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    Harvesting Ideas from "Opposing" Views

    As I reflect back on the recent interactions with the #Profood folks, I believe there are just some things that need much more than 140 characters to explain. In conjunction, there are also issues that seem irreconcilable, regardless of the amount of characters, both on paper and "live".

    Let's take the simple approach and take each issue bullet by bullet. First two bullets:


    • The #agchat community has no interest in changing and are afraid of sustainability - Anyone who has been involved in the agricultural community knows full well how much farming has changed over the last century  to adapt to an ever changing environment. We now use less resources, less chemicals, and better tillage practices, all the while maintaining a safe, healthy, abundant food supply. We are also looking for better methodologies by engaging in the latest in technology, scientific modeling, and University Extension offices. The #ag community knows full well what we are up against and will "change", as we have always done. Production agriculture IS NOT static, and every single argument against current practices of good #farmers makes this assumption by the very nature of the position. Farmers want sustainability, probably a helluva lot more than the #profood peeps do. If you think the farmers I deal with on Twitter are not sustainable, I say you haul your but out there to learn, or better yet make your ENTIRE living off the land. Then come back and tell me if sustainability isn't at the forefront of all good farmers.  
    • The pushback we (#Profood) are seeing is because "Big Ag" is running scared. - Actually, the push back you get from me has zero to do with running scared. It has to do with the fact that #profood peeps tend to view our interaction as a "war" that needs to be won. Promoting production agriculture and the role it is surely going to play moving forward isn't a war or contest to see who can trump the other in a battle of wits, and it definitely isn't about a smack-down or trendig comparisons. It should be about everyone working together and listening, sharing ideas, and above all, learning. You obviously have many issues with the current food system, and I do not disagree that there are many to go after, but including the farmer in that mix and then calling them Big-Ag because it is easy and people "understand it" doesn't help and creates divides. I am not Big-Ag and never have been.
    • There is no more to learn from #agchat - Sad, truly sad. Educating yourself is very important; however, education alone is not enough. I can say that because I witnessed it first hand. A company asked for voluntary retirement with a generous package. It so happens that many people took the offer. What the company didn't realize is that a huge void was created, an experience void. Long story short, this experience void hampered innovation and new product development. I say we learn from that mistake. If you think you have nothing more to learn from the very people who have been farming for 3-6 generations, I say think again. 
    Do we not all want the same outcome? Safe, sustainable, healthy food, more kitchen time, and deep interest in our food? That is what I want. It is one of the reasons I support my neighbor, a local grower. He uses VRT, Lightbar, conservation tillage (Strip-Till), and is always researching better methodologies to grow our food. In my view, that is on the #sustainable path. 

    Before proposing a situation to discuss, I close with a question for the #profood tweeps out there: How irritating is it when you get lumped in with the #AR crazies? How about people stating that all you want to do is convert us all to Vegan? I have seen both of these happen. I know full well that you are NOT doing any of the sort, but just imagine how the conversation would go, downhill fast. Go back on look through the conversations and blog posts. What I see is that the #ag community fully supports all types of good farming practices. We will need a diversified mix to deal with the issues we face.

    Situation:
    I (not to be taken literally) produce commodity crops (corn/beans/wheat), livestock, pork, and legumes as a cover crop in between crop rotations. I use the latest and greatest in guidance from AutoFarm. This means that I plant with sub-inch accuracy & follow the same paths thereby reducing compaction. I also use Variable-Rate Technologies in conjunction with my guidance to ensure I only use what inputs where I need them, thereby reducing my environmental impact. I have also migrated over to conservation tillage to continue to increase the organic matter in my soil. I soil test on a 3 year rotation to ensure I am not depleting the soil nutrients. I capture my manure and use it as much as possible to decrease my synthetic fertilizer use. In conjunction with that, my neighbor also uses my manure to be sure we use what is produced. Removing the $180 oil price from the equation, because equipment will change, what is missing in the sustainability of my farming operation?

    I look forward to discussing the above situation with an open mind.

    2 comments:

    1. Hey Nate - You know I have a problem with the cartoons of each other that people throw at each other. We kind of got through some of that yesterday. "Elitist" is one you ought to consider as well. How can I be an elitist when I am advocating that people grow their own kitchen gardens with their neighbors just like my friends in agchat do. Ask any of them, and they have their own little patch and know what I mean about a tomato from ten feet away. That's how they feed their kids...

      I think we are struggling - because we are needing to define a common vocabulary. And stop trying to win points in front of the peanut gallery. We also need to acknowledge that good people can disagree on much of this.

      I want us to find elements of agreement and then continue on. You and I are for rural broadband support. I am like Jeff F interested in reforming how we approach the estate tax and it's impact on farming families.

      You and I agree about a lot of technologies promise. I have a critical view of a lot of technology, not becuase I am a Luddite, but because I've worked in tech for 20 years, and know people are often trying to sell solutions to problems that don't exhist and that corporate power often distorts the public discourse.

      I do know that many on the other side have been working towards more sustainable practices, but you need to credit the environmental biologists for fighting the good fight on that for that last 60 years. Yes, progress is being made, but not simply because multinational ag corporations decided to be nice. When I am talking about Big AG, that is what I am talking about. Corporations that are required by law to turn a quarterly profit for a small number of share holders are not people and do not operate with human interests first, and they do not have the long view at the center of their game. Plenty of farmers have been crushed by their practices, by the way their lobbyist distort ag policy...

      Most importantly, you cannot put oil prices to the side nor can you put climate impact to the side. They are central - None of this makes any sense until we deal with those facts at the center not the periphery of our discussions. It's like putting oxygen to the side when discussing human health.

      And lastly, I do know how it feels to have something you cherish threatened by these discussions. There was a peice last week about the carbon impact of keeping dogs as pets - It may be a bigger deal than owning a Hummer. All I can say to that is if you come after my pooches you'll have to pry them from my cold dead hands...if they don't eat me first.

    1. Well said Nate. I have become quite disheartened by the mean-spirited tone coming from a few of the so-called "#profood" people in the last couple of weeks. There is nothing to be gained by antagonizing people. We all have the same goals and we must work together to reach them. I have great respect for farmers. I have been in horticulture my whole life so I know a little about how difficult it is to make a living growing things.
      From this post I learned about AutoFarm and Variable-Rate Technologies, neither of which I had not heard of before. We can all learn from each other if we are willing to treat each other with respect and open our hearts and minds.
      Respectfully Yours,
      Duane Marcus
      @leekfixer on twitter

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    Agriculture passionado! I lead GeoVantage's Sales, Marketing, and Business Development activities. If you haven't explored the benefit of remote sensing for production agriculture, now is the time! Not one to rest, I am also a part of the Memes Associates team where we focus on assisting large companies in the agriculture space to "re-discover their inner entrepreneur" through the introduction of market disrupting technology(s) and services.  

    Have questions about agriculture and technology in agriculture? Ask away! 


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