“Industrial agriculture” and “factory farming” are terms used with increasing frequency, thanks to activists on a rampage to put food production in the worst light possible  to further their own agendas.  What is a factory farm?  How do you define one?  And, WHO is responsible for defining that? 

Have you really thought about those questions and been on a modern farm enough to answer that with firsthand knowledge?  Don’t recite statistics you’ve been handed unless you’ve taken a realistic look at the issue and considered the sustenance needs of a global population – and the economic viability agriculture brings to a local community.  Thanks to the dialogue at Farm to Table to point out this need, rather than posturing by a few pundits.

According to Farm Policy Facts, 95% of American farms are still family-owned.  Many of those have formed corporations, just the same as small businesses have formed LLCs or S-Corp for legal and tax reasons.  Should you really judge a farm because “Corporation” is now a part of the name?  It’s still the same people, working hard to do the right thing and provide you with affordable food.  These family businesses certainly don’t look like they did in previous generations, but do most homes and businesses look like they did in the 70s?  And, have you considered the lessening environmental impact of modern agriculture? 

Take a look back and you’ll see cattle wandering through waterways,  few conservation practices, pigs wallowing in mud while eating garbage and tractors making multiple trips across smaller fields.  EPA’s 2006 report showed only 6 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions came from agriculture (this includes cotton, almonds, wheat, broccoli, soybeans and anything else grown in the ground).  According to Consumer Freedom, livestock production accounts for 2.58% of total greenhouse gases. Food production practices have been improved, just as today’s methods will be advanced for the next generation. That’s called progress and frankly, it’s tiring to have it labelled “industrialization.”

Since it’s Earth Day, I could point to the many practices employed by entrepreneurs in agriculture to create a truly sustainable society, one that includes food for people living in poverty beyond your imagination.  Shouldn’t true sustainability put food production back in its rightful place of providing for basic human needs?  The U.N. has called for 100% increase in world food production to feed an expected population of 9 billion by 2050. I fully believe that we need to leave the world a better place and protect our environment, but also believe in utilizing technology to meet human needs – and not just those closest to the Whole Foods Market.

Agricultural friends,  Earth Day is an opportunity to communicate these types of messages in your community – and point to the interests you share with environmentalists such as recyclying, doing more with less, creative use of resources, helping rejuvenate soil through sustainable practices or supporting  wildlife habitat. Don’t allow groups with little (if any) firsthand experience with food production define agriculture as a “factory” or “industrial.”  Put a face on food production and you might be surprised at the positive response  when people learn about your environmental practices!