Something foul is brewing in the small-town Midwest, where I grew up:
A few years ago, hog farmers throughout the Midwest
noticed foam building on top of their manure pits. Soon after, barns
began exploding, killing thousands of hogs while farmers lost millions
Wow, okay, so explosive pig-manure foam is a thing.
It is hard to know which was more difficult for Noah: to build the ark when there was no sign of rain, or to be in the ark with the animals for an entire year. As rabbinic tradition has it, during those 12 months Noah was so busy tending to the needs of all those animals that he had no time to sleep. The ark represents much more than an escape vessel.
Back in the '70s when Steven Apfelbaum told his mom he was
studying for a degree in ecology, his mother didn't know what to think. Unable
to accept or perhaps even understand this new specialty, she told friends that
"Little Stevie was going to be a veterinarian." She wasn't the only one
Forty years after Harvest of Shame, Edward R. Murrrow’s great documentary on the exploitation of migrant workers, the shame endures. Now overwhelmingly Spanish-speaking, the nation’s estimated 1.5 million farmworkers, are the most vulnerable laborers in the U.S.
When the land for my suburban Chicago subdivision was bulldozed in the late 1960s, the topsoil was scraped off and sold. Wildflowers and trees were scrapped for landfill. Developers left a blank dirt slate, ready for the new homeowners to chalk the sum of their desires upon it.
America’s food production system is killing us. It relies on the use of fossil fuels, chemicals, growth hormones and antibiotics, and on production and farming practices that erode the soil and deplete the groundwater.An entirely different approach to food production can be glimpsed at Polyface Farm in central Virginia, where Joel Salatin’s Christian faith informs the way he farms and, to the best of his ability, honors the animals.
Every year around this time, the fescue pastures surrounding my home become suddenly colorful, as the purple heads of nodding thistles (Carduus nutans) break through the waves of green. As lovely as they are—and as much as the goldfinches love them—this is not good news, since it means that next fall’s hay will be full of thorns.
In 1977 Wendell Berry warned that the rise of corporate farming and the disappearance of the family farm were destroying local communities and economies. These developments also caused soil erosion, and reduced the quality of the food we eat.