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hello all. i am new to this site.... my question is this: how can a nation of 300 million sustain itself with out the implamentaton of conventional farming practices.... im interested in ideas that can be implamented on large scale farming opperations.... by large scale i mean any farm that can support a family of 5 without outside income... a "family farm"

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Could you narrow down your question a little? There are entire books written that could answer your question. The most obvious suggestion I could offer would be to check out anything written by Joel Salatin. You could also visit his family farm website, PolyfaceFarms.com. Here's a video that explains his farm, which earns more than $1 million per year sustainably.
Deborah
Antiquity Oaks
thats what i was looking for..... thanks
I was hoping to see more on this discussion here. I'm certainly no farmer (...I can barely grow my own tomatoes), but I read about Joel Salatin in Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and checked out http://www.stockmangrassfarmer.net/ . It's fascinating.

We lived out in Alberta in 2002, and there are many Hutterite Colonies out there that look like they're pretty much self-sustaining. I just looked and was surprised to see that there actually is a Hutterite presence on the web! For one, check out http://www.hutterites.org/livelihood.htm Mind you, they are communities -- not single families.
i was rather very impressed with the salatin farm in virginia.... its like the pinicle of vertical intagration.... im a farmer in new mexico, i grow alfalfa hay and we also have a ranch....im two sided on the organic vs conventional argument... but i had never really inquired until late about organic farming i just kinda always wrote it off as little colonies of people struggeling to grow vegtables with out the use of any chemicals what so ever.... i never really thought of the livestock side of it....its kinda the wave of the future"organic farming" so i thought i ought to start investigating it a little more, thats why i joined this site to hopefully talk to others and find some material on it....
I'm glad to hear you're considering organic farming methods. It really works quite well. If you grow alfalfa and have livestock, then the Salatin operation could work very well on your ranch. We mostly grow our own food, but the animals provide all of our fertilizer. If someone had shown me some of our largest apples and said that they were organic, I would have had a hard time believing it, but we just dump our straw and goat poop at the bottom of the apple trees, and that takes care of them. It seems amazing how well organic works -- until you think about it. All farming was organic until about 70 years ago, so our grandparents and all of ancestors lived on organic food. And today we can do so much more -- like rotational grazing with the portable fencing -- that makes it even easier.

Last night I came across this multimedia presentation from Iowa State. It covers rotational grazing very well. The man talks really fast, but you can pause it and take your time reading the slides. It's very informative.
it seems odd to me that rotational grazing seem like a new or revolutionary concept to anybody... in new mexico thats all there is. its simply to dry to do it any other way. yet green enough to support cattle and sheep opperations.... the problem with true organic farming on a farm like ours is the cost involved. there are litterally heeps of manure avalible within 30 miles but to transport the ammount of manure it would take to fertalize our cropland would cost more than what is really feezable....there was some guy making compost out of it here a few years back but i dont know what happened to him... thats kinda seems like the ticket in my oppinion cause you get the quality without having so much tonage involved in transport...
Well, what Salatin does, and what we do, is that the animals fertilize the pasture, so there is no transportation involved. Salatin talks about cutting hay from the field where the cows, broiler chickens, and layer hens rotate. We move our sheep across our hayfield with portable fencing.

If you like to read, also add Michael Pollan's books: The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food. They're written for consumers, but he talks about how it became a problem when animals left the farm. Now we have lagoons of animal waste on the cattle and pig farms; but down the road, they're spraying petrochemical fertilizers on fields because they have no natural fertilizers. Farms need to have both plants and animals, because it's a symbiotic relationship: the animals fertilize the grass, the grass feeds the animals, the animals fertilize the grass, and so on. There are people who put pigs in their garden over the winter, so the pigs fertilize the garden and till it. There are all sorts of ideas, but basically it's figuring out how to make a natural system work in your area.

Trying to have an organic operation in a conventional environment is expensive. If you get all the components of an organic operation in place, it will cost you less. If you get a chance, see the documentaries that came out this summer: Fresh is one, and Food, Inc, is the other. They both interview Salatin, as well as other organic, sustainable producers, and they're making a lot of money selling premium products with less overhead than conventional ranchers. I think those films are supposed to be coming out on video soon, so you should be able to get them from Netflix.
I would certainly agree that Michael Pollan is perhaps the sanest voice in American agricultural policy right now, perhaps the antidote to Earl Butz's policies of the green revolution of the 70's. What I slightly disagree with is the fact that organic production necessarily has to be more expensive than conventional practices. I am a Certified Organic grower who grew up on a conventional truck farm. My input costs are very low. My largest cost yearly is seeds, which if I saved seed would be negated. By using cover crops and green manures in addition to farm produced compost and manure I have eliminated any need for off farm fertility inputs. I do apply lime in the fall to maintain pH levels when needed, but lately that hasn't been necessary. By creating a closed system, the ground finds it's own level and my yields continue to go up.
Now, here's the caveat to all this. I am a small farmer. I only farm between 6000 to 10000 square feet a year. My livestock occupy another 1/2 acre or so. My scale is small enough to walk my fields every day and monitor everything. That being said, I'm able to supply my family with almost all our food, I have a CSA with 4 families participating and also sell retail off-farm. In my opinion, my scale allows me to be successful. Small scale family farms were how this country fed itself for hundreds of years. A return to that type of diversified, locally produced agricultural production is about the only way we're gonna make it as a nation.
It's absurd to think that large scale industrial farms are the answer to our food crisis. The promise of chemical pesticides and fertilizers have only led to more hunger, more wasted resources and incredible environmental damage. As long as ADM, Con-Agra, and Monsanto continue to cash in on government subsidies this is a self perpetuating cycle.
So James, my long winded answer to your query is small, diversified, local. I really think we're heading in this direction. It just takes a while to turn a huge lumbering ship...

Deborah Niemann-Boehle said:
Well, what Salatin does, and what we do, is that the animals fertilize the pasture, so there is no transportation involved. Salatin talks about cutting hay from the field where the cows, broiler chickens, and layer hens rotate. We move our sheep across our hayfield with portable fencing.

If you like to read, also add Michael Pollan's books: The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food. They're written for consumers, but he talks about how it became a problem when animals left the farm. Now we have lagoons of animal waste on the cattle and pig farms; but down the road, they're spraying petrochemical fertilizers on fields because they have no natural fertilizers. Farms need to have both plants and animals, because it's a symbiotic relationship: the animals fertilize the grass, the grass feeds the animals, the animals fertilize the grass, and so on. There are people who put pigs in their garden over the winter, so the pigs fertilize the garden and till it. There are all sorts of ideas, but basically it's figuring out how to make a natural system work in your area.

Trying to have an organic operation in a conventional environment is expensive. If you get all the components of an organic operation in place, it will cost you less. If you get a chance, see the documentaries that came out this summer: Fresh is one, and Food, Inc, is the other. They both interview Salatin, as well as other organic, sustainable producers, and they're making a lot of money selling premium products with less overhead than conventional ranchers. I think those films are supposed to be coming out on video soon, so you should be able to get them from Netflix.
It just occurred to me that if you're thinking that rotational grazing is not new, then you're not looking at the way it's done today. It wasn't possible before the invention of the portable electric fencing that we now have. If you watch the multimedia presentation that I posted a couple days ago, they have pictures of cattle that are too sparsely stocked. I imagine the guys down the road from me think that they're doing rotational grazing because they move their cattle from pasture to pasture, but they have about 20 cows on 40 acres for about a month. In modern rotational grazing, the stocking ratio would be so high that they'd eat all the grass within one day to six days maximum in one area. You can at least double your stocking capacity when you do managed grazing, and you can increase it even more when you add more species to the mix, such as goats and poultry.

james leonard said:
it seems odd to me that rotational grazing seem like a new or revolutionary concept to anybody... in new mexico thats all there is. its simply to dry to do it any other way. yet green enough to support cattle and sheep opperations.... the problem with true organic farming on a farm like ours is the cost involved. there are litterally heeps of manure avalible within 30 miles but to transport the ammount of manure it would take to fertalize our cropland would cost more than what is really feezable....there was some guy making compost out of it here a few years back but i dont know what happened to him... thats kinda seems like the ticket in my oppinion cause you get the quality without having so much tonage involved in transport...
i heartedly agree with rick...i think the only way to have large scale organic production in this nation is by small farms.... the thing i like about this is its a way to bring more people into agriculture. the number of farmers has been declining for a long time now... at the current state its nearly imposible to start a conventionl farm from zero. fsa offers loan programs to help start up farmers but, at least where i live, the ammount of money they are willing to lend wont evan start to touch the price of farm land, let alone machinery and opperating funds.... thats what i find so interesting about this whole organic thing. its no far strech to go out and plant a garden eat your fill and take the excess to market. it was done that way for thousnads of years....i hate to see agriculture take the route of so many other industries. and its working its way there.... the other plus to having lots of small farms it keeps the prices honest. i cant experss how shitty milk has been for the past 10 or so months. im not a milk producer but i market all of my product to dairys and when they have to tighten there belt it kinda puts the clamp on me too.... anyway thanks for the input.
...a better question might be, not how, but "will" we.
There are many techniques that can be used to increase production. 100 years ago the French used hotbeds to keep the cities of France supplied with fresh veggies year round long before modern farming inputs were invented. I grow enough for a family of 2 and I supply a CSA from my little 1/3 acre. I feel I've barely begun to tap the potential of this little plot of land. It is estimated that 1/3 of arable land in the US is used to grow corn to feed livestock. If we consumed reasonable quantities of grass fed beef instead of the supersized portions of feedlot beef that alone would make a big difference. Grains are also an issue. Since I'm not able to produce enough grains we have cut waaayyy back on the bread we eat and are healthier for it. Intensive Organic agriculture can do amazing things for both the land and the people it feeds.

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