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Is Farming Just A Business?

Web dialogue over whether farming is just a business shows many don't have a clue; too many conjure up ag boogie-men

With intent to try to stay “with it” on Internet technologies, I’ve muddled my way into FaceBook and LinkIn, plus some chat rooms. And already, I’m suffering digital sensory overload!

Two months ago, I joined a sustainable agriculture web group to broaden my understanding of this ag facet. The first question I saw was: “A student of mine contends agriculture is just another business. What say you?”

Every day since then there’s been a flood of posts of opinions. Some of these people “chat” incessantly. A)They must not have enough real work to do; B) They’re not doing their real work; C) They use the chat room to broadcast half-vast knowledge; D) They use it to market what they’re selling; or E) All the above.

After watching this phenomenon, I’m thinking it’s a new media mechanism to straighten out or untwist distorted know-how. Then again, knowing human nature, some attitudes can’t be untwisted short of melting them down with a blow torch. Many of these people don’t have much real farm experience. Some use the site to rail against the “corporate ag monster.”

Every once in a while, though, somebody comes through with a clean, clear perspective. You just have to be willing to wade through all that isn’t.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t join web groups. But you need to be selective, to avoid a huge time waster. Don’t hesitate to “unhook it” if it doesn’t have a value to you.

So . . . is farming just a business?

You and I both know it has to be more than that. One anonymous post put it this way: “My first reaction to the question was: ‘Has your student ever farmed?’ Anyone who has, knows intimately (and often painfully) that farming is much more than ‘just’ a business.” Here are a few excerpts from other thoughtful posts:

  • Farming is indeed a business so ancient that it began when economics was about giving! What is too often ignored though, is the fact that high yields are readily sustainable, if you apply permaculture principles and techniques correctly. (Posted by Bruce)
  • Bruce, you are so right. Agriculture is the underpinning of human existence and the foundation on which the concept of economics was built. Of course it is a business! But unlike the manufacturing sector, agriculture supplies products that are actually necessary for our survival as a species (Throughout history, food scarcity has driven the rise and fall of entire civilizations and caused war. We are more insulated from the effects of localized drought and other disasters because of our ability to transport food long distances now, but with population continuing to rise, we are not immune.) A farmer doesn't think of himself as a person with a career in agricultural production - it really is a large part of his identity, of who he is. Farming is more than just a business - it gets in your blood. (Posted by Debra)
  • [Agriculture has] seemingly increasing environmental/ecological blind spots. "Mother Nature" has an awful lot to teach us. But it seems that the more "scientifically advanced" we become, the blinder and more indifferent we are to her true full values. We really, truly need to get that turned around, or one day we'll wake up and find that she's abandoned us to all our "synthetics"! (Posted by Seamus)

As you can see, there’s some diversity of thought. And that’s what makes agriculture and interesting mix. If farming were just a business, we’d all be a lot hungrier! What say YOU?!

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