Recently several industries have spoken publicly about tipping points, specifically the environmental issues and climate change. But I also want to point out one that I consider to also being a major factor in the health of all humans and the future health of our children. That is a tipping point in our food supply. Henry Kissinger declared in the 1970’s, ‘If you control the oil you control the country; if you control food, you control the population. We have seen wars fought for the rights to oil and the energy that it can then produce. Consumption is on the rise in many continues as they continue their pursuit to become a superpower, yet we preach conservation and moderation. Our food supply is a silent battle that many want to bring into the light so people understand what is poised and ready for some very important battles and what is at stake for all of us.
According to Corn and Soybean Digest, farmland rental cost and fertilizer cost will make up the majority of increase for 2012 along with a 5% increase in seed cost. "Preliminary budgets show variable costs for rotation corn increasing by 16%, soybeans by 15% and wheat by 12% as compared with our January 2011 budgets," according to Purdue Extension agricultural economist Alan Miller. In 1960, total annual agricultural usage of nitrogen materials for the United States was recorded at 1.1 million tons, in 2010 that same consumption has grown to 22.9 million tons of nitrogen materials. Add to those 5.1 billion pounds of herbicides, 1.1 billion pounds of pesticides, genetic modifications to the DNA of corn and soybeans along with the common apple. Yet with all of the changes, our food supply is stated to be healthy and nutritious according to our government. I do not buy it. The more we use chemical fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and genetically modified organisms in the form of seed and plants we threaten our health and the health of the environment.
Pesticides are indiscriminate killers. They do not exclusively kill troublesome insects, they destroy the entire ecosystem; insects, earthworms and microorganisms. This leads to soil degradation, completing a destructive circle in which conventional farmers are then required to use more powerful fertilizers in greater amounts when the soil yields fewer crops. Recent studies have revealed the growth of excess nutrients and contaminants in many of America’s freshwater systems. The issue stems from the troubling spread of toxic algae blooms in which agricultural fertilizer is a fundamental culprit. Toxic algae blooms are floating masses of blue-green fungi which deplete oxygen levels in our great lakes and rivers, emitting various toxins harmful to all manner of life, from micro organisms to humans. So, in order to decrease the effects fertilizer is having on our fresh water, we must decrease our use of pesticides, which has a number of benefits on its own which includes greater biodiversity and safer crops, not to mention safer workplaces in the agriculture industry. What can the consumer and the grower do to minimize the harmful affects that plaque our industry, please see the following list.
- Buy local from growers you know and trust to provide quality organic food without chemicals.
- Request more varied organic food stuff’s to be grown, the growers take note of the requests from their customers, this helps them to determine how much land will be devoted to each type of food product grown.
- Become part of a CSA farm or co-op (community supported agriculture).
- Grow some of your own produce or allow others to grow their gardens on part of your property. Many garden sharing companies have become popular of late with quite a product offering.
- Write to companies stating your pleasure and displeasure with their product line, let them know exactly where your dollars will be spent and what quality of product you want for your family, your money is the only thing that they want from you so they will take notice when you tell them this.
- Look into organic practices for your growing area; consider no-till and green manure offerings that can enhance your soil fertility without adding chemicals.
- Consider bio-dynamic growing practices, this is a holistic approach to growing that extracts the best from each growing site in a safe and productive manner.
- Use Permaculture techniques to create greater output through diversification and interaction between elements within your individual growing site. Contact me for more specific details and a walk through on your site.
- Diversify your site to include smaller more productive areas of multiple crops.
- Consider forest farming for long term cash crops, this can include ginseng, ramps, nut crops, and truffles.
As we look forward to the coming year, make a decision to surround yourself with people that share your dream and vision for a safe food supply for your family. Then execute your decision, you will be happy you did.
With personal and professional regards - Vince