Blog post for Making Peace with the Land
By: Isabella de Goeij
I thought that for my blog post contribution to this page I would write about something that I have noticed during our lectures that speaks personally to me. I would like to openly bring this forward, or at least in the hopes that some of you will try to understand where I am coming from and not immediately think negatively of me. In class, I often hear the terms “conventional farm” and “industrial farm” being used in a synonymous way. Are they intentionally being used synonymously? They are both being discussed with negative connotation and disapproval surrounding them. Speaking of “organic farms” is, for the most part, done in a highly positive and encouraging way. This brings me to my topic: Is there just industrial and organic farms? Are there really only two sides? One being good and the other bad? Or is it more of a spectrum, where there are a variety of farms, not just the two types. Why is a farm that isn’t organic immediately perceived to be “bad”? Many people do not know this but I live on a dairy farm. We are not organic farmers. To make matters worse, we milk almost 500 cows three times a day so some may even consider us an industrial farm. Does this make us wrong? I certainly do not think so. I am also certain that we do not classify as an industrial farm. So where do we fit in? Personally, I believe that there is a spectrum. A spectrum that does not necessarily have organic as the absolute “best” and industrial as the absolute “worst”. I really think that where a farm lies on this so-called spectrum depends entirely on the farmer and his or her contributions to the community and environmental sustainability. Of course there are massive industrial farms that are in no way near the good side of the spectrum, but I am also sure that there must be organic farms out there that are closer to the bad side than the good. As a parallel to this there is a second ‘quick assumption’ that I have observed. That is that a ‘small scale’ farm versus a ‘big scale’ farm is also perceived in a very black and white notion. I seriously question that. To explain my point: does growing up in a family of 10 really make you worse off than a family of 2? Or does it have more to do with how capable the parents are in handling their family? I think having a variety is very important in our society, for without it we would not know the difference between a good and a bad farm. It allows us to see what worked for others and what didn’t. Not only can we learn from our own mistakes alone, but we can also learn from the mistakes of others. Without variety, there is no evolution. So, it really depends on the situation. Take my family farm for example. A lot of people who are coming to our farm for the first time have many misconceptions about farming, mainly due to things they hear on the news or have read on some sort of social media. Once they come tour the farm however, they all come out very impressed with an entirely different view on farming. The people in my family are extremely hard workers. There are days I do not even see my dad. Him and my uncle put their entire life into this farm; this farm is their entire life. They are constantly open to trying new things to improve the farm and allow it to grow. Yes, there are many mistakes that have been made but that is how people learn. They did not leave a single stone unturned in making sure it is a safe place to work, cow comfort is priority and they have highly invested in innovative environmentally friendly solutions for water and manure recycling. On top of that they closely watch the quality of the soil that they use for growing crops so their land will stay good for generations to come. Does them trying to grow and expand the farm start turning it into an “industrial farm” simply because it is quite large? Once again, I certainly do not think so. To assume so is very black and white, simplistic and unjust. Part of the process of ‘making peace with the land’ comes from working together and learning from each other in respect and mutual understanding. There is absolutely no need for organic and conventional farmers and their customers to be enemies. My family does not see organic farmers as enemies, because they feel that every farmer should be able to work according to their own values. All together they contribute in a unique way to create a safe and steady food supply for consumers. Just because the farm is bigger than it was 10 years ago, doesn’t mean my dad and uncle are any less involved in it or any less personal with the health of each animal, or any less concerned with making sure the feed quality is as impeccable as possible. Without growth, there is no progress. Progress is impossible without change. With that, I conclude that I believe that there are more than just two sides and that the “kind” of farm that is falls under should not automatically label it as “good” or “bad”.