Chemical Farming Today

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Chemical Farming Today

Being a farmer is hard these days.

Commodity prices soar and fall along with the prices of gas and fertilizer and consumer confidence, and the ever increasing amount of land needed to earn a living makes it hard to enjoy the job.

It’s always been hard to be a farmer.

But a generation or two back, at least it was a family affair that brought with it a set of values and joys that made up for the long hours and backbreaking work.

Focus groups of synthetic-chemical farmers around the country revealed what chemical farmers think and feel.

They are hardworking men (yes, they’re mostly men) who believe they’re being good stewards of the land and are trying hard to eke out a living in a very complicated system.

They talk about the smell of good hay the way people in Napa Valley talk about bouquets of fine wines.

They pay very close attention to nature and respect its complexities.

Chemicals do make their job easier.

And the chemical companies have infiltrated their lives.

Many farmers rely on “crop consultants” – some of whom are independent and others who are paid by chemical companies – to help them decide what and when to spray and how to best manage their challenges.

Many farmers talk about their “chemical dealer” as their most trusted source of information.

In Iowa, most farmers belong to co-ops that pool their resources so they can buy chemicals and seeds more cheaply.

Those co-ops are funded by the chemical companies and staffed with trained chemical agronomists who advise the farmers on what to spray and when.

One thing is very clear:  Farmers are caught on a treadmill they can’t quite see and don’t know how to get off of.

They believe they need more land to produce more, which will allow them to make more money.

Chemicals enable that growth.

But, most don’t understand the classic economic principle that the more they grow collectively, the less they will earn individually.

The farmers constantly repeat phrases straight from the chemical companies’ brochures:  We need to feed the world.

We need to increase production so we can make more money off the land we already farm.

If we could only export all this extra corn, our problems would be solved.

Surprisingly, they would rather see subsidies go away and they view the government and all its rules for farmers as major annoyances.

Some are curious about organic methods, others are resentful.

The number one factor to turn a resentful farmer into a curious farmer is seeing another farmer making the switch to organic and succeeding at it.

Most farmers think growing organically is a lot harder than using chemicals.

They believe they’d have to reduce the size of their farms and need a lot more human help, which is very hard to get.

Farms used to be worked by large extended families, and the children pitched in, too.

These days, farm families are smaller, but the farms are bigger so farmers must look for outside help.

They trust chemicals more than people – chemicals usually do exactly what the labels say and don’t need constant supervision.

At their core, farmers are fiercely independent.

One college-educated farmer, who has a day job as an engineer, said he saw organic farming as the ideal, but he didn’t know how to achieve it.

He tried it, but then fell back into using chemicals for their ease.

An older farmer described organic as “a beautiful plan,” but said he just didn’t have the life left in him to figure it out.

Even though farmers in different regions may grow different things, there are many similar themes.

A common one:  People want to move into houses near farms until they realize farms stink.

These farmers understand what most people don’t – the reality of farming today is a far cry from the romantic view of farming from the past.

What’s it like to be a chemical farmer these days?

We’ll take a look in the next post.

Come join me on my weight loss journey!  I’d love to have you along!

Have an awesome day!

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If you’d like to read Organic Manifesto, go here Organic Manifesto: How Organic Food Can Heal Our Planet, Feed the World, and Keep Us Safe

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Dick and Lenay

email: lenay@dickandlenay.com – 715-431-0657

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