We have a dichotomy on our hands.
1. division into two parts, kinds, etc.; subdivision into halves or pairs.
2. division into two mutually exclusive, opposed, or contradictory groups: a dichotomy between thought and action.
The way things were and the way things are. Family farms and industrial farms, respectively. The food documentary, Fresh, examines this present dichotomy.
(This is my third documentary review concerning the food industry. The last two are streaming on Netflix: Farmageddon and Food Fight. If you want to know why I’m talking so much about the food industry, read this and then this. All of these posts will give you a solid background to this one.)
For some insight into this present state of affairs, we’ll first need to examine part one of the dichotomy. The way things were — family farms. You see in the good ole days farms were small, local, and family run. We didn’t have farms devoted to one aspect of farming either. It was like Old Macdonald with every animal, fruit and veggie, and crops to boot.
Animals were free to roam the land and contributed to the farm. The manure, water, sun, and grass all worked together to create a cycle for the farm. Cattle migrated and ate grass (like they are supposed to) and then pooped it back out to help create more grass. Chickens weren’t far behind acting as modern pesticides, eating bugs that wanted to destroy the grass and crops.
Doing farming the old way was a slow process, and everyone knows to make a buck you have to speed up manufacturing. Hence, the second part of the dichotomy; the way things are — industrial farming.
Today farming is based on a monoculture, which is concentrating one crop or animal over a wide area. Much of American land is used to cultivate thousands of acres of either corn or soy, which is genetically modified. (More on this later.) Land is also used for giant feedlots for each kind of livestock, which are then fed 70% of the genetically modified crops that America produces.
In industrial farming chickens beaks are not used for digging in dirt and eating bugs, but they are cut off and their feet are declawed. Cattle and chickens both are tightly packed together in closed quarters. Cows are injected with the Bovine Growth Hormone to increase milk production, and to quickly fatten them up so they are ready for market sooner. Chickens are also fed hormones so they get fat quicker.
In addition to hormones, both cows, chickens, and pigs need to be given antibiotics, because a large monoculture naturally breeds disease. Also, cows in a large monoculture and injected with hormones have pus in their milk. National averages show at least 322 million cell-counts of pus per glass.
The documentary, Fresh, explores both parts of the dichotomy and introduces us to the farmers who are making a better way, which really is just the old way.
One such farmer, Joel Salatin, has been dubbed, “The high priest of the pasture,” by The New York Times. Owner of Polyface Farms in Virginia, Salatin closely observed nature and created a rotational grazing system that not only allows the land to heal but also allows the animals to behave the way they were meant to — as in expressing their “chicken-ness” or “pig-ness”, as Joel would say.
Another farmer is Will Allen. A former basketball player who started Growing Power; a non-profit whose goal is to grow food, grow minds, and grow community. In Fresh, Will Allen demonstrates the importance of creating healthy soil as step one in eating healthy and real food.
Sometimes the best way is an old way. One of my favorite quotes from C.S. Lewis says just this:
“Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”
Walking back to the right road might take you as far back as creation:
“You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.”