Image credit: OnEarth Magazine
When I wrote about the NRDC's new Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops, and asked whether industrial monoculture was the real path to sustainable farming, the response from many of our readers was unsurprisingly lackluster. "Lipstick on a pig", said Bert Harvey. "A misguided attempt at prolonging a faulty paradigm," said John. So I'm unlikely to get much thanks for posting a video showing just what one of these green(er) industrial farms looks like. In the video below, farmer Frank Muller explains a little more about how his 10,000 acre farm has cut water and pesticide use dramatically, and is working to combine, in his words, the best of organic agriculture with the best of conventional methods. We also hear from the NRDC about how and why it is setting up the Stewardship index to help mainstream growers share their experiences at improving efficiency and resource use.
I should be clear, in posting on the Stewardship index I am not advocating industrial monoculture as an alternative to small-scale low-impact and organic farming. But I am also not willing to reject efforts of mainstream farmers to go green, or greener, just because they do not meet the exacting standards of the locavore and slow food movements. As one commenter on my original post suggested, it would be great to see figures on just how much food is produced per acre, and per unit of energy or water, is produced on one of these mega-farms compared to a more labor-intensive but resource efficient operation. I suspect the small farmer would win every time.
But given the fact that 99% of farmland in the US is farmed using conventional methods, I have a hard-time envisioning a strategy for a short, or even medium-term, transition to small-scale, low-impact farming. With the pressing challenges of peak oil, climate change and resource depletion knocking on our collective door, I can't help but feel we have little option but to tackle these crises from every angle possible—including working with those farmers willing to take steps towards greener operations, whatever their size and philosophy. I suspect the Crop Mob won't be offering their help to this guy anytime soon though.
More on Industrial Agriculture & Sustainability
Is Industrial Monoculture the Real Path to Sustainable Farming?
Does Obama Really Support Sustainable Agriculture?
Omnivores Delusion & The Joy of Industrial Agriculture
21st Century Green Farming with Soil Sensors
Are Vertical Farms the Answer After All?