• Nasir Shuja
    107
    How should we conduct farming?
    Here are the problems and what to do:

    Economy of scale/conglomeration, efficiency/machinery, loss of local seasonal, synthetics post ww2 and health and pollution, yield vs soil and plant health
    Cheap food, global competition, development, population
    Cost of organics to consumer
    Marketing that can't convey the truth ("natural" is better organic is even better and best is to be determined)
    GMOs and IPR laws, corporations and short term profit, ignorance of long term health and environmental effects, influence on govt
    Invasive species, loss of native breeds
    No incentives to become sustainable
    Farmers looking for govt help, idealistic but dogmatic to either organic or synthetic, no time to learn/apply how to find balance (it is complex and difficult), the history of the land grant system
    Not enough knowledge in farming yet, loss of biodiversity eg pollinators, use of immature techniques (aquaponics - how to sustainably feed the fish), how to maintain ecosystem balance on farm without monocropping and synthetics and relying on monsanto etc - sustainably mined minerals and sourced fertilizers/soil organism health/safe pesticides if necessary past predators/saving and breeding your own seed/low water usage techniques/using compatible plants for pollinators wildlife and each other (eg forest ecosystems or companion planting)/crop rotations and cover cropping/etc (alot)

    Based on this stuff I feel we need to return to a smaller farm model. We need to facilitate biodiversity and use creative (interplanting, predators, etc) techniques to control pests, maintain soil health for the long term, use sustainable ferts and chems (if necessary), see what marketing is really wise, try to minimize water use (ag uses so much more water than any other human endeavor), don't plant invasives, find a local niche, know our land well, cover crop/rotate if desired, mulch, use drip if possible, give Farmers a bigger role in society/get more of them - start some government program, don't use GMO seeds (bc of IPR problems, and possible environmental concerns) - breed your own, see that yield is by no means less even in the short-term in balanced agriculture, teach people better (producers and consumers) how to do this and not be reactionary once we are screwed, make sustainable food available to the masses, reorganize the supply chain, fix the global economic problems with food prices and make available cost effective sustainable farming techniques in the most worn out and overpopulated areas.

    If we do this, it would be a very major thing we can do to fix any possible problem with the environment. Aside from fossil fuels, that is..
  • ssu
    1.4k
    The biggest advance in my opinion could if the efficiency that some countries have in agriculture could be implemented in Third World countries, especially places where agricultural production has natural advantages.

    Just consider the top 10 countries by value of food exports (in USD):

    1 United States 72,682,349.79
    2 Germany 34,628,800.73
    3 United Kingdom 29,540,218.71
    4 China 25,152,286.27
    5 France 24,114,557.76
    6 Netherlands 23,271,570.93
    7 Japan 21,870,881.77
    8 Canada 21,803,448.88
    9 Belgium 15,742,034.88
    10 Italy 13,890,507.81

    Notice something peculiar? It's Netherlands, Japan and Belgium. These countries aren't big or in the case of Japan it's surprising at least to me. These aren't the countries you would suspect to be top agricultural exporters, but their production efficiency has taken the exports to another level. Several of the largest agricultural producers aren't in the top 10, which tells something also. India might naturally be not among the top exporting countries, but what about Russia and Ukraine, Brazil and Argentina?

    Because if you would have these larger countries being as advanced as Netherlands in agricultural production, then supply would be somewhere totally else from today.
  • Nasir Shuja
    107
    How do they increase efficiency there though? I can't eval your data unless I have details about their methodology. I've heard stories of machinery and unwise methods being introduced to places where agriculture was not modernized, and now it has had negative consequences. Take shrimp farming or forestry... increasing efficiency in developing countries at the cost of long term soil and surface health is not going to fix anything, obviously. It will just destroy their land and economic system and health, not to mention they'll just export everything to wealthier countries.
  • unenlightened
    3.6k
    Notice something peculiar?ssu

    Yes. I notice that the UK is nowhere near self-sufficient in food production, and that therefore your figures are so misleading as to be pretty much worthless. We export a lot, we also import a lot more.

    How do they increase efficiency there though?Nasir Shuja
    This is a very complex topic, but very broadly, a labour intensive market gardening and mixed farm set up, adapted for climate and soil and irrigation availability is about as productive per acre as you can get, by and large, though much land is unsuitable for such use. So we are in agreement to a great extent. It is also a much more pleasant way to live. Are you ready to work hard and be rather poor?
  • Nasir Shuja
    107
    Hahaha, yes! I am in the process of learning everything about it to avoid those two things as best I can. But yes, it is a way of life.
  • Judaka
    323
    We need to sit philosophy down and get his approval, the question is how can we convince him?
  • I like sushi
    1.2k
    The financial value given to the food exported doesn’t represent the quantity produced. It’s not the best way to present the production of food. You should present by nutritional value alongside tonnage.

    Western countries have more efficient farming due to technology.

    There is an interesting talk on the subject matter here:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=uB6rXAXmzQg
  • Bitter Crank
    7.8k
    1 United States 72,682,349.79
    2 Germany 34,628,800.73
    3 United Kingdom 29,540,218.71
    4 China 25,152,286.27
    5 France 24,114,557.76
    6 Netherlands 23,271,570.93
    7 Japan 21,870,881.77
    8 Canada 21,803,448.88
    9 Belgium 15,742,034.88
    10 Italy 13,890,507.81
    ssu

    $73 million??? SSU, where did you get these numbers from, and what do they represent?

    A quick search showed that the value of just two US food exports--soybeans $12 billion, and corn $10 billion, greatly exceeds the figure you cited. Total US food exports last year were expected to be about $144 billion.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.8k
    we export a lot, we also import a lot more.unenlightened

    Most countries do, because other countries grow food that are in demand. Like, hard sausage from Italy, apricots from Turkey, olives from Greece, wine and cheese from France, etc. Basmati rice from India is far superior to "texmati" grown in Texas or California. California supplies much of the world with almonds. Iran is a major supplier of pistachio nuts. Some of it is a bit absurd -- selling Jaffa oranges in California, for instance, or importing cheese into Wisconsin (where the license plates say "eat cheese or die").
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.7k
    Total US food exports last year were expected to be about $144 billion.Bitter Crank

    That sounds more like the big business which farming really is in North America.

    Based on this stuff I feel we need to return to a smaller farm model.Nasir Shuja

    Is this practical?
  • Nasir Shuja
    107
    I think it would require massive revision from top down, but it seems necessary, no? I don't think we need to totally become isolationist (each country grows their own food), or totally global (more like now), some mix would be better probably. For example here at least in the US, we could start with mapping out resources, revising the economics, fixing supply chains (figure out how to support densely populated areas), etc. But I think it is blatantly obvious that the current model is not balanced, at the least. I don't want to write a dissertation on it here and look up all sorts of data, but yes, I think it is practical if it is done somewhat at least; we can't do it completely of course. A lot, lot of things would have to change. We don't have time for debates about the efficiency any more, that is obvious enough to anybody who has ever grown anything. Dogma and greed and simple reactionary short term simple minded ignorance has corrupted everything. Why do we use so much unsustainable agriculture in the US? Because of power, short term profit, ignorance of "experts," etc; now we try to export that to third world countries as some on this board have sanctioned? How absurd. We need to grow like our ancestors did, but in a reductive, holistic, modern way. The quotes of figures is obviously out of context and nonsensical which is why I didn't even bother respond to that aspect; global political data is very complex. But there are people who are beginning to grow alternatively, slowly.. I don't see why we believe in dark matter though but can't see the value of alternative agriculture. We buy one theory but not another that is so Much more relevant and evidenced; it's all politics. We'll only do it when we absolutely have to. There is so, so much nonsense out there. I want the US government to support small Farmers, which they don't, at all. Why? Again, foolish considerations. Politicians have to be like gods (know everything About everything) in the modern age to get anything truly just done, and that they are not. Big agriculture Farmers don't Know anything about soil cycles and food webs and labor-machinery balance, ignore ethics, know a lil about soil chemistry, etc while the greenies just know about compost/interdependency (better) but know nothing about the knowledge we can extract from synthetics. I'm hinting at the work done by Albrecht in part, the soil chemistry of minerals and plant nutrition. Michael asteras book the ideal soil is a very valuable resource on this. He has the most balanced synthesis I've found, and I'm going to use it in the models proposed in works like the market gardener and the new organic grower (Coleman). That basic structure seems to be the most efficient and sustainable model for me personally. If I had more land, I'd do it a little differently then, but with much similarity.
  • T Clark
    3.2k
    This is a very complex topic, but very broadly, a labour intensive market gardening and mixed farm set up, adapted for climate and soil and irrigation availability is about as productive per acre as you can get, by and large, though much land is unsuitable for such use. So we are in agreement to a great extent. It is also a much more pleasant way to live. Are you ready to work hard and be rather poor?unenlightened

    Do you have a source for these statements? Not arguing, I'd just like to read a bit.

    I think the big hole in the argument is "labor intensive" and "be rather poor." Productivity is "the effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input." The type of farming you describe is productive because farmers and farm workers for this type of farming get paid for shit. As the father of two farmers, I can see this first hand.
  • Nasir Shuja
    107
    But nobody goes into it expecting to be a billionaire? We do it because we want to. The market isn't set up to support us. I don't think it is as cut and dry as having to be poor or using extreme amounts of labour. Yes, manual labor is necessitated at very specific junctions of the growth cycle (weeding prior to mulching while young direct seeds or transplants reach adequate size to mulch, harvesting, preparation for market, sowing, raising transplants, and a few other things). But this can be mitigated and made very efficient if you plan correctly. On my acreage, I will need a small tractor to till the veg plot (for the bacteria; not in the forest section bc fungi don't like tilling). I'll use a broadfork once a year where necessary. I'll use a hand driven rotating seed sower. I'll do all green house propagation by hand. I'll refurbish the raised beds yearly with compost. I will use drip irrigation everywhere so no labour there. Ferts are applied twice a year, scattered on the soil prior to deep-ish tilling. It's not really that bad for a small to mid sized piece of land. Everybody has different land and a different methodology. I have a target market which is not saturated and is growing and I got a friend to do all the marketing for me, for free. I'm going to do a CSA, so I can grow whatever I want and make more profit. But I'll go to some markets also and have a stand on site, depending. The land will also be used for other purposes. It remains to be seen as far as the nitpicky details go, but the majority of labor should be spent in initial improvement of the land, and the above mentioned spots. It's not easy, but it's doable. Many agree. I might even be able to do it with me and one helper. Based on the business model (what I will grow where on the land remains to be determined, that will take a long time to decide on), I will see where I end up in actuality.. but, (and I will be certified organic maybe), the good thing is the initial capital required for my setup is very reasonable.. I don't know what kind of farming your sons do. There is huge, huge variance in methodology. There are many books out there on the efficiency of a well planned market farm.
  • unenlightened
    3.6k
    The type of farming you describe is productive because farmers and farm workers for this type of farming get paid for shit. As the father of two farmers, I can see this first hand.T Clark

    I don't have chapter and verse to hand, but I'm considering productivity per acre and not per man-hour, obviously. A lot of land - anywhere that isn't plains - you don't have much choice. Anything more productive than grazing or forestry would have to be small scale and mixed. But there's a lot of narrow valley bottom, and steep valley side that could do more than it does, and did, before agro-industrialisation.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.8k
    I'm all in favor of small farms, organic methods, minimum tillage, truck farming, and so on. There is nothing impractical about any of this. Before WWII agriculture was conducted considerably differently than it is now, 70 years later. Farms were much smaller, herbicide/pesticide application was minimal compared to present practice, production was much ore diversified, and so on.

    What are the barriers to our returning to pre-WWII farming methods and organization?

    1. Over the last two and three generations, farms have been consolidated into large acreages (where the lay of the land allows for big flat fields);

    2. very few young farmers are available to begin farming on 200 acre farms, even if they were given the land and capital;

    3. the machinery used for diversified family farms is no longer being made (smaller tractors, various kinds of tillers, rakes, etc.);

    4. seed production (from which crops are planted) has become a hostage of seed, herbicide, and pesticide corporations like Bayer and Monsanto, et al.

    None of these barriers are insurmountable, but they would take a generation or two to overcome

    We don't know whether we would be able to attain the current level of production in corn, wheat, soy, cotton, sorghum, oats, and so forth in a rediversified, small-farm re-arrangement. We will certainly be able to produce as many apples, potatoes, cabbages, rutabagas, carrots, kales, and cucumbers as we do now, and probably better.

    All these changes would have to be forced -- I don't mean by soviet style collectivization -- by very intrusive governmental action more akin to to WWII production mobilization. The technology of small farming hasn't been lost -- it has been merely neglected. But it would certainly take time (a generation) to train in a generation of novice farmers in how to manage crops and animals and manage farm finances -- never an easy task.
  • Nasir Shuja
    107
    I like the generational point.
    How should we achieve this?
    I am willing to take action/help.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.8k
    I haven't checked this, but it seems to me that tree-crops (apples, pears, apricots, peaches, oranges, pecans, almonds, walnuts, etc.) have very high value and weight per acre. And forestry on land that is too steep for anything else can, in the very long run, be profitable. A large walnut or oak tree (maybe 80 years old) is worth quite a bit a cash.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.8k
    A young man starts farming. He has children. He convinces the children that farming is the best thing in the world (evidence to the contrary). Rinse and repeat every 20 years.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.8k
    But seriously, government intervention is needed. A young man can not just start farming. Capital is needed -- cash, machinery, seed stock, animal stock, housing, and so forth. The government can help in several ways: university training in agriculture (quite a few state universities have colleges of agriculture); trade-school level training in agriculture; active university-based agricultural extension services; state financing; busting up the seed/herbicide/pesticide monopoly, so that farmers can buy self-perpetuating seed stock, and seeds not dependent on the seed company's herbicide (RoundUp Ready corn, for example).

    Giant corporate control of agriculture has to be ended, and that requires state action on the highest level.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.8k
    It's pretty amazing. Several very large corporations, like Monsanto, DuPont, Bayer, Dow, etc. own or have controlling interests in dozens of other companies that are part of the Ag. business. tumblr_pofcw8SRlk1y3q9d8o1_540.jpg


    https://civileats.com/2019/01/11/the-sobering-details-behind-the-latest-seed-monopoly-chart/
  • Nasir Shuja
    107
    That is exactly what I was thinking.
  • unenlightened
    3.6k
    Sure. Orchards on the steeper slopes, and pigs and chickens under them to tidy up the windfalls and fertilise. Terracing is a thing too.

    If I was fit and without commitments, I'd look to something like this, for an education and some fun.
  • T Clark
    3.2k
    Orchards on the steeper slopes, and pigs and chickens under them to tidy up the windfalls and fertilise. Terracing is a thing too.unenlightened

    Here is a photo of vineyards planted on the steep lopes along the Mosel River in Germany. These grapes are planted, cultivated, and picked by hand, sometimes with the use of motorized monorail bikes.

    xpfiia0wed4x93f7.jpg
  • ssu
    1.4k
    $73 million??? SSU, where did you get these numbers from, and what do they represent?Bitter Crank

    Sorry, not 73 million, forgot the "in thousands of" and hence 73 billion by that link, where just what you take into account on all food exports can vary. The link was Which Countries Export The Most Food?. Perhaps not the optimal stats, but gives perspective. (Should have looked for better stats, but anyway.)

    . I notice that the UK is nowhere near self-sufficient in food production, and that therefore your figures are so misleading as to be pretty much worthless. We export a lot, we also import a lot moreunenlightened
    Notice that it was exports. Not net exports. I guess that Scotch Whisky is more profitable than exporting just barley.
  • ssu
    1.4k
    How do they increase efficiency there though? I can't eval your data unless I have details about their methodology. I've heard stories of machinery and unwise methods being introduced to places where agriculture was not modernized, and now it has had negative consequences. TNasir Shuja
    Netherlands is very advanced in agriculture technology and uses extensively greenhouses.

    Here's two takes on Dutch agriculture. (And btw they put Netherlands to different status as mine stats, above, so sorry about that..)



  • Bitter Crank
    7.8k
    A question on Dutch meat and dairy production: It wasn't clear to me whether the Dutch are producing all of the fodder and grain / protein which they need to produce quality milk, cheese, ham, etc. Are they importing animal feed?

    Similarly, Denmark produces various export crops and products; is Denmark producing their animal feeds, or are they importing those? (The Danes used to import most of the animal feed they needed.)

    I'm not asking the question as a criticism; I found the information in the video on Dutch production to be very impressive. A lot of the red/yellow/orange sweet bell peppers we eat in the US are Dutch imports. (The cost is between $3 and $4 a pound; domestic green bell peppers are about $1 a pound.

    The expansiveness of US, Canadian, Australian, and Argentinian fields makes it easier to foist highly industrial processes on farmers there. Obviously, RoundUp ready tomatoes grown in a greenhouse makes no sense.
  • I like sushi
    1.2k
    Just curious, did anyone actually watch the link I posted? If so, any thoughts?
  • ssu
    1.4k
    The expansiveness of US, Canadian, Australian, and Argentinian fields makes it easier to foist highly industrial processes on farmers there.Bitter Crank
    Agriculture is turning into an industry. What is diminishing is subsistence farming, which still plays a huge role in the Third World. So likely what will be a 'make or break' moment is will there be a transformation in agriculture for example in Africa. The decrease in subsistence farming isn't in my view really about agriculture or agriculture technology, but the emergence alternative jobs for people. A subsistence farmer will stay quite poor, hence the eradication of agrarian povetry happens when countries industrialize and become prosperous.

    Just curious, did anyone actually watch the link I posted? If so, any thoughts?I like sushi
    Listening to it. Interesting. I love this from the lecture:

    "There isn't really a choice. The argument that we can all become vegetarians is also not a viable argument. Because high protein plantfood cannot be produced in most arable land at the level it would be needed to provide protein nutrition for the Worlds population."

    HA!!! So take that you stupid vegans (munching my breakfast of eggs and ham while writing this).
  • unenlightened
    3.6k
    https://ourworldindata.org/yields-and-land-use-in-agriculture

    There's a load of interesting stuff here. This chart in particular might give pause to the militant carnivores.
  • ssu
    1.4k
    There's a load of interesting stuff here. This chart in particular might give pause to the militant carnivores.unenlightened
    Actually in the lecture that I like sushi posted above, the thing with beef was discussed. The lecturer gave there interesting insights. (Also, the Q&A is worth listening in my view too).
  • I like sushi
    1.2k
    Here’s another interesting talk: https: Professor Dave Reay: Climate-smart food

    //m.youtube.com/watch?v=s_YvrSkESe0&list=PL9E20C4BE37DEBC70&index=12&t=0s
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