Children of the Cornucopia

Opinions_Heberly_Mere - 'prairie' monoculture field landscape_Natural England_flickr

Flickr / Natural England

Krysten Heberly
Staff Writer

As a collective global force, we are ending the world as we know it through our unsustainable methods of farming all food we eat. It is imperative to the future health of this planet that we stop using factory farming as our primary source of food production. We are turning once-rich soil into dust, pushing species to the brink of extinction, and are endorsing cruel and unusual treatments of the animals we are consuming. If we are to continue surviving on this planet, we must make a change.

Factory farming is the term used to describe farming on massive amounts of land under very strict conditions. It calls for heavy machinery, thousands of acres of land and, often, the strict confinement of animals. This form of farming has increased in popularity with the increasing need for food around the world.

As populations increased, our demand for food increased as well, especially when the soil in the midwest was found to be some of the most fertile soil in the world. Feeding the world became a dream that seemed attainable, and farming went from a local enterprise to a literal cash crop. Farming changed from small local farms to a massive capitalist enterprise focused on growing food all around the world.

Farmers began growing only one species of crop per acreage and squeezing animals into tighter and tighter spaces, all to attempt to generate as much food as possible. This is done not only to feed the world, but also to become incredibly wealthy. While this practice has meant that areas including America’s Midwest have reached their goal of growing enough food to feed the world, much of this food is wasted and never comes close to reaching those who need it.

What we are left with instead is the destruction of the fertile land that once thrived. Our soils are increasingly depleted of nutrients due to farmers planting the same crops over and over for so many years, thus drying out the land until it becomes a desert. We are allowing unprecedented levels of greenhouse gases to enter our atmosphere from the excretions of animals that we have bred until we barely have enough land to contain them.

These factory farms feed these same animals high levels of antibiotics, as they often get sick from being kept in such close company, which is breeding  antibiotic-resistant bacteria. They fill our rivers with chemicals instead of flora, often until the oxygen is depleted and nothing can grow there for years to come. They have pushed so many native species to the brink of extinction in our efforts to profit off of land that we could not care for.

Unsustainable farming is killing our planet for an enterprise that isn’t even feeding half of the people that it promised to save. We have taken the land where they once grew their own food, and feed them nothing but dust. Rather than the cornucopia that our ancestors dreamed of, we are left instead with a dying planet. And yet, too many of our people are still hungry, ranks of our small farmers are still poor, and those who do have access to the food we produce are becoming sick.

However, we have not reached the end of the agricultural revolution. The key to reversing the damages we have caused, is to return back to sustainable, healthy ways of farming. We need to return to local farmers who produce a variety of crops. We must reduce our use of pesticides, and return to more natural forms of pest control. We have to source our meat humanely, in a way that is ethical and still cost effective. But the real issue is that change is rarely cheap. To reverse the damage that has been caused, there will need to be major changes made to the way the world practices agriculture.

To really reverse the effects of unsustainable farming and allow the new methods to stick, we must allow sustainable farming to become a capitalist enterprise. The reason that more sustainable farming did not stick is that it is nowhere near as profitable for the individual. Yet, sustainable farming would increase jobs by employing many more farmers, providing more food to individual areas and would begin to reverse much of the damage that has been caused. We can become the cornucopia that we originally set out to be, but it will require great change. Our choice is to turn to alternative farming methods, or to starve.

Categories: Columns, Opinions


1 reply

  1. Can we buy a farm and put your alternative farming methods into practice? The West – anything west of the Mississippi River has volcanic soil and most of the time just requires water to grow crops. Ruth and I just got back from our trip out West. We flew into Denver and drove to Colorado Springs (Colorado), Yellowstone (Wyoming), Corvallis (Oregon), Crater Lake (Oregon), South Lake Tahoe (California), Antelope Island Great Salt Lake (Utah), back to Denver and flew home. The West is a vast place with mile after mile of Ranches and large farms that require lots of water for irrigation. It boggles the mind to imagine the amount of volcanic material that was spewed from the Yellowstone Super Volcano 🌋 that covered all of the West and even parts of Canada. The Willamette Valley in Oregon is consider one of the worlds most fertile valley. It can grow any type of crop and was on display at the Corvallis Farmers Market.


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