Mark Bittman, the pretend urban farmer who vaguely remembers growing up on an Oregon farm and now writes a foodie blog for The New York Times, is at it again. He wrote a piece headlined “Celebrate the Farmer!” except he spends little time celebrating the farmer and most of his time denigrating modern agriculture.
He uses the space to call for a major increase in hobby farms and a devastating decrease in the kind of large-scale farming absolutely necessary for feeding a fast-growing world population.
“In short, we need more real farmers, not businessmen riding on half-million-dollar combines,” Bittman wrote. To define “real farmer” he drivels on with, “And if you haven’t seen a real farmer, go visit a one- or two-acre intensive garden; it’s a mind-blowing thing, how much can be grown in a relatively small space. Then imagine thousands of 10-, 20- and 100-acre farms planted similarly: the vegetables sold regionally, the pigs fed from scraps, the compost fertilizing the soil, the cattle at pasture, the milk making cheese ….”
He’s describing the rural environment of the 1800’s, of course, when America was a mostly agrarian country, not the America of today where less than 2% of the population is faced with the daily task of feeding our 312,000,000+ people as well as a substantial portion of the rest of the world. He’s ignoring the fact that those businessmen riding half million dollar combines are real farmers with the vast majority of them operating businesses that are actually family-owned farms and probably have been for several generations.
He prattles on with, “The naysayers will yell, ‘this mode of farming will not produce enough corn and soy to feed our junk food and cheeseburger habit,’ and that’s exactly the point.”
I’m raising my hand as a naysayer. I object to his propaganda-driven statement. The naysayers will correctly point out that reverting to the American farming practices of the 1880’s will not produce enough food to feed all of us. And large-scale, efficient production is exactly the point of modern agriculture.
What Bittman should be talking about is an increase in market gardens, which Wikipedia describes as “the relatively small-scale production of fruits, vegetables and flowers as cash crops, frequently sold directly to consumers and restaurants. It is distinguishable from other types of farming by the diversity of crops grown on a small area of land, typically, from under one acre (0.4hA) to a few acres, or sometimes in greenhouses. Such a farm on a larger scale is sometimes called a truck farm.”