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Letter S for Swoope

April 24, 2008

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April 2008 NaBloPoMo

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This was distressing for me to read. I think they are reprints of letters to the editor of the Staunton paper, the Daily News Leader. As the presidential primary was approaching in February, I was trying to find out information about farmers in Swoope to see who would be possible Ron Paul supporters. I was thinking some of my neighbors might be anti-NAIS or have similar libertarian views. But then I came across the open records of subsidies received and I got a little dose of reality. I also read these letters back in February and thought Mr. Sevigny made good points. Mr. Salatin came across as conceited. Even though I really liked visiting the Salatins’ farm, I am more emotionally connected to the Sevigny family because I was really good friends with his son. I never went inside the turkey houses, but I did spend a lot of time at his house and on the farm.

Agriculture is important in our area, but it is industrialized agriculture. Just looking at the fields and animals as I pass by on the roads, I can tell that people have differing methodologies. Each farmer has his or her tolerance for exactly how industrialized he or she allows the farm to become. I sure didn’t know that there was so much rancor among my neighbors. I feel caught in the middle and I’m uncomfortable. What do you think of Mr. Avery’s conclusion? What would you do if you were me?

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8 Comments
  1. April 25, 2008 8:15 am

    I am certainly no expert on farming practices or spent a lot of time thinking about it to be honest. But the article did raise some points that as an outsider, made me think twice.

    As we become more and more populated, I believe ‘nature’s way’ is to help control species population. Thus we have new disease’s that not only kill us but our food as well. Such as the Asian flu. Or perhaps it has been around a long long time but we never noticed it as much because we didn’t see the effects personally. Now that we live right on top of each other, we have no choice but to see what is going on. While nature’s way is to ‘control’ the population, man’s way is to protect our lives. Gotta say I agree with man on this one LOL.

    For myself, I think that there are ideal ways to grow/produce food. Obviously, natural makes us think better. But it may not actually be. Technology has afforded us the ability to produce more and more food. Which is a necessary thing as the world population is growing rapidly AND the brilliant people that decided to use food as fuel. I must thank them for raising the price of food so drastically. Not only have we not created a solution to our energy crisis, we’re creating another economic strain on people. But I digress…

    In my opinion, sometimes ‘granola’ peeps can cause more harm while meaning to be good. I’m quite positive that they don’t mean to but it happens. But that doesn’t mean that I think we need to run blindly into the arms of technology and forget what nature has shown us. I think extremes of either side are dangerous.

  2. April 25, 2008 9:35 pm

    I completely agree with Chris. I get ticked when I think about how inflated our food prices have become with so much waste (gov still pays people NOT to farm or to destroy crops) and then there are people hungry or starving…it makes my blood boil!

  3. April 26, 2008 10:17 am

    Sustainable agriculture is such a complex issue – more complicated than either side is often willing to admit. I think both sides have very valid points, and both are oversimplifying in some cases. My sense (I haven’t looked at the numbers recently) is that it is true that especially with meat, we could not produce enough food – at a price that most Americans would be able to pay – if we raised everything following the organic, free-range principles. But the conventional farming methods are not sustainable, either. We’re losing too much topsoil to erosion, needing to use more and more chemicals that end up in our watershed, filling the animals with antibiotics that can lead to antibiotic-resistant bugs. Paying farmers to not farm is actually not a bad thing. Leaving a field fallow for a year can greatly increase the nutrients and decrease the erosion of the soil – both huge things. But it’s hard being a farmer, and leaving a field unproductive doesn’t make sense in the short term, which is unfortunately where many farmers operate. And the small, sustainable farms are very important, even if they currently couldn’t produce enough for the whole country, we need people to be investigating new methods of farming that leave less of an impact. Those have to start small before we scale them up.

    And don’t get me started on the biofuels. I hate that the “solution” to our dependence on fossil fuels is a process that requires, among other things, fossil fuels, petrochemicals, other chemicals, and the farming of non-native plants on a large scale that’s very harsh on the environment. The impact on food prices is relatively low (though that’s certainly a concern) on my lists of reasons this frustrates the heck out of me.

  4. April 28, 2008 7:00 pm

    What an interesting article!! I must say, the first guy (chuck) sounds as if he holds some sort of personal grudge against Salatin. I suppose I can understand him feeling slighted when he works hard to produce clean food and then feels as if Salatin is bashing his methods, but I completely disagree with most of what he said. ALthough Salatin doesn’t sound all lovey-dovey in his response, I certainly don’t blame him after the bashing his farming methods recieved. To me he comes across as simply defending his deep personal and experiencial beliefs about farming and his lifestyle. Obviously the two have greatly different paradigms, and both sincerely believe them. Mr. Avery’s response is also upsetting to me. I do not at all belief that “high yield farms…. are the world’s greatest farming triumphs.” I disagree with both Mr. Avery and Chuck— Having read nearly every book Salatin has written and having been to his farm (not to mention that our family runs a farm very similar to his) I really believe his methods are the best possible and that they can feed the world. It is interesting to hear the two sides say completely different things about which model is more productive, better for the environment, etc. One of them has to be wrong.

    I wonder if Chuck or Mr. Avery (and every other salatin-nay-sayer) have ever read salatin’s books or really, really considered his farming models? I know Salatin has considered conventional agriculture. I’m sad if people percieve Salatin as arrogant or snide, because I don’t think he is. He is a deeply sincere, completely passionate, and incredibly intelligent man. I can see how a convetional farmer may sometimes be offended by Salatin’s strong feelings and words against convetional argiculture. But a wise man will separate his pride from his accomplishments and objectively seek to better himself and his life. It seems to me that both Chuck and Mr. Avery take a lot of pride in not only their farming accomplishments, but that of convetional agriculture in general. God forbid we ever become so attached to something we believe is good that when something better comes along we can’t see it.

    Oh, and also, I really don’t think clean healthy wholesome food is a niche market. Most thinking people want clean food.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts. :O)

  5. April 30, 2008 4:32 pm

    Thanks for giving your opinion, Chris. Good for you for seeing the good in both sides.

    CG, I think food is one area where prices actually don’t go up that much. Compare the changes in the prices of food to changes in prices of things like cars.

    Ann, great thoughts! Thanks for such a well-worded comment.

    Kristin, yes, I agree that this is a personal grudge. That’s why it makes my heart ache so much. Thanks for putting down your thoughts!

  6. April 30, 2008 7:47 pm

    Maybe I need to move out your way because I’m a penny pincher and our milk prices have gone from 1.59 to 4.50 in three years. Bread from 1.50 to 3.00 in less than two years. Even fresh veggies have risen almost 50% in 5 years (remembering gas just started going up in the last couple of years and most of our produce comes from NC). I think that is a significant increase on items that remain the same size or based on weight.

    Remember the genius who said, “What if we just remove one ounce and charge the same cost; across the board that would save/make a million.” Companies are trying to hide it from us and market it as new and improved or convenient single serving size.

    Boxed, bagged, canned and bottled items have been repackaged (notice the different indents on the bottom of bottles smaller ounce sizes for individual servings). The serving sizes and measurements have shrunk, consumer reporting agencies have been calling companies out on this issue alone.

  7. May 3, 2008 10:55 am

    Things are still cheap here. We went shopping yesterday and our milk was $2.93 for a gallon and our bread was $1.19 for a loaf with 26 slices (but it’s not high quality bread). If you can buy your vegetables locally you will get great deals, especially on tomatoes. In the store they can be $2.69 per pound, but at a fruit/vegetable stand they would be 79 cents per pound.

    I guess what I was really thinking about was the amount of money that goes back to the grower/producer. That amount doesn’t change much, even if the corporate profits are increasing. And I definitely agree with you that it is wrong for companies to repackage their products in smaller sizes.

    Good luck to us all in trying to feed ourselves! If I had a house I would have my own garden and just bypass all the middlemen.

  8. refincher permalink
    May 13, 2008 7:18 pm

    $2.93! Wow! Drink up! It’s $3.99 here.

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