It better be, because as I see that the status quo of our present agricultural model is not working.
The over-use of nitrogen fertilizers is causing them to leach into our underground aquifers as nitrates. The nitrates pollute the aquifer before we pump water to the surface in a tainted form to grow our crops. Then we wonder why so many people drink bottled water. Over-use of the herbicide RoundUp has caused weeds to mutate and become RoundUp resistant. The list of law suites grows daily claiming the herbicide causes cancer. The oldest agricultural practice of all, plowing the soil, is now being called into question because of the loss of top soil to erosion. This is caused by the exposed bare soil to wind and water. I could go on and on sighting instances of farming practices that are mining our planet on a world wide scale that are not sustainable. But before I numb you all to the pillaging that is going on 24/7 to our home called Earth, I want to pose the question: “Is their a better way?” I believe there are better ways; some of them known and some yet to be discovered. Those of us that raise the food and fiber for the masses must also ask the question: “Is there a better way or is there a different way?” My frustration is that so few are willing to even ask the question.
I believe change will come as our old sclerotic farmers and ranchers pass from the scene. What is ironic as I wait for kinder and more effective ways to raise our veggies and livestock? The answer is showing itself with a new breed of kids on the block coming from our cities and families that don’t make their living from agriculture. This new generation is passionate about their new found profession and are not weighted down with the millstones of tradition. Some will argue that you don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. I’ll agree to saving the baby but you must promise to at least teach him to ask the question: “Is there a better way?”
I want to be either dead or alive. The middle ground of life would be pretty boring. That’s why I planted pistachio trees 10 years to full production and started a cow herd this past Tuesday. If I breed 300 heifers by artificial insemination, they will have their calves next September and will help pay the bills sometime in 2017. I am also learning better ways to invigorate the health of our V6 ranch soils to help keep me alive.
My wife made a comment that it was nice to live for the future but what about paying the bills for today? “That’s a good thought,” I said, because the first tenet of a good steward of the land is to pay your bills so you get to hang around to see the future become the present. So I find it necessary to not look so far into the future.
I’ve got it! I think I’ve got it! CHICKENS! Yes that’s it, from the cradle to the grave in 10 weeks. So with the demise of hand picked cotton in the fields of the San Joaquin Valley many 10′ by 30′ cotton trailers were left to become sign boards along our California highways and for me a perfect chicken coop. We have an army of hungry predators that call the V6 ranch home– from foxes to raccoons, coyote to bobcats, red tail hawks to golden eagles and possibly a down and out traveler passing through.
The day old chicks will arrive next spring. After a 2 week stay in a brooder they will move to our pistachio orchard where their job will be to eat grass and bugs in the sunshine hours and roost in their cotton trailer at night. Then they will move the length of the trailer each night (30′) to poop on the land, fertilizing the soil in a much more friendly way than a sack of ammonium sulfate.
I’m writing this blog and it’s Thanksgiving what a wonderful day not to be dead.
Of late there certainly has been a lot of print delegated to how much water farmers and ranchers use to provide town folks with three meals a day. I think my urban friends who are suffering along with those of us in agriculture in this interminable drought are beginning to be inconvenienced enough to start lashing out at the hand that feeds them. Just the other day I was reading an article that caught my eye in one of my farming magazines. The author must practice voodoo mathematics for I know of no other way that he could arrive at the preposterous figures that he used to make a case of why almond farmers use too much water to make this very healthy food available to the public. This charlatan that works on the theory that most people who see something in print think it’s the Gospel knows he doesn’t have to defend his figures to the gullible public. He can say that it takes a gallon of water to raise one nut and that it takes 1,800 gallons of water to put one pound of beef on your dinner table and no one questions him.
I want to do a little number crunching and then let you folks out there be the judge. Cattle will drink about one gallon of water per day per hundred weight, so a 1,000 pound steer will drink 10 gallons of water per day. Then again, when they’re out on the range and the grass is green they may drink half that amount. Let’s say our steer is harvested in 720 days (2 years). He will have consumed about 7,200 gallons of the wet stuff. If we use voodoo math we will multiply 1,000 pounds X 1,800 gallons per pound of weight = 1,800,000 gallons this this steer will have to drink in 720 days. The poor steer will have to drink 2,500 gallons of water per day, or 2.5 times his body weight. I believe most would consider this animal cruelty of the first order.
On that account, if we all want to eat, then part of the process is to just add water. The question then becomes: how much? I suggest that because water is an expensive part of raising our food, our farmers and ranchers will use it in a very miserly fashion. I hope most of you will come to the conclusion that in order to eat you will cast your vote for the person that raises it, knowing we have more credibility than voodoo mathematicians.
Before closing, I do have a wonderment: why is it that I never hear a word about the water used to make wine, which is not necessary for your health?
My son Greg and grandson Kade and I traveled to Tulare in the San Joaquin Valley to for the biggest farm equipment show in California.
We took a back road across the valley floor over a flat expanse that was once the Tulare Lake. One hundred years-ago, give or take a few years, it was home to a teaming megalopolis of ducks and geese. Some say there were 10,000,000 deer and Tule Elk, fish of every kind and an untold sum of other critters that would stagger the imagination. This 130 mile stretch of water sub-irrigated 1,000 acres of Salt Grass that fed a multitude of grazing animals and ground nesting birds. All together this was a chaotic and complex place to make a life but this is the way Mother Nature designed life on this earth to work. I see parallels in the domain of we humans with wars going on in some corner of the planet at all times. Now add in floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, drought and pestilence and I believe this is a normal course of events for us humans.
What’s different this time around is our ability to change our environment in a direction that disregards all of Mother Natures rules.
As we drove across this land of mono-cultures it felt like I was walking on the Moon. From the edge of the pavement to the edge of a tilled field the ground had been scraped and sprayed clean of every living thing. There were no birds in the sky, not a rabbit to be seen, this land that was once home to uncountable millions was now a barren wasteland in my eyes. With today’s modern farming practices, that include: G.P.S. Laser straight cropping rows, soils that have been fumigated, fertilized, given liberal amounts of herbicides, pesticides. The only living thing left was a green growing crop. I’m sure if it had to fend for itself it most assuredly would wither and die.
Now I fully realize that to pull the rug out from under our modern ways to farm would surly leave many of us without much to eat. All I ask for, is to at least ask the question: are we at the top of the food chain caring for the land the best way possible? Is it sustainable for the foreseeable future? If not, why not? I think it’s because I’m going to an extravaganza that spends billions to maintain the Status Quo. I will spend the day getting my annual indoctrination put on by John Deere, Monsanto, the banks that finance this belief system and all the tool makers that build plows, discs ECT to ripe and pulverize the soil. Add in what the proper way to act in this environment is. Don’t ask the question. IS THIS TRIP NECESSARY?
I don’t think this entertaining way to have a day away from the ranch is totally bankrupt as there is much in the way of new irrigation equipment that is very miserly in the use of water and new ways to monitor this precious stuff so it’s not wasted. I also think that some of the new people manning the Organic Booths have already asked themselves, “Is there a different and possibly better way to feed the populous?” But the real money was spent by those that till the soil with tractors and plows much as we have done for the past several thousand years. Follow that with those that practice the Art of Chemistry to kill off chaos and replace it with monotony.
It’s time to head back to the ranch having washed myself in the blood of the status quo, tasted candy at almost every booth to satisfy my sweet tooth and lubricated my conscious so that I won’t squeal to the world that there may be trouble in paradise.