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GMO/ Chemical, Conventional Farmer Day Job  RSS feed

 
S Haze
Posts: 229
Location: Southern Minnesota, USA, zone 4/5
11
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So I just need to ask, Am I the only permie in the world who by day tills up vast expanses of land, plants gmo mono-crops, sprays them with toxic biocides and then turns around and tends to/ develops an acreage that includes or soon will include earthworks, guilds, passive solar housing, multi-species grazing, rainwater collection, chickens and fowl, where pesticides and most outside inputs are strictly banned?

I feel so conflicted and even though I've become mostly used to it, the long hours spent on a tractor of combine are usually accompanied by listlessness, and constantly thinking about ways I could undo the damage my actions are inflicting on the land and the people connected to it. Unless I force myself into sort of a meditative mode from time to time it becomes mentally exhausting.

On the other side of the coin, as far as day jobs go the income has been very good, I started at just the right time about 7 or 8 years ago when the market rally in grain prices was just beginning. I like to think of it taking my mosanto pay-check and investing it something that could be the seeds to their destruction. Some of the land in the farm operation has been in my family for around six generations and if we weren't growing corn and soybeans on it surely someone else would be. And probably using even greater amounts of chemical fertilizers and pesticides than we do. Another thing, as far as this type of farm goes, ours is getting to be considered small to medium sized yet still supports three families. Not a small accomplishment around here where de-population has been rampant for a few generations now and 2000 acre plus farms are becoming the norm. Please note however; I am not trying to justify the soil loss, the loss of diversity, the loss of people and all of the good, bad, crazy, or beautiful things they can do, the fucked up river systems, and the widespread contamination of the the landscape and everything that's a part of it.

It's just that I haven't come up with an alternative yet. I've watched two different friend couples make heroic efforts only to give up after a couple years. No one sees the horrible things all around them, organic food is for hippies and heathens around here, we just want our plain simple processed with God-knows-what, cheapest and the super-value or walmart food. It all makes me want to cry, pull my hair out, or get drunk and lay down in a fetal position until someone wearing purple leotard with a cheese hat comes riding up on a white buffalo and offers to help! Yet I continue.

My wife and children are amazing and wonderful. They help keep me focused. I don't spend enough time with the boys but I do try to teach them everything I can and have some fun once in a while. They're smart and they're going to be great helpers soon if I can be a better leader and not make scared of work. It's really my wife that keeps me most focused and honest with myself making sure I only start things that I have at least a remote chance of finishing enough to see some benefit from in the foreseeable future.

Okay, I've driveled on meaninglessly for almost long enough now, but if anyone is in a similar situation I'd like to hear from you. Maybe I am the only chemical-conventional farmer permie in the world but that's impossible, right? Meanwhile I'll just keeping driving my tractor dreaming of the day I can throw a wrench into at least one little part of this vast global agri-industrial machine. But I need a good plan first that will actually work or everyone that's still here will just hate me. I'll listen to anyone's ideas but seriously it's complicated, there's no local customers, no one to help with the work, and no time. So if you don't have a really awesome idea just keep your pie-hole shut! (disclaimer: I hope Paul doesn't delete this. I really think everyone's ideas are perfect in some time/place/ situation, and I'm not as pessimistic as I sound right now)

Seriously, I'm done now. Time to go out and fix the skid-steer that broke down while terracing the hill side to make a rainwater harvesting, path and way for the new electric fence. Have a Super Day my friends!
 
Kelly Smith
Posts: 713
Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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Scott,
while i dont work in big ag, i currently work in a position that i oppose.
my job is more related to the war machine, and i see a lot of parallels to the burdens you mention, specifically the mental burden.

i wont get into it to much, but know there are others (likely MANY others) that are in a similar position.
with that said, our goal is to get our debtload (mortgage mainly) low enough to a point where a well paying (but morally opposed) job is no longer needed and see where that leads us.

good luck.

 
Miles Flansburg
steward
Posts: 3977
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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So Scott, if you would could you tell me a little more?
The large "GMO" farm is your families farm?
Do you have any ownership in that farm?
Do you wish to turn the GMO farm into a permies farm?
Are you asking us for ideas on how to go about doing that?
 
John Elliott
pollinator
Posts: 2392
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It's a wide gulf, and difficult to find the bridge. Here's an interesting video of some good'ol Southern boys who are making the transition. Not in one season, mind you, but they see how they are going to do it:

 
S Haze
Posts: 229
Location: Southern Minnesota, USA, zone 4/5
11
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Thanks for all the responses! Some days I just want to throw up my hands and then.. then I don't know what. The day I posted this was one of those days. It sure would be nice to just stay on here on my ten acres all the time doing what I feel is the most valuable and worthwhile work I could be doing. I hope to have time to check out the video posted above later today.


So Scott, if you would could you tell me a little more?
The large "GMO" farm is your families farm?
Do you have any ownership in that farm?
Do you wish to turn the GMO farm into a permies farm?
Are you asking us for ideas on how to go about doing that?


The farm is about 1500 acres scattered around about a five mile radius, mostly in 80-160 acre plots. This is considered average sized around here but we are a slightly unusual for the fact that three families are supported off this farm. I'm 1/3 of the partnership but I only own my own estate and recently I was gifted 15 acres in one of the fields about 5 miles away from my place. I've also bought 1/3 ownership of most of the machinery... tractors, sprayer, huge-ass combine, etc.

To make any drastic changes to what we do on the big farm I'd have to get buy-in from my father or brother. I'm thinking that if I fought, taught, learned, and demonstrated for the rest of my career maybe we could be farming at least some of the land organically eventually (I do have a 6 acre rented field that I'm attempting to farm organically currently). Large scaled organic, to me, is many steps below permaculture, so considering the time and energy I'd have to put in, it might not be worth it.

I can foresee someday taking out (buying or renting, preferably buying) 180 acres or less from the big farm and developing a permaculture farm. There are so many cultural, economic, and legal barriers here that it could take the rest of my life and possibly never happen. To begin with, because of the lack of people, it will probably have to be more extensive (rather than intensive) and simplified than optimal permaculture should be. I realize this will cancel out a lot of the benefits but it will hopefully be enough to "make it" economically and generate some interest in order to get the resources to develop it into a better system.

The plan above is very vaugish, I know. To be a little more tangible I'm thinking multi-species grazing, hazelnuts, forest (or oak savannah) products, and whatever else could be easily added without much labor. I should get to try out the grazing soon as we're installing fences for paddocks here on the homestead this summer. Meat could be worthwhile here because there are a few who have come to appreciate it and it doesn't fly in the face of the dominant redneck culture as much as something like organic salad greens would. There is also a lot of really cool work being done to develop hazelnuts as major crop here in Minnesota. Phil Rutter is doing some awesome work on it not too far away. They seem like they would fit in beautifully to the landscape and work well in permaculture system.

I'm all for ideas, but this is like a time and labor desert without an established market hungry for good food. I'm not willing to drive two hours away every week with a load of vegetables or that sort thing even if I had the time to establish and harvest them.

I could go on more but need to get something done now, but one more thing that may clear up some stuff; I've been listening to the podcasts out in the tractor lately and there was a part where Paul and a guest were talking about conventional farms and income, subsidies, that sort of thing... Currently, for the last ten years or so the subsidies (direct subsidies at least) don't really amount to much. They're being more sneaky by subsidizing stuff like ethanol and crop insurance. And, farmers here at least (we're in the corn belt) are making A LOT of money in recent years especially if their land is paid for. It's driving a huge spike in land prices and rents, I mean like doubling every couple of years. I know this can't go on but it has for maybe 7-8 years now. It's hard to argue with people and tell them they should do more work, or stick their neck out when they don't think they have to or the pay out could just be the same. I've seen other areas of the country where it looks like farmers must be having a harder time, but certainly not here.

Here's to wishing for leaner times so I can get something done!

-Scott
 
S Haze
Posts: 229
Location: Southern Minnesota, USA, zone 4/5
11
duck forest garden trees woodworking
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John:
It turns out that I have seen the video but I watched it again. The extension service gal from the next county over is a big cover crop advocate and sent a link to it. Lots of good stuff to take in. Cover crops are tricky here however because of the short growing season and what seems to be the absolute economic reality: "Thou shalt grow corn and soybeans and nothing else" I suspect that in ND even though their growing season is shorter than here they can fit at least one other faster maturing crop into the rotation that would allow for a cover crop in the mix. Here it hinges on getting something inter-seeded which I'd like to experiment with. It's hard to decide how much time and energy to put into work on the big farm for only small incremental changes when on my little farm I'm free try almost anything without worrying about the economics so much.

Once again it's so great to have such a wonderful community here on Permies. Even something as simple as occasionally complaining is hard when people just don't "get it". Thanks for understanding, I needed that!

-Scott
 
R Scott
Posts: 3349
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Are you irrigated? Biggest issue my big ag in-laws have is the (un)holy center pivot. You can't plant trees because the pivot can't drive over them, so you can't stop evaporation to go without irrigation--another trapped in the system. The dryland guys had adopted alley cropping (but the treelines were purely costs, not crop/revenues), but with $7+ corn they are dozing down the shelterbelts.

Cover crops are becoming very popular here (relatively speaking), as synthetic fertilizer has gotten stupid expensive. Guys are working on ways to keep the ground covered--planting clover with the winter wheat in the same pass, it takes off just about the right time for harvesting the wheat. In a really good year they get clover hay crop; in a bad one they at least get nitrogen and improved cover. Some have even started playing with shorter corn varieties to get more time for cover growth.

I personally think the answer for American farms comes down to making it dryland farming, no-till (with exception of occasional keylining), contour planted, strip cropped with covers. Monocropping is making the whole system inefficient for the sake of efficient harvest. What we need is a viable way to harvest a polyculture on a large scale--it does not have to be as efficient as existing combines, just efficient enough to make the SYSTEM sustainable.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/email
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