A farm shouldn’t be a factory


Most of today’s food is produced by industrial agriculture and
that’s a problem.

Industrialized agriculture essentially turns farms into a
factories, requiring inputs like synthetic fertilizers,
chemical pesticides, large amounts of irrigation water, and
fossil fuels to produce outputs like genetically modified crops
(corn, soy, wheat) and livestock (meat, poultry, pork) by
mechanized production means.

All of this leads to a unsustainable and outdated system that’s
heavily dependent on fossil fuels and chemical pesticides,
which has dangerous hidden costs. Industrialized agriculture is
depleting our nation’s topsoil at such an extreme rate, experts
warn we have fewer than 60 harvests left if we don’t shift to
more sustainable farming practices.

Plus, the continued use of pesticides on our farmlands is
poisoning our soils, water systems and the air we breathe –
a recent study found that  93% of Americans test
positive for glyphosate,
the most heavily sprayed herbicide
in the world and one the World Health Organization has
categorized as a possible carcinogen.

But it doesn’t have to be this way, a shift to technologically
driven organic farming practices could save our topsoils,
lessen our dependence on synthetics and even capture 100% of
today’s CO2 emission
s.

“How we eat determines to a considerable extent how the world
is used.”

Wendell Berry

Here are three suggestions that will help us get back to
basics, but better.

Organic Farming

A primary driver of industrialized farming is to make farms
more productive by growing more food per acre. To do this, in
addition to reliance on synthetic inputs and mechanization,
farmers use genetically modified (GM) seeds that are less prone
to failure and can withstand heavy doses of chemical
pesticides.

There’s a common misnomer that organic farming, without the aid
of synthetic ingredients or GM seeds, simply cannot produce
equal yields to their industrialized counterparts. This is
untrue, a  recent long-term study not only found
that yields between industrial and organic farms were similar
across a variety of crops, on average, organic crops returned
nearly double the revenue of the conventional crops.

Additionally, genetically modified crops are designed to
tolerate very high levels of toxic herbicides, specifically
glyphosate which is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s
Roundup. Over 2.6 billion pounds of glyphosate have been
sprayed on US crops in the past 20 years. Since GM crops (94%
of soybeans and 89% of corn grown in the US) are able to
withstand high levels of glyphosate, the plants absorb this
toxic chemical, introducing it into the food supply, water
systems, air and eventually into our bodies.

A switch to modern organic techniques will not only boost
farmer profitability, but will create superior nutrient dense
produce that is not genetically modified – a tremendous boon
for our environment.

The Farmers Business Network is a professional social network
and data-sharing platform for agronomists.

Efficient Energy and Water Usage

There are tremendous wins to be had when combining organic
farming with 21st century tech. Innovative irrigation
techniques, like using solar powered wireless tags, can water
crops with extreme precision resulting in dramatic water
savings with zero effect on yield. In sourcing organic tomatoes
for our Thrive Market Collection products, we found a partner
that saves 2,750,000 gallons of water per day and 4 million
kilowatts of electricity annually by leveraging similar
technology in the name of efficiency.

There are some farmers in California using ‘dry farming’
techniques to nourish plants without water – using existing
water content and nutrient density in healthy soil to sustain
crops.

By focusing on sustainable farming practices and a
transition to more innovative uses of technology to increase
water efficiencies, sustainable farms can not only survive but
thrive in a future where water becomes more scarce.

The Arable Pulsepod is installed on a farm to gather data
about crops from the ground.

Soil Stewardship

There’s a climate component to this industrialization of our
agricultural systems, it’s destroying our topsoil. Experts
estimate that we have fewer than 60 harvests remaining if we
don’t move away from destructive industrialized farming
practices – marked by concentrated production of a single
crops, reliant on fossil fuel fertilizers and chemical
pesticides –  to more sustainable farming techniques.

And that’s where modern organic comes in. When most people
think organic organic they’re usually thinking about the
virtues of the produce itself, it has more flavor and is
generally more ethically produced. This is true, but organic
farming is also good for the environment as it promotes healthy
soil.

When soil is healthy, free from pesticides or synthetic
fertilizers, it’s able to produce a series of vital functions –
nutrient cycling, water filtration and water retention. The
nutrient cycling piece is primarily why organic produce tastes
so much better than conventional produce – it’s packed with
nutrients. Plus, healthy soil retains significantly more water
than soil laden with synthetics “each 1 percent increase in
soil organic matter helps soil hold 20,000 gallons more water
per acre.”

Healthy soil also has the ability to filter carbon from the
atmosphere. It’s so good in fact, that according to research
published by the Rodale institute, if we shifted the world’s
farms tomorrow to organic farming practices we could sequester
all the carbon being emitted today.

If you consume food you’re an active player in today’s
agricultural system, and hold the key for our farming future.
By shifting your purchases from unsustainable products born of
industrialized farming techniques, to organic products, we can
drive resources into expanding sustainable farming
infrastructures that will not only improve access and
affordability, but will help create a more sustainable future
for everyone.


Featured Image:
Tyler Olson
/Shutterstock

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