Agricultural choices must be made by these inescapable standards: the ecological health of the farm and the economic health of the farmer.
How we farm matters. For the past two centuries, America’s farms have expanded and homogenized, and farming equipment and chemicals have replaced personnel. Farmers have grown older and more isolated and are retiring without successors.
Our embrace of industrialization and “factory farming” has not resulted in greater economic security for most American farmers. The nation has suffered a historic slump in prices for corn, soybeans, milk, wheat and other commodities. It has lost half its dairy farmers in the past 18 years. And The Wall Street Journal warned in early 2017 that “the next few years could bring the biggest wave of farm closures since the 1980s.”
The farmer, essayist and poet Wendell Berry has long argued that today’s agricultural practices are detrimental to ecology, community and the local economies that farms once served.