Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 2 (Summer 2016) - Page 88

ATONEMENT, AGRICULTURE, AND ANIMAL FEEDING - Kirkpatrick The Current State of Farming and Ranching: An Overview Advances in chemistry, agriculture, and genetics have led to the development of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, as well as genetically modified seeds. These advances mean that farmers can now grow significantly more crops on the same amount of land than the farmers who worked the land in the prior generation.4 Technological advances and economic changes both nationally and internationally have also contributed to changes in productivity and farming culture.5 “Early 20th century agriculture was labor intensive, and it took place on a large number of small, diversified farms in rural areas where more than half of the US population lived. These farms employed close to half of the US workforce, along with 22 million work animals, and produced an average of five different commodities.”6 In contrast, the farms of the twenty-first century are much larger, generally specialize in a single crop, and are relegated to rural areas.7 These “large corporate farms (annual sales over $1 million) account for just 4 percent of the nation’s farms, but produce two-thirds of the food we eat.”8 Historically farmers raised a variety of crops, which would feed both their family and the local population.9 However, because farms today tend to specialize in one particular crop, corn being the most common,10 feeding one’s family from the farm’s produce has become more difficult. While today’s farmers are incredibly productive, their productivity comes at a high price. Firstly, this productivity is costly because, as previously stated, most farmers grow a single crop rather than the variety they used to produce. It is then impossible to feed a family from that farm’s produce as humans require a variety of foods to maintain their overall health. For those farmers cultivating corn, it is worth noting that they do not grow the sweet corn that one looks 4 . Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (New York: Penguin Press, 2006), 35–38. 5. Dimitri, Effland, and Conklin, “The 20th Century Transformation,” 6. 6. Ibid, 2. 7. Ibid. 8. Donna Nebenzahl, “The New Farmers,” Mindful, April 2015, 50. 9. Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, 38. 10. USDA.gov, s.v. “Corn: Overview,” last modified May 16, 2013, http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/crops/corn.aspx. 85