Our communities are basically shattered and in more than just an economic way — in a social way too. This collapse has in good part been driven by the rise of concentrated animal feeding operations, or Cafos.
In these industrial farming units, pigs, cows and chickens are crammed by the thousand into rows of barns. Many units are semi-automated, with feeding run by computer and the animals watched by video, with periodic visits by workers who drive between several operations. By one calculation, the US has around , factory farms of one kind or another.
The Triumph of the Family Farm
They have their roots in the s, with the mechanisation of pig slaughterhouses. By the s, chickens were routinely packed into huge sheds, in appalling conditions. He wanted to see farmers embrace what he regarded as a more efficient strategy of growing commodity crops, such as corn and soya beans. Some farmers invested heavily in buying land and new machinery to increase production — taking on large amounts of debt to do so. A decade later, the farm crisis hit as overproduction, the US grain embargo against the Soviet Union and high interest rates dramatically drove up costs and debt for family farms.
Land prices collapsed and foreclosures escalated. In , small and medium-sized farms accounted for nearly half of all agricultural production in the US. Now it is less than a quarter. As the medium-sized family farms retreated, the businesses they helped support disappeared. Local seed and equipment suppliers shut up shop because corporations went straight to wholesalers or manufacturers. Demand for local vets collapsed. As those businesses packed up and left, communities shrank. People found they had to drive for an hour or more for medical treatment.
Towns and counties began to share ambulances. As factory farms spread, their demands dictated the workings of slaughterhouses. Smaller abattoirs, which offered choice and competitive prices to family farmers, disappeared, to be replaced by huge operations that were further away and imposed lower prices on small-scale breeders such as the Kalbachs.
With no livestock, the Kalbachs were forced into gowing corn and soya beans to sell to factory farms as animal feed or to corporations for ethanol. Iowa is not alone. Missouri, to the south, had 23, independent pig farmers in Today it has just over 2, What they have done, through government support and taxpayer support, is to intentionally overproduce so that the price stays low, sometimes below the cost of production. That kicks their competition out of the market.
Family of six living in isolation found on Dutch farm | News | DW |
Then they become the only player in town. We can see how that has impacted rural main streets.
You can see the boarded-up storefronts. You can see the lack of economic opportunity.
Gibbons says that corporations game the system by obtaining low-interest, federally guaranteed loans to build Cafos that then overproduce. But they know the government will buy up the surplus to stabilise prices. There are about 70 million pigs in the US at any time, most of them destined for the dinner plate. But one in 10 are breeding sows, and the majority of those are in Cafos. The biggest pig farmer in the country is Virginia-based Smithfield Foods, which has nearly a million sows in the US and more in Mexico and eastern Europe.
Iowa Select Farms has one of the fastest-growing Cafo operations in the country, with farms spread through half of the counties in Iowa.
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Yet few of the economic benefits spill down to the communities around them. Workers are often poorly paid; many are bussed in. That they often include immigrants has sharpened the criticism from men like Nick Schutt, who used to work at Iowa Select, driving pigs in livestock trucks and handling sows. Not people with families who create communities. Schutt lives in Williams, a small town in central Iowa, which is surrounded by Cafos and currently fighting to keep a big new one out, saying factory farms pollute the environment and depress property values.
When the wind blows in the wrong direction, the stench from huge lakes of pig manure wafts across the town. The high school Nick Schutt attended has closed. His daughter was in the last class to graduate. We are both people of faith and looking back we believe God used this to open our eyes to what we had been missing.
Several months into the new "treatment" we decided we had to make a change after Mariah began suffering from some severe and bizarre side effects of the medication. At just this time we began learning about the benefits of nutrient rich food and clean eating. So we decided to try it. The first item we chose was beef. Then eggs, then apples, then We began to seriously consider the impact of our cheap eating. Why were we cutting corners on our food, that which has a direct connection to our health, energy, and vitality?
So we started voting for regenerative agriculture with our dollar. We chose to support local farmers and sustainable regenerative production systems.
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It felt good to invest in our local community and farmers instead of in factory farms and faceless corporations. Sure it was more expensive, but a carefully crafted budget and a little sacrifice allowed us to become part of something more worthwhile than carefully crafted sale flyers and factory chicken. Then we took it a step farther, and we decided to raise our first pastured broilers. The flavor was incredible, darker meat with less fat and tons of flavor. We realized we were on to something. Next we raised grass finished lambs with the same delicious results.
Then pastured laying hens which produced incredible eggs with a deeper color and heartiness. Lastly, we began grass finishing our own beef with the same delicious results. Simultaneously we were studying the health benefits of pasture raised livestock. We learned about the connection between healthy soil, healthy plants, healthy animals and healthy families.
Family of six living in isolation found on Dutch farm
We also learned of the increased levels of Omega 3, CLA, and other beneficial nutrients in pasture raised meats. We were producing nutrient dense pure food and really nourishing our bodies for the first time in our lives. To say we were ecstatic doesn't even come close. We could hardly believe the transformation in both of us.
Not to mention the fact that we would indeed be having a family! Then we made the decision to start Fed From The Farm so that the families in our community could experience and enjoy the same nutrient dense pure food that our family enjoyed. Our goal was to produce the best and safest food while giving families a genuine connection to the source of their food.
We believe that the only truly sustainable farming system is one that harbors trust between those who steward the land and those who eat of its bounty. Today we have two healthy boys and see the difference that nutrient rich food makes for our family every day. Sign In or Create Account. Today our mission is to restore the health and vitality of the land and to nourish the families who eat of its bounty We both grew up on farms and wanted to one day raise a family in the country.
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