Over the past semester, my thoughts on conservation of the Bay has stayed very similar to what it was in regards to buffer zones, large scale agriculture, and recreation on the water, but I have additionally gained more understanding to modern day agricultural processes in specific. With this new understanding to practices on the land, I am able to further compare its importance to the region despite implications such as runoff and land exhaustion to works of Wendell Berry who suggests for a scaling down of the modern day farming process.
Proper land or animal husbandry comes up many times throughout much of Berry’s works, which as he describes it allows for the farmer to become more connected to his livelihood. From advancements in mechanization, chemicals, and standards that come with new styles of mass producing monocultures, Berry strongly suggests there is a great disconnect between the land and its people. For me I strongly disagree with this in that Berry goes along the lines of the fact that through new styles of agriculture a sense for care or husbandry is lost. While visiting with local farmers this week it is exactly opposite. You do have people who adapted new styles to stay afloat as farmers, but it really was apparent that they style held so much pride for their work and land they earn a living from every day.
Specifically in Berry’s essay, he introduces the problem that even some of the earliest tractors posed on the husbandry of the land. This issue presented was the loss of time spent recuperating during work by hand. He elaborates on the process of working a tractor by concluding, “tirelessness and speed enforce a second, more perilous change in the way the boy sees the farm: seeing it as ground to be got over as fast as possible and ideally, without stopping, he has taken on the psychology of a traveler by interstate highway or by air” (Berry, 92). To me basing his observations solely on speed of practice should not determine one’s connectedness to land. More is clearly involved in today’s practice because of the tractor that is increasingly mitigating the impacts on land such as the ability to implement cover crops to reduce runoff and restore nitrogen levels in the soil during months where harvests of any crop aren’t common. This can further elaborate on the increased soil husbandry of the land because of the tractor.
To me the writing was on the wall for food production in america to increase at the rate it did especially after the mid 1900s and WWI and WWII. To feed america, one must note that even with the technologies made to increase yield per acre, more land was to be needed for production. The tractor was also a must for the farmer, and as time went on as Berry made mention, the tractors and technologies became more grandiose and now from what we have seen have lead to a point where a tractor can cost upwards of a half a million and practically drive itself. This does not mean however that the farmer should think any less of the land and clearly needs to have good measures to follow in order to have the highest yield so much consideration is placed for the land. More specifically technologies that large scale farmers use such as Trey Hill of Harborview Farms have allowed for progression to protect species of pollinators, and other creatures that otherwise would be harmed by such processes.
In Berry’s vision, the ideal farm could not work in a capitalist society today as a business. The sort of methods would require food prices to skyrocket to keep up with labor costs. The yields of cheaply sourced food production have already gained a stronghold on most food markets in america. Though the sound of production sourcing the most purest ways of farming seems all well in great, it could only work for hobbyists.
In conclusion, my viewpoints at the beginning of the semester really focused narrowly on how the land impacts the water and that these poor influences need to be mitigated. The argument is much more in depth with the fact that on land practices first greatly impact the land itself first and foremost. This is through mainly commercialised farming which to some seems impure but to me still holds much of its primal connections to proper husbandry to the environment in contrast to works of Wendell Berry. One must also note the complete dependence for these practices which justifies its practicality.
Berry, W. (2009). Bringing it to the table: on farming and food. Berkeley: Counterpoint.