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Wednesday, January 08, 2014


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Richard, we share many sentiments regarding the myths of "sustainable farming". Mine are largely anecdotal; and though anecdotes aren't evidence, I hardly think my family's story is unique.

When I read or hear "sustainable agriculture", I think of my grandfather's 100-plus acre subsistence farm in Appalachian Ohio. Yes, it was sustainable and self-sufficient (milk and beef cattle, chickens, pigs, hardwood and softwood timber, wild berries, fruit trees, and a large garden provided sustenance and cash income), but my mother grew up in poverty there in the 1940s. She learned to cook on a coal stove in a 100-year-old house without indoor bathrooms. She never heard of arugula, though they did grow kale in the garden. :) She left home at 18 for work and college.

In my lifetime, indoor plumbing was installed. I heard my grandfather brag about 30 bushels-per-acre corn yields (!) and spent part of ONE summer making and throwing hay. Even though I learned to drive a Farmall tractor at a young age, that wasn't enough to interest me in small-farm life. While I have nostalgia for the old home place, I understand what it was and that its time has passed.

Today, my cousin (6th generation) has sold off much of the acreage to adjoining Amish farmers, who continue to farm in the intensive manner that my grandfather and great-grandfather did (but without power equipment). She uses the now-167-year-old farmhouse as her weekend getaway, and relies on oil and gas royalties from wells drilled in the 1980s to sustain it.

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