What a delight to comply with USDA’s agriculture census. Page after page of detail and monetary facts to assess the state of agriculture. A mandatory filing for most farms. For a small, intensive vegetable farmer this simple formality appears pointless. We generate so much of our own fertility, work so much of our lands with animals or hand tools that the monetary determinations the census asks for are irrelevant. So much of what happens with the biological life on the farm that is pivotal in our continued existence cannot be monetized. It’s no surprise that many of the industrial organic and conventional farms that the Census relies on for the “true state” of farming skew the data to reflect their practices. For them it’s all about purchased inputs and paid for services.
We purchase some of our seed, some soil minerals, and some supplies for our marketing efforts. Beyond that our purchases are minimal. Our farming methods are more labor intensive than capital intensive. We also put to work the biological systems that are crucial to providing for the farms fertility needs. The microbes in the compost heaps are at work while I do other things. The cover crops hold the nutrients in the fields for future benefits and exude crucial compounds that the soil fungal life thrives on. As these life forms multiply and support more diverse life we promote a compounding of life sustaining energies that improves our farm and the produce from it. The census has no way of ascertaining these processes.
The industrial organic and conventional farms are in the money rat-race. Borrowing from a bank (or endowment), importing fertility and compost, paying for services, purchasing seed and plants, and ignoring the role of fostering the biological life that builds the diverse biology needed for sustainable production.
When the numbers are reviewed we small farmers do okay. What isn’t measured is we produce in a manner that we can sustain….
Posted by Farmer Pete @ 10:11 AM EST