Introduction

Herd About It

I’ve always wanted to live on a farm. I was born and raised in a small rural town just twenty miles outside of NYC. My grandfather had 30 acres, surrounded by woods, at the end of a dead end road. There were nine other homes on the quarter mile long road, some with chunks of land like ours and some with just an acre or two.

When I was in Jr. High the first of the developments came to my street. 15 houses on 1/2 acre lots, with a well and septic, built over a swamp. This was progress? This was the beginning of the end. I learned first hand how corporate greed can place profit over people. As soon as the houses were sold the corporation that built them was disbanded, a new corporation was started, and they moved on to plant another tract, free from lawsuits when the houses started to fall apart, sink into the swamp, etc. When it became clear that the swampland could not sustain usable wells and septic systems, the county had to come in with a public sewer and water system (at great expense).

During college I worked one summer on a family dairy farm. I learned to milk cows, drive a tractor, bale hay etc. I learned what hard work it was to do this day after day. I met a family who were salt of the earth types, taking pride in family, hard work, community, church and self reliance. Along with all they had to do on the farm they were involved with the community fire and ambulance service, their children’s schools etc. And they took a chance on a young woman from down near the city (NYC) which was no small thing in the 1970’s.

After graduation I moved to another farm community and took a job on a larger dairy. My main job was milking cows twice a day but I also helped with crop work during the summer. I learned to maneuver a dump truck alongside a combine as it chopped haylage and corn silage and then dump the silage into a large bunk silo. I learned to drive an Owatonna chopper all day and not get too badly sunburned.

I was already beginning to question the idea of big farms. At almost 100 milking cows this farm was one of the big ones. Within two decades it to would be phased out as too small to be profitable. To me the question was Why once the farmer has the equipment to make his/her life less devastatingly hard, does he/she then add on so many more head of livestock, as to be still working hard round the clock? The answer is because you have to pay for that equipment, and once you and your neighbors are making that much more of whatever you’re producing…the price you get goes down.

There’s a little more to it than that too. The large agricultural corporations that produce much of what farmers use (fertilizers, insecticides, mixed feeds, etc) want large operations, and so do the land grant universities. The mantra has been, produce as much as you can, as cheaply as you can. The result has been food quality reflective of your local $1 store. Farmers no longer produce food. We produce ingredients that will be mixed with petrochemicals and pharmaceuticals to produce product, most of it unhealthy. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Food for thought

Do you remember when America’s mid-west was called the
Bread Basket of the World and not the Corn Belt?