Updated: Mar 21, 2022
The times they are a changin'. Or at least the climate is. And agriculture plays a huge role in that change. It can also play a critical part in changing it back.
Let us explain. Agriculture by definition impacts the land, replacing wild plants and animals with domesticated ones. But as humans have refined farming over time, we have come to prefer the ease of growing one (or maybe two, in the case of corn and soybeans) crop at a time so as to gain a "comparative advantage" by specializing in only one thing. We confine animals in feeding units (CAFOs) or grow potatoes on1000s of acres in order to most "efficiently" produce, aggregate and distribute food, growing it in one area and eating it in another.
These efficiencies have made our food cheap, plentiful and convenient. But as we are all too well aware, these "efficiencies" also have dramatic costs, for the land, for our food and for our communities. The landscape is completely altered, causing issues with pollution, erosion and battles over water use. Our food becomes less nutritious (check out this game-changing group that has found that a single leaf of spinach can be nutritionally equal to 364 leaves of spinach raised with chemicals in an industrial model). And we have less and less farmers.
So how do we 'change the world,' or at least 'how can we help change farming practices so that we are better nourishing our families and the land?' Buying directly from a farmer you know allows you to question how exactly they are paying attention to soil health and the nutritional value of the food. Does the farm use "regenerative" practices, keeping an eye on how every aspect of our farming impacts the land and working to improve it?
Buying food directly from your farmer and knowing how your food is raised are also key in taking charge of your responsibility to the planet. True, it is perhaps less convenient than walking into your local grocery right before dinner and requires more storage and freezer space. But it puts more money into the hands of farmers working hard to transition our land away from the chemical dumping grounds farms have been, and back into important ecozones.
Whippoorwill Creek Farm offers beef directly to consumers. And while cattle are not as ecologically sound as carrots or wild mushrooms (they have the unfortunately tendency to burp methane), the way we raise them reduces their impact on the planet and produces delicious, more nutrient dense meat. We never use chemicals and only use antibiotics to treat sick animals. We never irrigate or feed our animals grains. And with our regenerative practices, we use the cattle to help fertilize the land (with their manure and urine) and, it is speculated (but not confirmed), that grazing animals in this way also helps sequester carbon.
But perhaps most importantly, buying directly from a farmer puts more of your food dollar into the hands of those who grow it, and less into the pockets those sitting in corner offices concocting advertisements to sell you products of questionable value. It helps attract more farmers to better growing methods and allows more small farms to make living. Which means that more people might some day be able to afford to farm and to raise families on the land (and we might add, all while costing consumers less for their beef per pound).
And yet. We realize that many think this paradigm is not for them. Not everyone has a freezer in which to fit a year's worth of meat, nor does everyone have the bandwidth to sit down and figure out how to buy directly from a nearby farmer. We hear you that the logistics are complicated and that many people do not eat that much meat and we fully support that.
But it's not out of the question to buy at least some of the things you eat directly from a farmer. Maybe you can commit to a Community Supported Agriculture food box in your area, or look up on Local Harvest a farm near you to buy from each week. There are farm subscription boxes, food hubs like the Iowa Food Coop, and farmers markets. As the climate changes, it is up to all of us - even consumers - to change their habits too.