“Toxic technology is sunset technology,” announced the lead editorial in our first issue.
The timespan of more than 40 years since then have only amplified the validity of that simple argument. Sixty years of soil mining, intensive monoculture, and industrial animal practice have resulted in food many educated consumers here, and much of the developed world beyond our shores, regard with suspicion. Citizens all over the world are in open revolt against bizarre — and astonishingly misguided — genetic alterations of the global food supply by U.S. corporations bent on twisting the basis of life to keep the high-input intensive monoculture show on the road.
Farmers who practice the science of eco-agriculture know that genetic engineering, along with lethal farm chemicals and the fertilizer industry's sacred troika of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK), are irrelevant to the production of wholesome, delicious food. They build their soil rather than mine it, avoiding the imbalance of nutrients caused by excessive plant feeding. Scientific farmers feed the soil instead of the plant, knowing that plants raised in soil containing the proper balance of minerals, enzymes, microbes and beneficial species will grow to maturity with stable cell structure and natural protection against insect, bacterial and fungal attack.
Insects and other predators are nature's disposal crew, tasked with eliminating sick plants. Healthy plants also boast increased resistance to drought and cold snaps. Weeds, any good eco-farmer will tell you, are an index to the soil’s character, and killing them only puts off the day of reckoning. A good working knowledge of weeds helps a farmer determine what her soil is lacking. This approach addresses causes, not effects.
The technology behind intensive monoculture, in other words, is best described as toxic rescue chemistry. It deploys elaborate and expensive chemical interventions to save crops which are not fit to live, and often not fit to eat. It perpetuates itself in an insidious cycle of waste. Soil without much organic matter, for instance, has more density than rich soil, meaning it requires bigger tractors for turning. It also mandates bigger dams to hold the runoff from dying acres, and more NPK next time to pump big plants out of lifeless ground.
Many of the consequences of industrial agriculture in general, and toxic rescue chemistry in particular, are apparent all over the world. Whether it's chlorinated hydrocarbon molecules in polar bear fat or the hog industry’s disastrous impact on the Carolinas, the signs are everywhere. “Get big or get out,” the USDA once told American farmers. “Get real or get sick” seems like more realistic advice nowadays.
The world did not begin in 1948, even if the farm establishment thinks it did. Neither did research aimed at assisting nature rather than beating it into submission come to an end; it merely went underground. Ecologically sound agriculture exists, it produces superior food, and it is backed up by sophisticated research. For many years, extension services and agricultural colleges have coped with this annoying fact by ignoring it. With a few exceptions, they've refused to teach it ever since the great discovery was made that fossil fuel corporations have grant money. But as the word about eco-agriculture circulates through alternative channels here and abroad, attempts to pretend it doesn't exist are beginning to look silly.
What Farmers Need
Our publishing philosophy is simple, as stated in our first issue’s manifesto: “Whatever is good for the family farm is good for us, and whatever is bad for the family farmer is bad for us. There is no middle ground a farm paper with integrity can straddle.”
Fourty-plus years on, the demise of the traditional family farm in the United States is a matter of record, their numbers vastly reduced. While we are not kidding ourselves that corporate agriculture will go away anytime soon, we still believe in the words of our first editorial. Decades of public policy tailored to the agendas of petrochemical companies, ag conglomerates, grain monopolies and other international traders will one day be seen as a failure. Aside from dubious food and huge profits for a very few, all these policies have given our country is a bad case of overdevelopment. The loss of the family farm deprives society of an element essential to a democratic nation: a thriving rural base. Independent farmers who maintain small- to medium-size operations, with their intimate knowledge of natural processes and their distrust of artifice and pretense, are a necessary check against the excesses of urban civilization. Having rid itself of most of these people, the United States of America now suffers from severe imbalance. It's a country out of whack with itself.
Acres U.S.A. believes the yeoman farmer eventually will make a comeback, and in fact is now doing so. A hardy and growing band of new farmers are already making a go of it. They run their farms economically and ecologically, escaping the pitfalls of debt loads and high chemical bills. Our goal as their journal of choice is to give these farmers the information they need to stay on the land and make a profit. And we like to inform non-farmers about the life and work of these pioneers. We hope you’ll join us.