Farmer Bill’s Barn – February 21, 2009
My wish is to take a moment each week on Home Town Talk Radio KVEC and share some thoughts on things I’ve heard, seen, or read to enlighten, inform, and engage.
This week I heard some of our Board of Supervisors discussion on the Ag. Cluster Ordinance. One of many, many attempts to stave off the loss of agricultural lands and the potentials then hold. The debate ran right into some long standing truths that must be recognized & dealt with if we are to truly have and create a sustainable agricultural economy.
For me some of those truths are:
1 For most of history farmers & ranchers have not earned a living commensurate with the time, effort, & knowledge, they invest in sustaining society.
2 Americans have cheap food, as measured as a part of our disposable income. Should the cost of: Government supports, poor to near toxic nutrition of processed foods, and the health costs it has created be added, “CHEAP IT IS NOT”, the real costs of our “industrial” foods are actually very high.
3 Since the 70’s our government has been complicit in forcing farmers and ranchers to “get big or perish”, and many true family farms have vanished, while the commodities produced on ever larger farms & ranches garnered ever lower prices. We were told to “industrialize” with ever bigger equipment, technology, & ever greater debt.
4 Modern farming & ranching is completely dependent on petrol-chemicals for fuel, fertilizer, herbicides, & pesticides. No long range plan exists to replace petrol-chemical dependence, nor deal with the massive environmental damage it has and is doing.
5 The San Luis Obispo region has long been identified as lacking the “economies of scale” to compete in industrial, corporate agri-business, due to the many variables or micro-climate our County enjoys. That is to say we do not have large tracts of ubiquitous land & sufficient water capable of ‘said’ large scale production.
6 Therefore many of our farmers and ranchers have not succeeded economically and have been force to sell and or subdivide their property to survive. And there in lies the rub, one can not have sustainable agricultural unless farmers & ranchers make a living on their land in producing food & fiber.
The previous 6 points are clearly a negative and so let me suggest some positives.
1 We are still a sparsely populated region and have a great number of micro-climates, suitable to many crops.
2 We have an ever more aware & supportive public who want to preserve the region and choose to support a sustainable future.
3 We have a good number of willing young people who want to farm & ranch sustainable.
4 We have a good number of land owners willing to farm or have their land farmed.
5 We have ample knowledge that the right local foods are far healthier for us & the environment.
6 Local entrepreneurial spirit, knowledge and problem solving skills are here.
So the challenge/opportunity my fellow citizens is how do we utilize these many assets to shepherd this truly wonderful region into a sustainable future.