballs. More…

Bravo The Bloody Local Butcher Shop

In Gene's Weekly Posts on April 8, 2015 at 9:35 am



Our butcher retired recently and in the process of finding another, it seems clear that there’s a great opportunity opening up in local meat marketing if you can stand the work. Nobody wants to do it but most people want to enjoy its fruits. I have done my share of butchering hogs, chickens, even a few steers and lambs and I don’t much like to do it either. Carving up a dead carcass is not so bad once you learn how to sharpen a knife properly, but slaughtering is a nasty job, even when done “humanely.” On the other hand, so is hanging high up on an electric pole in a blizzard repairing a power line, emptying bedpans in an infirmary, or repairing a ruptured water main in below zero weather.

Meat is a part of the local farm, local food, local restaurant business that needs more participation. It can be lucrative and begs for more skilled and even artisanal entrepreneurial types. On a small scale, even the killing is not as distasteful as it sounds. Our method, the one most used in home butchering, is to shoot the animal in the head with a twenty-two rifle, which stuns it motionless momentarily during which time the jugular vein is cut. Professionals can do this swiftly and calmly and the animal never knows what happened to it. Small animals and chickens are generally hung upside down or held by some contrivance in a vertical position and the jugular vein cut with one swift pass. If reading this overwhelms you with revulsion, you should be a vegetarian. More…