Are you farming solely to produce food and make a profit Or are you farming to produce food, make a profit and to create and be part of a healthy, sustainable future?
We all know that farmers play an important, if not the most important role in our industrialised community that is, growing food. Until recently almost no-one really questioned how farmers farmed as long as there was plenty of fresh produce and a good supply of mainly locally supplied food to eat grown on a single family farm.
However with the advent of modern food processing giving us the ability to store produce and with the improvement of the transport systems allowing farmers to sell their produce almost anywhere in the world, our food supplies have changed dramatically.
Farms increasingly have become larger and are being owned and run by large corporations whose sole aim is to make a profit for its share holders. This new system of farming buys up large tracts of land and uses big machinery to farm vast hectares of the one crop. Every decision is based on the dollar return which is usually at the expense of the environment and ultimately us, the consumer. The array of chemicals to keep yields and production up are used in ever increasing amounts to fulfil on the contracts. Where is this all leading? Can the demand for food be met any other way?
For the good of all it must. Agriculture can no longer act as an isolated enterprise and disregard the effect that it is having on the environment. This will require a paradigm shift in thinking. The challenge for agricultural enterprise is to embrace the health of the total ecosystem including the human aspect, biology of the soil and the biodiversity of the species. No longer can we afford to measure annual yields per hectare but rather need to measure long term farm productivity and its effect on environmental and human health.
This includes consideration too of the actual food that is being produced. The result of this globalisation and industrialisation of food is that we, the consumer, no longer really know where much of our food comes from, nor can we be sure how it has been grown, for how long it has been stored and how it has been stored. Indeed we cannot even rely on nutritional value or if it may have toxic residues or contain GM! These days labelling laws fail to serve us but rather serve the food industry. It isn’t in the prospectus of big business to worry about the increasing incidence of allergies, cancers, diabetes and other modern day diseases, at least not until it affects consumer demand.
So if you are to be part of a sustainable, healthy world it is up to you, the farmer, to take control of your market. No-one is really “gunning” for you but rather the market is succeeding in keeping you under control. The way forward is for you to jump off the treadmill and to stop trying to get bigger, grow more every year, have better results than your neighbour but rather focus on growing more nutritious and satisfying food for both your animals, the consumer and yourself.
Take a step back and look at the bigger picture. It is very expensive to try and control nature and to constantly find new ways to combat the problems that have been created. It is time to adapt to nature which thrives on biodiversity and to become a true caretaker of your land and your environment for future generations.