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Earning a Living Feeding Other People

July 27, 2008

Submitted by jcbradford on Wed, 2008-08-27 08:26.

It is perhaps the greatest indication that the “free” market (or at least our U.S. early 21st century version of it) is a failure when those who work very hard to feed other people can’t cover their own basic expenses. I bring this up after reading this article from Grist:

Dispatches from the Fields: The trouble with small-scale farming
Can sustainable farming provide a sustainable living?
http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2008/8/24/133720/582

One item I disagree with is the notion in the article that farming isn’t “highly skilled.” That really depends. Some jobs are mundane, but overall I have found that advanced management skills and sublimely honed knowledge sets are needed to farm well. Where does the idea that farming is “unskilled” come from?

One hypothesis I have is that the cheap availability of fertilizer inputs masks the actual difficulty of caring for the soil properly and making compost that works.

A second hypothesis is that farming is associated with rural, poor and foreign minorities with low SAT scores.

I would like to get paid to grow food for other people and am going to ask the members of my farm to do so next year. As the article suggests, most farmers don’t make it on the food value alone. This is true in my case as well. My wife has a nice salary and I am her “kept man” so to speak.

What the article doesn’t delve into is the changing economic environment. In a collapsing economic situation I’d expect more people to grow their own food. And with few high quality fertilizers and fuels available over the long term farming will require greater knowledge, much of which has been lost to the general population.

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