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oldandslow
01-19-2012, 09:38 AM
I absolutely love Joel Salatin...and pattern much of my farm off what he does. Anyway, here is a recent interview that he gave...probably enough here to tick everyone off...

Greener Pastures with Lunatic Farmer Joel Salatin
by Jessica Dur

Joel Salatin doesn’t mind being called a communist. Though the self-described "Christian-conservative-libertarian-environmentalist-capitalist-lunatic farmer” has a penchant for stockpiling adjectives, Salatin actually defies labels left and right. He’s a capitalist who as a matter of principle has no sales objectives and will not ship food beyond his local food-shed. He’s a Christian whose priority is environmental health. And he’s a lunatic who's running a 550-acre farm that is so self-sustaining he's never bought seeds, fertilizers, chemicals, plows, or silos—aka "bankruptcy tubes," in Salatin-speak. He’s also a veritable celebrity—having been catapulted into the national spotlight thanks to Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and dubbed the “High Priest of the Pasture” by the New York Times—but he betrays no bravado as he chats with me over the phone from his home in Swoope, Virginia.

Salatin raises cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and rabbits on his “family-owned, multi-generational, pasture-based, beyond organic, local-market” Polyface Farm, which has become synonymous with sustainability, bioregionalism, and honest transparency. Indeed, the farm is open to visitors at all times, with nary a corner that is not camera-accessible. An unabashed libertarian, Salatin has gone off the government-supported grid as much as possible: home-schooling his children and developing farming practices that are absolutely antithetical to the agribusiness model. ''I always said if I could figure out a way to grow Kleenex and toilet paper on trees,” he muses, “we could pull the plug on society.”

True to his spirit, Salatin has also self-published eight books and currently pens two magazine columns. The title of his most recent book, which hit the stands in October, could serve as an epithet for his worldview: Folks, This Ain't Normal: A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People and a Better World.

Jessica: Who is the audience for this book?

Joel: Everybody! (laughs) There's something in here for everyone—from farmers to children to octogenarians to IT technicians.

Is this your first major publication?

Yes. This is the first book that we have not self-published, so it has the strength and the power of a global marketing network behind it. Frankly, it's starting to get overwhelming here, but it's quite a deal. It's fun to have that wind in your sails.



How has your national popularity affected your life there on the farm?

It's much different. I spend half my time not farming anymore, and of course I love farming. I just as soon go out and tote buckets of water and run a chainsaw as well as anything. However, I also know that different people are blessed with different abilities, and I've been blessed with an ability to communicate. Clearly there's an audience there and I feel compelled to give this information to our culture. I think we're heading the wrong way on a lot of things. I think we're going with this cavalier spirit that we'll be the first civilization to beat nature, that we'll be the first ones to disconnect our ecological umbilical cord and say we don’t need this womb. And I think it's a terribly misplaced faith.

You refer to yourself as a capitalist, and as someone who owns his own business, that makes a certain sense. Then again, your principles are all quite anti-capitalist.

Yes—today we had our bi-monthly farm tour, and at the end of the hay wagon ride, a woman said, you sound like a communist! (laughs) So yeah—I'm a communist capitalist. In this book, for example, I make a point that no American needs to be paid more than $250,000. Nobody. The problem with pure capitalism is the problem with unbalanced anything. Amoral, unbalanced capitalism is no better than amoral, unbalanced communism. In the book I do take umbrage with this country's incredible disparity—I just read in the newspaper today that the average college athletic director in America now makes $450,000 a year. I wonder what the Physics professor gets? $80,000? We've become obsessed with things that aren't important.

So you don't make more than $250,000 a year?

No—I don't get anywhere close to that. Now, the farm generates more than that in sales, but we have lots of expenses. We have about 20 employees, which is a pretty good crew.

I'm curious about your Christian principles, which seem to embody a very different worldview than the one I was taught growing up Catholic.

I think that our responsibility as stewards of creation is to do exactly that—to steward it, not pillage it, exploit it, but to actually massage it. Okay, you and I, with our Catholic backgrounds, let's take a principle like forgiveness—we share this, right? How do we build forgiveness into a farm? It would mean that our farm should be more immune to the vagaries of nature. The fact is you're going to have drought, flood, heat, cold. So a forgiving farm is one in which we massage the landscape so that it is more forgiving for these natural anomalies. Therefore, every time we get a few thousand dollars extra, we build another pond. These ponds draw down during droughts and allow us to have plenty of water for irrigation, for watering livestock, for keeping the frog and salamander populations high, making places for ducks to land and turtles to breed. And then during flood time, they absorb the surface run-off that swells and becomes devastating down river. So on both extremes, for example, building a greater control of the hydraulic cycle builds forgiveness into that landscape.

What I want is more forgiving immune systems in my animals. Therefore I build a terrain of production that increases immunological function rather than debilitating it. Now, if I take these animals and confine them in a factory house, then I quickly compromise their immunological system because of that toxic environment. I don't increase their immune systems by doping them up with drugs and hormones and chlorine. Rather, the forgiving thing to do is to back off from that abusive terrain and build a habitat in which the pig is fully allowed to express its pigness. Living in sync with his terrain—getting exercise, fresh air and sunshine, moving from area to area so he's not in his excrement all the time—is the way to build natural immune function.

Your approach is both ancient and highly innovative. Did you grow up learning how to farm like this?

Yes—Dad was an innovator, way ahead of his time. An accountant by profession, he came to this not so much from an environmental standpoint, he just saw that you can't short-cut nature's economy. When you begin depending on chemical fertilizers from the Middle East and chemicals to kill things that can go through five adaptive generations in 24 hours, you can't beat it. So that platform allowed me to refine the thinking into something more ethical and theological, not just economical.

Would you say that our federal government is the biggest threat to the sustainable food movement?

Absolutely. The last three chapters of this book are about the proliferation of the food police. Never before in civilization has a government told a person you can't drink raw milk. It's safe to drink Mountain Dew and eat Twinkies and Cocoa Puffs, but Aunt Matilda's homemade pickles and compost-grown tomatoes are hazardous substances. That is an absolute experiment in civilization.

What role does the average citizen play in all this?

Well, supposedly the government reflects the wishes of the people. Although now that corporations are people, I don't know. (laughs) If the people rose up on this issue, the policies would change. But right now the average person thinks the only way to get safe food is for it to have a stamp by the USDA. How do you get safe food and build responsible food decision-making in the culture? The same way you teach kids—by letting them actually make decisions. Decision-making consequences lead directly to informed and participatory activity.

But as people demand government penetration into the food system, we immediately fall into a comfort zone of thinking that just because it's USDA approved, it's fine. The USDA approved DDT, pesticides, Agent Orange, genetic modification, high fructose corn syrup, and even subsidizes the companies that make the substances that are giving us Type 2 diabetes and making us obese. Since most of us are lazy, it lulls the culture into a sense of security that is not real.

So what, in your opinion, is the government most valuable for?

Stealing and killing. That’s what governments do very efficiently. I don't think we should have a professional military. I agree with the founders of the constitution that we should have a militia and I would be very happy to defund the military by about 80 percent. Do you know what we could do in our own country if we took that money and planted gardens and orchards in the interstate mediums?

As a Christian, I look at Roman 13, which says the role of government is to be a terror to people who do evil and an encourager to people who do righteousness. We've strayed pretty far from that. I don't want to get into a great big libertarian dissertation here, but in my perfect world the government would be way smaller than it is, and much that the federal does, the states would do. So if a state wants to have health insurance, let them do it. If I don't like it, I can move to another state. The problem with the federal government is it's a one-size-fits-all program and it doesn't allow for innovative prototypes on a local and statewide level.

So you advocate for the same kind of regionalism when it comes to government as you do for food production.

Absolutely. I can imagine there might be some states that want public education, other ones that want complete home schooling, others that would outlaw it. That's what the country was founded on—the ability of states to bio-regionalize their policy.

When it comes to the local food shed, are there foods that you can't produce yourself or get locally that you still eat?

Yeah—I'm a banana-aholic! (laughs) Look—we all get to pick our hypocrisy. At the end of the day, nobody is true blue through and through. I hope that we can have enough transparency and not take ourselves so seriously, that we can have room in our hearts for anomalies amongst each other. If somebody wants to fight me over my bananas, then I'll say give up your TV, because I don't have a TV.

This kind of nitpicking is like when people say they can't afford our food, because our costs are all built in, not externalized. And look—my heart goes out to the single mom in the urban setting who can’t afford our food. But instead of talking about that two percent of people, let's talk about the 98 percent of people who aren't doing what they should. We are still building houses with no regard to southern orientation. That's unconscionable and immoral, as we're heading towards an energy crisis. One of the big points in my book is that we have been encouraged not to think about soil, air, water, because we have lived in the lap of luxury to the point that we have disconnected ourselves from the visceral experience of living: hauling water, chopping wood to stay warm. Today people are much more connected to the latest belly piercing and Hollywood celebrity culture than to where their food comes from.

When you're not farming or writing, what do you like to do?

I love to read. I read all the time. I enjoy history and museums of all kinds.

Do you like the traveling that your book tour entails?

To a point. It certainly has not been as fun since the TSA got involved, since 9/11. But I love people, I love our country, I love the earthworms. And I desperately want earthworms to be happy, to dance and not feel assaulted. I want families to be happy and communities to be vibrant and secure. I want homes to be the epicenter of family life, rather than home being a pit stop between everything that matters in life. This is the stuff that drives me.

And your home is still the epicenter of your family life?

Absolutely. Which is why I say no sometimes and charge more for speaking, because it takes me away from home. I say, I'd love to talk to you for nothing, but I call this my hassle fee, because I gotta throw stuff in a suitcase and leave. We're four generations here on the farm—my mother is still very active, an octogenarian who rides five miles a day on her stationary bike. I've got my wife Theresa, our children, and our grandchildren here. All of us here on the farm—that's one of the greatest blessings of my life.

FishingRod
01-19-2012, 09:43 AM
Sounds like an interesting guy.

jiveturkey
01-19-2012, 10:00 AM
Great read.

I like this answer...

Would you say that our federal government is the biggest threat to the sustainable food movement?

Absolutely. The last three chapters of this book are about the proliferation of the food police. Never before in civilization has a government told a person you can't drink raw milk. It's safe to drink Mountain Dew and eat Twinkies and Cocoa Puffs, but Aunt Matilda's homemade pickles and compost-grown tomatoes are hazardous substances. That is an absolute experiment in civilization.

Reaper16
01-19-2012, 01:15 PM
He's awesome. It's no surprise that he's built up a sort of cult of personality since being profiled in Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma.

Iowanian
01-19-2012, 02:43 PM
So it takes him 20 employees to farm 500 acres.....

KILLER_CLOWN
01-19-2012, 02:46 PM
Would you say that our federal government is the biggest threat to the sustainable food movement?

Absolutely. The last three chapters of this book are about the proliferation of the food police. Never before in civilization has a government told a person you can't drink raw milk. It's safe to drink Mountain Dew and eat Twinkies and Cocoa Puffs, but Aunt Matilda's homemade pickles and compost-grown tomatoes are hazardous substances. That is an absolute experiment in civilization.

What role does the average citizen play in all this?

Well, supposedly the government reflects the wishes of the people. Although now that corporations are people, I don't know. (laughs) If the people rose up on this issue, the policies would change. But right now the average person thinks the only way to get safe food is for it to have a stamp by the USDA. How do you get safe food and build responsible food decision-making in the culture? The same way you teach kids—by letting them actually make decisions. Decision-making consequences lead directly to informed and participatory activity.

But as people demand government penetration into the food system, we immediately fall into a comfort zone of thinking that just because it's USDA approved, it's fine. The USDA approved DDT, pesticides, Agent Orange, genetic modification, high fructose corn syrup, and even subsidizes the companies that make the substances that are giving us Type 2 diabetes and making us obese. Since most of us are lazy, it lulls the culture into a sense of security that is not real.

So what, in your opinion, is the government most valuable for?

Stealing and killing. That’s what governments do very efficiently. I don't think we should have a professional military. I agree with the founders of the constitution that we should have a militia and I would be very happy to defund the military by about 80 percent. Do you know what we could do in our own country if we took that money and planted gardens and orchards in the interstate mediums?

As a Christian, I look at Roman 13, which says the role of government is to be a terror to people who do evil and an encourager to people who do righteousness. We've strayed pretty far from that. I don't want to get into a great big libertarian dissertation here, but in my perfect world the government would be way smaller than it is, and much that the federal does, the states would do. So if a state wants to have health insurance, let them do it. If I don't like it, I can move to another state. The problem with the federal government is it's a one-size-fits-all program and it doesn't allow for innovative prototypes on a local and statewide level.

So you advocate for the same kind of regionalism when it comes to government as you do for food production.

Absolutely. I can imagine there might be some states that want public education, other ones that want complete home schooling, others that would outlaw it. That's what the country was founded on—the ability of states to bio-regionalize their policy.

So making statements like these How long until the FDA raid?

btw I very much agree with this guy, so he'll be voting for Ron Paul?

oldandslow
01-19-2012, 06:50 PM
So it takes him 20 employees to farm 500 acres.....

Providing more jobs than politicians from either party :).

mnchiefsguy
01-19-2012, 07:24 PM
So it takes him 20 employees to farm 500 acres.....

I will readily admit I know very little about farming...does this number of employees seem high or low to you? I can't tell if you are being critical of the number or in awe of it.

NewChief
01-19-2012, 07:46 PM
I will readily admit I know very little about farming...does this number of employees seem high or low to you? I can't tell if you are being critical of the number or in awe of it.

High. Iowanian is not a fan.

banyon
01-19-2012, 07:55 PM
Always thought it was interesting reading about him in Omnivore's and seeing him in Food Inc.

Iowanian
01-19-2012, 08:07 PM
I will readily admit I know very little about farming...does this number of employees seem high or low to you? I can't tell if you are being critical of the number or in awe of it.


I do kind of "get" the live off the land hippy thing, I really do. If I had more time, I'd tinker in the garden, can more and have considered trying to make time for those pursuits. I take pride in my yard, a garden when I have one and have been seen watering flowers and things like that.

But when you look at productivity I'm not as impressed. Ok, so they've got a really big garden and use their own poop to grow tomatoes, which is great until the whole compound comes down with lysteria.

From a farming stand point, I'll try to put it in perspective.
My father in law farms around 800 acres alone.
I have a friend and his dad, that with 1 cousin and a hired man or two, farm around 3000 acres, have a 2-300 cows and run 2 hog barns.

Modern or semi-modern equipment, fertilizers(even using cow/hog/chicken manure), and weed/pest control the yield per acre won't even be in the same zip code on the same land.

From a "feed the world" standpoint, they're wasting their time.
From a "isn't that special for the hippies" viewpoint, I guess good for them.

mlyonsd
01-19-2012, 08:18 PM
When the country does fail into depression guys like this and oldandslow will be way ahead of the curve.

Iowanian
01-19-2012, 10:25 PM
When the country does fail into depression guys like this and oldandslow will be way ahead of the curve.

That is the part of this stuff that makes the most sense to me about those doing it.

BucEyedPea
01-19-2012, 11:26 PM
When the country does fail into depression guys like this and oldandslow will be way ahead of the curve.

Yup! I'm converting to an Amish lifestyle.

mnchiefsguy
01-20-2012, 02:06 PM
I do kind of "get" the live off the land hippy thing, I really do. If I had more time, I'd tinker in the garden, can more and have considered trying to make time for those pursuits. I take pride in my yard, a garden when I have one and have been seen watering flowers and things like that.

But when you look at productivity I'm not as impressed. Ok, so they've got a really big garden and use their own poop to grow tomatoes, which is great until the whole compound comes down with lysteria.

From a farming stand point, I'll try to put it in perspective.
My father in law farms around 800 acres alone.
I have a friend and his dad, that with 1 cousin and a hired man or two, farm around 3000 acres, have a 2-300 cows and run 2 hog barns.

Modern or semi-modern equipment, fertilizers(even using cow/hog/chicken manure), and weed/pest control the yield per acre won't even be in the same zip code on the same land.

From a "feed the world" standpoint, they're wasting their time.
From a "isn't that special for the hippies" viewpoint, I guess good for them.

Thanks for the info. Interesting article, but not sure how practical this way of farming could actually be on a widespread scale.

vailpass
01-20-2012, 02:22 PM
I do kind of "get" the live off the land hippy thing, I really do. If I had more time, I'd tinker in the garden, can more and have considered trying to make time for those pursuits. I take pride in my yard, a garden when I have one and have been seen watering flowers and things like that.

But when you look at productivity I'm not as impressed. Ok, so they've got a really big garden and use their own poop to grow tomatoes, which is great until the whole compound comes down with lysteria.

From a farming stand point, I'll try to put it in perspective.
My father in law farms around 800 acres alone.
I have a friend and his dad, that with 1 cousin and a hired man or two, farm around 3000 acres, have a 2-300 cows and run 2 hog barns.

Modern or semi-modern equipment, fertilizers(even using cow/hog/chicken manure), and weed/pest control the yield per acre won't even be in the same zip code on the same land.

From a "feed the world" standpoint, they're wasting their time.
From a "isn't that special for the hippies" viewpoint, I guess good for them.

Well said.

vailpass
01-20-2012, 02:23 PM
When the country does fail into depression guys like this and oldandslow will be way ahead of the curve.

I get the feeling old and slow is immune to the curve. Have to admire that.

La literatura
01-20-2012, 02:24 PM
Thanks for the info. Interesting article, but not sure how practical this way of farming could actually be on a widespread scale.

Midwest farms, directly or indirectly, feed a lot of the world. There's no way a polyface model could do that.

But that's not the point of polyface. I think this farmer is doing something cool. A lot of farms are more efficient, and that's sufficient, but doesn't mean the product is the best.

Iowanian
01-20-2012, 03:04 PM
That's kind of my point Lit.

Polyface can feed his own village until a drought or insect infestation, but not the masses.

It's a cool concept and I do understand the draw of farming your own food and getting away from society or whatever their main point is, but productivity is an issue.

There are some who will take my comments as uninformed, but I guess they can't see the 4 Amish buggies that are clopping past my office window as I type this, or haven't been involved in the kind of work I've done relating to several thousand acres of organic farming crops.

Even organic crops farmed with modern equipment don't produce as well. Differences like 32 bpa vs 50 using modern fertilizers and chemicals. Not that big of a deal unless you consider the return on that over 500 acres at current market rates or the number of people fed from the same acreage.

I'm not disparaging people who want to live like polyanna, as long as they're paying their tax burden for the produce they're selling, same as everyone else.

NewChief
01-20-2012, 06:07 PM
That's kind of my point Lit.

Polyface can feed his own village until a drought or insect infestation, but not the masses.

It's a cool concept and I do understand the draw of farming your own food and getting away from society or whatever their main point is, but productivity is an issue.

There are some who will take my comments as uninformed, but I guess they can't see the 4 Amish buggies that are clopping past my office window as I type this, or haven't been involved in the kind of work I've done relating to several thousand acres of organic farming crops.

Even organic crops farmed with modern equipment don't produce as well. Differences like 32 bpa vs 50 using modern fertilizers and chemicals. Not that big of a deal unless you consider the return on that over 500 acres at current market rates or the number of people fed from the same acreage.

I'm not disparaging people who want to live like polyanna, as long as they're paying their tax burden for the produce they're selling, same as everyone else.

You can't dispute that modern farming produces higher yields. The question is at what cost? Is it sustainable? I'm not that well-informed, but my gut tells me that our current model has high short-term yields at an equally high long-term cost.

The fact is that our food is too fucking cheap, and it's going to get more expensive in the future (unfortunately).

JASONSAUTO
01-20-2012, 06:28 PM
I know two guys that ran over 3000 acres by them selves for over 25 years. crops and cattle mixed
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Reaper16
01-20-2012, 08:43 PM
Higher yields of absolute shit product.

Feeding the world isn't any different than policing the world; we shouldn't be doing it.

banyon
01-20-2012, 08:51 PM
Higher yields of absolute shit product.

Feeding the world isn't any different than policing the world; we shouldn't be doing it.

to some extent I agree, but of course there is the critical difference that we pay to police the world and get paid to feed it.

But the modern corn-based animal feeding situations are truly not understood by the public. Most packing plants here aren't very moved to be transparent about their operations.

Silock
01-21-2012, 01:56 AM
But when you look at productivity I'm not as impressed. Ok, so they've got a really big garden and use their own poop to grow tomatoes, which is great until the whole compound comes down with listeria.

You mention this and drought bringing it down, but I get the impression from his interview that, while it isn't immune to it, his farm is more than capable of dealing with it.

Iowanian
01-21-2012, 04:40 PM
Higher yields of absolute shit product.

Feeding the world isn't any different than policing the world; we shouldn't be doing it.

Interestingly enough, people of your line of thinking are the ones who would cry first and loudest if we DID stand by and let a region in say, Africa starve.


Enjoy the shit product in your full belly.

RedNeckRaider
01-21-2012, 04:48 PM
to some extent I agree, but of course there is the critical difference that we pay to police the world and get paid to feed it.

But the modern corn-based animal feeding situations are truly not understood by the public. Most packing plants here aren't very moved to be transparent about their operations.

Want to get thrown in jail? walk around with a camera and take pictures of their operation~

Reaper16
01-21-2012, 04:59 PM
Interestingly enough, people of your line of thinking are the ones who would cry first and loudest if we DID stand by and let a region in say, Africa starve.
what's "my line of thinking?" Either I don't post enough in DC or you don't read enough of DC, or both. Cuz you don't know me very well.


Enjoy the shit product in your full belly and also your diabetes and your cancer and your dozens of other ailments
FYP

MOhillbilly
01-21-2012, 10:22 PM
Hey fuckers. I am no hippie!

NewChief
01-22-2012, 06:11 AM
Hey ****ers. I am no hippie!

Exactly right. Dismissing this movement as feel good hippy shit is inaccurate.

MOhillbilly
01-22-2012, 03:16 PM
This type enterprise has been goin down for ever on some level.

NewChief
01-22-2012, 05:55 PM
This type enterprise has been goin down for ever on some level.

Definitely. The demand and market is just growing. The thing I think is cool is that it's merging traditionalists with neo-traditionalist, who have very very different worldviews but find common ground in the most basic, essential element of our existence: food.

NewChief
01-23-2012, 05:34 AM
Thought this was interesting:
http://www.salon.com/2012/01/21/urban_gardens_the_future_of_food/


Saturday, Jan 21, 2012 11:00 AM CST
Urban gardens: The future of food?
It's easy to make fun of, but as more and more farming moves downtown, eating local is taking on a new flavor
By Will Doig

*
*

urban farming explosion

(Credit: Salon, Mignon Khargie / Chee-Onn Leong via Shutterstock)
Topics:Dream City

With penny-farthings, handlebar mustaches and four-pocket vests back in fashion, the rise of urban farming should just about complete our fetish for the late 1800s. Today, you can find chicken coops on rooftops in Brooklyn, N.Y., goats in San Francisco backyards, and rows of crops sprouting across empty lots in Cleveland.

That it fits so snugly into the hipster-steampunk throwback trend is what makes urban farming ripe for ridicule. (“Portlandia” has taken a crack or two at it.) But could city-based agriculture ever make the leap from precious pastime to serious player in our cities’ food systems — not just for novelty seekers and committed locavores, but for the Safeway-shopping masses?

“I don’t want to make a statement like, ‘This is the future of farming,’” says Gotham Greens co-founder Viraj Puri, sitting at his laptop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, steps away from hundreds of rows of butter lettuce. “It’s probably never going to replace conventional farming. But it has a role to play.”

If the greenhouse we’re sitting in is any indication, that role looks nothing like the 1800s.

Gotham Greens is a 15,000-square-foot hydroponic farm on the roof of a Brooklyn warehouse. It had its first harvest in June, and expects to produce 100 tons of food per year. The crops (mostly lettuce) grow in rows of white plastic tubing, their roots massaged by recycled water, under grow-lights and fans controlled by a central computer system. The system collects data from sensors throughout the room and adjusts the environment accordingly. This pampered produce will eventually end up on restaurant menus and shelves at stores like Whole Foods.

Two years ago, Forbes predicted that by the year 2018, 20 percent of the food consumed in U.S. cities will be grown in places like this. It’s safe to say that’s almost certainly not going to happen. Right now, urban-grown produce represents a minuscule slice of the food system. But there are several plausible scenarios that could make such food more commonplace in the city kitchen of the future.

Several of these scenarios are growing more likely by the day. If energy prices spike, your average grapefruit’s 1,500-mile journey to your fridge could make local food seem cheaper by comparison. Droughts are becoming more common, and soil-free hydroponic agriculture uses a fraction of the water of conventional farming and can easily be set up in urban environments. And there’s always the unforeseen Black Swan event: World War II “victory gardens” made urban farming a temporary reality for millions in the early 1940s.

But even if these scenarios came to pass, wouldn’t it still make more sense to grow on cheaper land just outside city limits, rather than right in the bustle of the city? Depends which city you’re talking about. Money manager John Hantz has spent the last few years putting together plans for a massive farm right in Detroit — not just to grow food, but to boost land values in general. “We need scarcity” in Detroit, he told Fortune magazine. By which he means, depopulated Detroit has way too much land. Turning hundreds of acres of the city into farmland, his theory goes, would make land scarcer (and greener), which would raise real estate values. It would also take dilapidated properties off the city’s hands. It’s a fairly wild scheme that some suspect is nothing more than a real-estate land grab. Still, Hantz has the city’s interest piqued.

There’s another reason to grow food right in the city. Puri says he and his partners chose Brooklyn for lots of reasons: to help create jobs, to green the area, and to avoid a commute to the country. “We didn’t select Brooklyn because it was cool,” he insists. But Brooklyn is cool — if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be used as a brand by all kinds of companies, from salsa to beer to the ubiquitous hoodies. And until we sail past peak-oil or face a water crisis, for many people, the main appeal of buying veggies grown in the city is that they’re vegetables that were grown in the city. That holds whether that city is Brooklyn, Seattle or Montreal. Which is why the Gotham Greens’ packaging is emblazoned with some version of the phrase “New York City” no less than three times — four if you count the word “Gotham” itself.

Because the fact is, locavorism is something people are willing to shell out for, and you can’t get more local than across the street. But agriculture that’s that local is also something others want nothing to do with. In November’s municipal elections in Vancouver, urban farming became a political wedge issue used by the center-right NPA opposition party, which ridiculed public monies proposed for wheat fields and chickens. The funding was minimal (and some of it was never spent), but it didn’t matter — urban farming itself was held up as a loopy liberal lifestyle being subsidized by the city.

“The same people who were opposing the wheat field and chickens were opposing the bike lanes in Vancouver, too,” says Peter Ladner, who actually led the NPA as a mayoral candidate four years ago. He’s since become an advocate for urban agriculture, and says the issue, like bike lanes, is becoming a cultural battle that’s bigger than urban farms — it’s about the definition of progress. “We have a large Asian population in Vancouver, and there’s a big concern [about urban farming] among immigrants who are moving here from places where there are chickens and pigs running around,” he says. “They moved here to upgrade their lives and live a sophisticated urban existence. They’re like, ‘Why are we going back to this?’ For a lot of people, progress means getting a nice, smooth lawn.”

“The people who are idealizing urban farming have a choice — a choice between grocery stores and greenmarkets, between cars and bicycles,” says Richard Longworth, a senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Last year Longworth wrote a provocative piece for Good magazine titled “Forget Urban Farms. We Need a Walmart,” blasting the idea that such farms can spur an economy like traditional businesses can. “What I object to is the hyping of their reality and potential,” he says. “There are a lot of people in this country who simply hate megafarms, but those folks are feeding the world. Locavore agriculture isn’t going to change that.”

That may be true. But urban farming may carve a path to sustainable success by creating a new type of subsystem within the larger food system — one that’s bigger than boutique but smaller than Big Agra. A company called BrightFarms is pioneering a method that aims to do just that — one that takes place directly above the stores that sell the produce it grows. BrightFarms builds greenhouses on supermarket rooftops and manages the growing operations for free. In return, the store below signs a long-term contract agreeing to buy the food that’s produced. BrightFarms estimates it can harvest up to 900,000 pounds of produce annually per acre. It’s a solution that seems custom-built for cities, places with plenty of roofs but little ground.

A lack of space on the ground is what might someday make vertical farms a cost-effective reality. But for now, large-scale towers holding rows of corn are strictly sci-fi. Nevertheless, city-based agriculture seems poised for some kind of flowering that’s more than a fad. If 2011 was the year that bike lanes became the poster child for the New Urbanism, urban farms could claim that mantle in 2012.

oldandslow
01-23-2012, 08:05 AM
Definitely. The demand and market is just growing. The thing I think is cool is that it's merging traditionalists with neo-traditionalist, who have very very different worldviews but find common ground in the most basic, essential element of our existence: food.

Yep. Even tho MOHillbilly and I are probably miles apart politically, I bet we could set down and have a really great conversation about the 3 bazillion things that need to be done on the farm.

I have also learned more from people like him than any of politically adept left and right wingers out there.

MOhillbilly
01-24-2012, 08:12 AM
Thought this was interesting:
http://www.salon.com/2012/01/21/urban_gardens_the_future_of_food/

Times will have to get tough before anyone cares. To many distractions in the world for people to care .

MOhillbilly
01-24-2012, 08:13 AM
Yep. Even tho MOHillbilly and I are probably miles apart politically, I bet we could set down and have a really great conversation about the 3 bazillion things that need to be done on the farm.

I have also learned more from people like him than any of politically adept left and right wingers out there.

Three bazillion is a low number imo.

HonestChieffan
01-24-2012, 08:16 AM
There are some interesting trends, small and very specialized in agriculture. One I find most interesting is producing a product for a very specific targeted upscale market.

Breed specific pork for the upper end restaurant trade is working for a few producers but regulation is a killer and being able to maintain a steady supply is very difficult. Some veggie producers are doing it as well but have to be close to a consistent market to make it work.