7.07.2015

Food Issues Book Club - Let the Farm Judge from Bringing It to the Table

Hello all!  Welcome to the NOiG Food Issues Book Club, wherein I read books about food stuff, summarize each book by chapter, and then attempt to apply that book chapter's ideas to the New Orleans food environment and/or my own experiences.  Fun right?!  Check out previous installations here.  I'd love it if you'd read along and join in!  And now, without further ado...

Bringing It to the Table: Let the Farm Judge, 1997

Editor's note: this essay contains extensive information regarding the shepherding of sheep.  In the interest of exploring ideas rather than specifics on farming, the summary here is much abbreviated from the chapter content.

Summary:

Local adaptations - development of breeds and hybrids that flourish on a particular area of land - is "the most important requirement for agriculture."  Such adaptations must account for both what the land can support and what the farmer can reasonably sell.  In the absence of such adaptation, "the farmer and the farm must pay significant penalties."

The modern food industry ignores the need for local adaptation, and is paying penalties as a result: "[M]uch thoughtlessness in livestock breeding has been subsidized by large checks paid to veterinarians and drug companies."  Such ignorance of putting the right animals on the land is only possible because of "cheap" fossil fuels and the "cheep" feed crops produced with them.  Corn, however, is never as cheap as the grass already growing on a farmer's fields.

Livestock is now bred for optimal performance in factory conditions.  As such, "[b]reeders should recognize that from the standpoint of local adaptation and {genuinely} cheap production, every purchase of a breeding animal is a gamble."  It is the judgment of the farm, not the farmer, that will ultimately determine the animals' success.

Thoughts:

As mentioned in the note above, Berry waxes abundantly in this chapter on his own experience in raising sheep.  The point is essentially that you can't put an animal on farmland it's not well adapted to and expect it to do will.  For example, a sheep that is adapted for rolling grass-covered hills will struggle and never reach its full potential on a rocky hillside.  From a vegan / AR standpoint, this chapter has some merit but is largely just painful.

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