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Excellent weed control in soybeans. [Photo: Charlie Adams]
Excellent weed control in soybeans. [Photo: Charlie Adams]

For the Farmer: The Urban/Rural Divide

Charlie Adams
 April 26, 2022
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Not very long ago, the former Governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels, wrote an opinion piece that appeared in the Washington Post called “In Farm Children, I See Virtues That One Sees Too Rarely These Days.”  In this article, he made note of the increasing divide between the urban and rural people of our country.  More specifically, the growing divide between big city people and the American Farmer.  He said, “The distance that has opened between the producers of our food and the beneficiaries of their hard work, and between rural and urban Americans in general, has been sadly apparent in our politics and popular culture.”

In my regular attempts to find a good podcast to listen to, I came across another example that, I believe, reflects an attitude to further the divide between rural and urban populations.  I could not help but think that this is proof that areas of our politics and popular culture are waging a war on the American Farmer.

I am interested in local government, so I found a podcast that interviewed mayors and other city government officials.  On only the second episode I listened to, it featured a city official in Orlando and his “fleet farming” initiative.  His title is “Director of Sustainability” for the City of Orlando.  He leads the “Office of Sustainability and Resilience.”  Sustainability AND Resilience?  Seems redundant.  But that is beside the point.  I certainly do not mean to imply that someone really had to overthink on that to create a super important sounding title. 

Wyatt Thompson preparing field trials near Mohall with the latest genetics in biotech corn, 2021. [Photo: Charlie Adams]

The “fleet farming” idea is basically what we laid back country folk call “gardening” (Didn’t I just mention overthinking titles?) where homeowners grow food in their yards for their own consumption and to sell to local farmers markets.  In the podcast, the gentleman mentions that one of the driving factors behind his idea is because mainstream agriculture is too reliant on equipment that pollutes the environment.  He specifically claims that agriculture is responsible for about 30% of “global climate change emissions” because of fossil fuels that are infused in what he calls an “industrial agricultural system.”  Also, he states his concerns about how upwards of 3,000 acres per day of agricultural land in America are taken up by development. Castro immediately points to this as a reason that Americans will need to turn to foreign sources for food. His first thought is not that we should think of ways to make the rural American family farm more sustainable.  He uses these things as reasons to turn urban area yards into gardens. Unbeknownst to him, it proves the point that America simply needs to embrace technology in agriculture.  For instance, biotech genetics in seed, and using the newest pesticides and fertilizers to make our crops produce the healthiest plants possible to produce the most food. Our culture needs to embrace this technology to produce more bushels on less ground - right here in rural America.  Just as importantly, our urban friends and neighbors need to understand that America needs to embrace technology in farming. 

Another hot topic in the news is banning pesticides. The EPA is criticized regularly for the occasional pesticide that is vaguely deemed dangerous by environmental groups.  Often, the reason these pesticides exist is to create a better, more bountiful crop.  However, when this issue surfaces all you see when you scroll through web search results are mainstream media source headlines depicting how dangerous these chemicals are to food and the EPA is allowing them to destroy human health.  This surface level shock value reporting only furthers a divide that exists between those who take the info seriously and the American Farmer.  The farmer worries that public opinion will run rampant against the tools that help to raise a better crop.  If the pressure on the EPA continues and forces the agency to ban products based on misinterpretations of facts, the Ag sector will feel the effects and so will the American consumer when the price of food skyrockets.

The newest technology in herbicide resistant soybeans. [Photo: Charlie Adams]

The staunchest environmentalists are farmers.  The farmer has the most riding on the health of the soil and the health of the plant.  They are the farmer’s livelihood.  The farmer’s success and ability to provide for his or her family is a direct result of being able to grow the healthiest crops that are of excellent quality and free from disease.  To say that farmers are responsible for the demise of our environment would be a complete contradiction in terms.  

I do applaud Orlando’s efforts.  The Director of Sustainability and Resilience obviously has a big heart, and his intentions are good.  I do wish he would acknowledge that the American Farmer produces the healthiest food for a growing population instead of making claims that “industrial agriculture” is contributing to the environment’s demise.  In this era, we hear about ideas to abolish the electoral college which serves to ensure that urban issues do not unnecessarily overshadow rural ones.  We have a president and vice president claiming that our planet will begin severely deteriorating in only a few years and we have movies that depict the end of times on Earth because humanity has destroyed the planet.  However, in one such 2014 movie -- Interstellar -- starring Matthew McConaughey, an authority figure tells the main character, “Well, right now the world doesn't need more engineers. We didn't run out of planes, or television sets. We ran out of food. The world needs farmers. Good farmers, like you.”

The world needs less of a gap between our urban and rural populations.  Gardening is good but the world needs farmers.  Good farmers, like you.

charlie.adams@mydakotan.com

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