Sustainable agriculture takes many forms, but at its core is a rejection of the industrial approach to food production developed during the 20th century.
This system, with its reliance on monoculture, mechanization, chemical pesticides and fertilizers, biotechnology, and government subsidies, has made food abundant and affordable. However, the ecological and social price has been steep: erosion; depleted and contaminated soil and water resources; loss of biodiversity; deforestation; labor abuses; and the decline of the family farm. (National Geographic, http://is.gd/N1JGrs)
It is interesting that the subtle association made in media communication between “the 20th century” and the decline in the family farm. It is as if the typical discussion of “back in My Day” consistently rears its head when identifying and critiquing present social and economic problems. Prior to our collective concern over the erosion and decay of our natural resources, notions of living off the land and being a part of a rural community were often presented as though a quaint, far-away ideal. Though farms have always existed, those who live in urban centers and write for newspapers and online news sources have often “remembered” it as though farms belonged to a distant place or time. Perhaps this was merely a reflection of society’s collective understanding of what a farm was.
Now we must all switch gears. Now, as both writers and readers, we are forced to rethink our previous dismissal of “farming” and allow room for understanding today’s “agricultural industry” instead. We must grasp the concept that our cities have been fed efficiently and affordably by employing the same regimes of corporate industry we are accustomed to in our urban lives. The association with Big City Bustle is kept separate from our notion of Quaint and Quiet Farm Life. Increasingly we are shown, by way of media communications, that this mental separation cannot exist if we are to fully comprehend the ways in which agriculture has changed, and must change again. The use of pesticides is one prime example of the ways in which the agricultural industry has managed to maintain the demands of its consumers, and the difficulties of its production process. Now that this silent system has been fine-tuned to near perfection, we as consumers are being increasingly aware of its existence. With our enhanced appreciation for the capitalist structure of agriculture, we the consumer are conflicted: Yes, we want to eat. No, we don’t want cancer. Yes, I want to keep paying what I’m paying for an apple. No, I don’t want to pollute our land.
Increasingly with communication regarding the agricultural industry, the organic food wave, and the rise in degradation to our countryside, readers and writers alike struggle to align everyone’s notions of who the players are, and how it’s possible that Farmer Brown may be killing out beautiful countryside in an effort to keep our food on the table.