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Artificial Dilemmas {Week 5 CSA}


A looming shortage of farmers is casting a shadow on our agricultural landscape and, if the leading farmland owners (aka investors) have their way, our fields will eventually have fewer hands and more machines than ever before.


As futuristic and surreal as that might be to imagine, the economic forces are already underway to revise the entire industry of farming. But not everyone is on board. Beyond the technocratic enthusiasts remain those of us who believe high-tech AI tools don't belong everywhere. Those of us who sense there is something intrinsic and irreplaceable about human hands tending to the land that nourishes us.


The consolidation of small family farms after the green revolution of the '60s resulted in fewer farmers in general and larger mega farms growing the majority of the nation's food. The impending shortage of farmers to take over these remaining operations has been discussed and written about as far back as the 1980s when hoards of Boomers fled their family farms and never looked back. With the average age of American farmers now close to 60, and not enough young new farmers clamoring to take over their fields, the prophecies of farmer extinction are a little too close for comfort.


Of course, we're not going extinct and there is actually a fervent movement of young, wild-eyed Millenials and Gen Z'ers looking to learn everything they can about growing food. Like us, they're the ones hearing the desperate call to confront the insanity in farming and food production and going online to learn how to farm (yep, that's how we learned!). The problem is that very few of us are interested in farming the way it's been done on 99% of the farmland for the last 60 years. The other problem is that arable land is far more expensive than it was when the last generation of farmers bought it. We have investors to largely thank for that.


Over the last ten years, there has been an increase in investor interest in American farmland, driving up the value across the nation. The average price of farmland increased six times from 1940 to 2015, and the trend is likely to continue as the amount of arable land in the U.S. continues to shrink from climate-related pressures. Like wealth, land ownership is becoming concentrated into fewer and fewer hands, resulting in a greater push for monocultures and more intensive industrial farming techniques to generate greater returns. Researchers have reported that one percent of the world’s farms control 70% of the world’s farmlands—and the biggest shift in recent years from small to big farms was in the US. Pension funds are now reporting to own more than three times the number of farmland holdings than they did a decade ago and about half of Midwestern farmland is owned by people who don't actually farm it themselves. The largest farmland owner in the United States at present is none other than Bill Gates, who believes that sustainable agriculture is only possible in a world where seeds are genetically altered to better suit a changing climate and the technologies built to propagate, manage, and harvest them.


These forces are creating two interesting countertrends: a retaliation to what organic farmers call "inappropriate technology" (i.e. manipulating genomes directly versus using natural breeding to promote unique qualities) and collective land ownership by congruent groups of young farmers. We're seeing a wave of 'beyond organic' farmers who are bucking the standards watered down by corporate influence and we're seeing these farmers join forces to steward land together.


Both of these trends are underway on our own farm, where we tend to a large piece of land north of Reno with a group of ten others, all brought together by a mutual interest in reconnecting with the land, how to live from it, and how to support its resilience and regeneration. And while we're by no means the majority, we do represent what has been called an "urban exodus" in recent years—one that we expect will only increase.


Perhaps the instability of an increasingly intense world of an unpredictable climate, the blight of urban isolation, and social unrest will inspire (or even require) that more people find community in rural landscapes. And perhaps those communities will endeavor to grow their own food and raise their own herds. We can even imagine how technology, when used responsibly, could continue to support these budding networks of communities in our effort to return to a more balanced relationship with the land we consume from.


In this era of having an overwhelming amount of information at our fingertips, it's hard to say what direction anything will take. But under the buzz of summer's pollinators, as we quietly harvest one crop after the other, a different kind of knowledge emerges. The kind of knowing that bubbles up from beneath the mind, calming all questions into quiet. It reminds us that our hands were shaped across unfathomable expanses of time to hold the land the way we do, to pick juicy fruits fresh from their stems, and to trust that life is equipped to forever find her way... even in a field of robots.




Inside Your Box This Week


Red Romaine Lettuce

Cherry Tomatoes

Napa Cabbage

Curly Kale

Kohlrabi

Zucchini

Spinach

Parsley



 

Recipes Worth Trying...

{click images to go to recipe}



 

For supporting our small organic farm.

For helping pave a way forward for regenerative agriculture.

For investing in young farmers.

For buying local.

We're honored to nourish you!








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