Eight sustainable/organic generations of continuous farming.
Clifford reminded me – and let her words reach the ears of Bittman, Pollan, etc. - that they milk 220 cows three times a day, have three full-time employees and hire additional part-time help. “Our greatest priority is our cows. We provide the best feed, the best housing and the best care which also equates to quality beef at the end of a cow’s life.”
Let’s call her farm sustainable/organic as well as ethical.
What Mr. Bittman is getting so giggly about is the rise of what was once called market gardening, small mom and pop operations that produce slightly more than the inhabitants can consume. The extra produce – ‘heirloom’ tomatoes, okra, snap beans and maybe the occasional New York dressed chicken – is tossed into the back of the old pick up and driven into town to sell at the weekend farmer’s market for a little extra cash.
It’s the type of nostalgic farming practiced by the folks who populated Mayberry and hung around with Andy, Opie and Aunt Bea. Or maybe Bittman is old enough to remember the 1950’s TV show “Lassie” and her faithful human companion, little Jeffy Miller, who lived on a small family farm with his mother and grandfather. They were followed in the fourth season by the tragically orphaned seven-year-old Timmy Martin and his adoptive parents but even Lassie's legendary exploits on the farm ended after eleven seasons.
Bittman and his Bitty buddies should continue to herald the sustainable/organic market gardens of the twenty-first century. Modern agriculture needs all the proponents it can gather, even if many of them are riding a wave of ag-faddism and might close up shop and head back to the big city in a few years when the hard work and financial uncertainty finally wear them down.
But this “holier than thou, more sustainable than thou, more organic and ethical than thou” nonsense has just got to stop. The practitioners of the type of agriculture that floats Bittman’s urban boat have to accept what they are: modern day market gardeners filling a pricey little niche. They’ll also have to accept that what they do has no chance of feeding the billions of people that belly up to the world’s dinner table every day. That’s a job best left to modern farming practices and the ethical people who work the land 365 days a year.
Chuck Jolley is a free lance writer, based in Kansas City, who covers a wide range of ag industry topics for Vance Publishing.