Joel Salatin, the farmer featured in this clip (jump to the 4:20 mark) from the 2008 documentary Food, Inc. and owner of Polyface Farms, has found a way to be profitable while staying true to his family's ideal that nature's design is still the best pattern for the biological world. After hearing Ellen Davis speak so eloquently about stewardship of land, I couldn't help but think of his words and Professor Davis' advice on getting informed about how our food is produced:

Ms. Tippett: So apparently my senior editor, Trent, is Tweeting this conversation we're having, and he has had a question come in from a student of yours who loves you …So it is how do city dwellers, urbanites, relate to an agrarian mindset without romanticizing it?

Prof. Davis: I think the best way to do that is to listen to farmers and to meet farmers. As we've been talking about, that's easy to do now because there probably isn't an urban area —

Ms. Tippett: Right. They're in your city. Right.

Prof. Davis: Yeah, exactly. They're in our city. So talk to them and find out what they're doing, what their hopes are, and also what their struggles are. And I don't know any farmer who isn't struggling. And it doesn't matter what model of farming they're using. If they're using small farming, trying to get off the grid, or if they are involved in industrial farming, I don't know any of them who are not struggling and to some degree suffering. So I think that's the most important thing that we can do in order not to romanticize it. I'd also suggest that you can read some of what is happening in new modes of agricultural research. Because some people think that when I or others are talking about agrarianism, we're sort of talking about going back a hundred years, if not 2,000 years. But it's not an exercise in nostalgia.

Share Your Reflection



Talking to farmers will certainly help but it is not enough. People who romanticize farming tend to be those who have never done it. And those who have know the the clash between a the culture presented in media that values quick money and short term commitments over pride in making something and long term commitments. And those who control education and public policy consistently focus on a one-size fits all educational standard that emphasizes abstract academics over trades and industrial skills.

I guess I would like to see more emphasis in public education and government policy on careers and professions associated with agriculture and other career paths that speak to those who like to make things. Why not open a trades high-school that includes a working farm? There is plenty of brown-field sites in the cities across the US.

The question and response above brings to mind "Shop Craft as Soulcraft" by Matthew Crawford. There is something deeper and more troubling in that romanticism. More like longing I think . . .

is true but it is much more than that, farmers now inatsntly know the prices of goods, which suppliers are the best to buy from, even which crops will bring the most money in. combines, sprayers and other machinery can now basically drive themselves. gps now massively aids crop dusters and a huge assortment of other equipment. The farming field is now much less dangerous thanks to available info and readily available medical aid. Weather conditions can now be monitored in real time and forecasts are much more accurate. also disease, weather and insect resistant crops have been developed to aid in the farming process.there are a lot of ways technology has changed the field, talking to a farmer is you best bet for a full fledged answer.