Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Omnivores Dilemna - Part two

OK, I can't just let go.

I think about the issues of sustainability and the environment and agriculture a lot because of my job and our hobby farm.

I work at a seed company developing popcorn hybrids. I am directly involved with the industrial agriculture community. I find it is full of people that are trying hard to make a living but also make it in the best way they can. There are a lot of chemicals used - pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and seed treatments. Mostly to prevent yield loss from pests, weeds, and diseases. We also grow some plots without most of the chemicals and it is such a difference. Weeds are the main problem. Controlling weeds without herbicides is a definite pain, with a lot of hand weeding, hoeing, and cultivating with the tractor it is doable, but difficult. It would sure be hard to farm 1000 acres that way.

I need more experience with organic production because my impression is that it is not feasible on a large scale and many of the rules are artificial. Their angry refusal to consider transgenic plants I also find hypocritical. They spray large amounts of Bt - bacillus thurigensis, but are opposed to transgenic Bt because it might be a health and environmental risk? I just don't get it. Morally you could say that it is because we don't want to mess with nature, but breeding already messes with nature.

At home we have a small acreage. I don't want to have 5 acres of grass to mow and so we have debated how to handle it. Last year we boarded some horses for our friends the Nef's. I think we may this year for a time also, but long term we would like it to be productive. This year our plan is to raise 25 chickens - a rooster, 12 brown egg layers, and 12 from the "Rainbow egg layers" - I am a sucker for reduced price mixes. We are also going to raise 3 pigs. Leila is going to have a huge pumpkin patch with 4 species and 6 varieties of pumpkin. We hope to have a U-pick pumpkin patch and plan to sell them for ~3 dollars each. We also have increased our garden patch and have started a small orchard.

That is our answer to the Omnivores Dilemna - we want to try a sustainable production at home. The question that still remains is whether we can pull it off. Chickens last year didn't go so great - we lost most to predators. Weeds are always a problem. We are going to try using the pigs to "rotatill" the plots for the pumpkins and we are going to spray herbicides.

4 comments:

B-Ring said...
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B-Ring said...

Michael Pollan gave a free lecture on "The Omnivore's Dilemma" at Butler University on Feb 25th. i wonder if there was a book signing.

Brian G. said...

I wish that I had known. I would have liked to have been there. I heard of the book for the first time in a princeton lecture he gave during a series about food, ethics, and the environment.

Becca said...

I want to take a trip to see the Gardunias and buy a $3 pumpkin in October!