This Blessed Earth: A Year in the Life of an American Family Farm

Author: Ted Genoways


by acconrad   2019-07-29
I work in agtech so I can speak to some of your concerns.

> people can still think that technology is somehow going to save us from bad agri practices

So one thing we're doing at my company is we're trying to de-commoditize agriculture. You're right in that the current agriculture practices are all about creating a baseline crop for the commodities trading market. The truth is that these practices vary from farm to farm, and there are quantifiable metrics you can track in crops. These crop qualities vary wildly and certain buyers of the major crops want different qualities. If we can turn our major crops from being treated as commodities, we can incentivize more sustainable agricultural practices that both create better crops for the economy and the environment.

> Cooperating with nature instead of fighting it is continually being proven to be the best practice for growing food from a environmental and deliciousness perspective.

Agreed. This is exactly what we're working on because we recognize that fighting the environment with harmful pesticides and herbicides has long-lasting residual effects on the soil and the economy.

> Every time I see an article about farmers having some kind of trouble, their crops are one massive monoculture

Are you referring to the fact that there are 4 major seed producers for 60% of the seed sales on the planet? [1]

The economics of a farm are such that, because of commoditization, the margins are so razor thin that the only way to turn a profit (which they aren't, because prices on major crops have plummeted in the last 4 years) is to have a highly refined process from the purchase of the seeds, to fertilization, to hydration, to transport. The whole process is streamlined in a way that doesn't benefit the end consumer. Again, there are people hard at work to break this bad habit. Even still, there is plenty of variability in the end result of those crops, which is why crop quality can vary wildly depending on things such as rain, nitrogen in the soil, etc.

A great primer on the lifecycle of a year in farming in the US is This Blessed Earth.[2] If you're interested in understanding the agriculture economy from a farmer's perspective, this is a must read.