Waves of Change: Three Strategies for Agrarian Pioneers

| 2/23/2011 9:30:51 AM

Waves of change have irregularly swept through the realms of food and farms over the decades. By most reckonings, another massive wave is building toward a crest, driven by oil prices, climate change, market speculation, genetic experimentation, human health corruption, corporate interest, and consumer demand.   

Chuck Hassebrook In the context of these roiling factors, Chuck Hassebrook had a message for the audience at the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society's mid-February conference: "We can shape the next wave of change with sustainable agriculture." But, he added, to do that we will need the same qualities of determination and perseverance as the pioneers. 

Hassebrook is Executive Director of the Center for Rural Affairs. He also serves on the Board of Regents for the University of Nebraska, a powerhouse among America's agricultural academies, where he is one voice for sustainability in an institutional chorus determinedly advancing industrial approaches to farms and food. 

In his talk, he picked up on the theme of change in the historical period starting after World War II when the wave was propelled by power equipment, petroleum-based chemical inputs, and confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Initially those innovations made farm work easier and more prosperous.  But now, 60 years later, we must ask 'what hath we wrought?' 

There is a new wave of change now, Hassebrook said, but if we want a better sustainable future, we are going to have to take responsibility for creating it. "Each person has a moral responsibility to leave the land in at least as good a condition as it was when it came under their caretaking, and possibly even better," he said. Then he offered three strategies. 

Three Strategies 

Steven McFadden_1
2/25/2011 10:02:48 AM

Hi Dave - Thank you for your thoughtful comment. There is lots of emerging research on how organic sustainable soils can and do sequester CO2. A source of hope.

Nebraska Dave
2/24/2011 3:38:00 PM

Steven, another thought provoking post. Those ideas are hefty in nature. Farmers have always had an independant in spirit. Over the years many times organizations have tried to get them to work together without success. I see that as one of the most difficult obstacles to over come in the strategies. What has been one of the strongest qualities of the pioneer farmers has also been one of the faults to overcome today's issues. The involvement of the government has indeed caused an imbalance of competition in the food market. Small growers in today's market have a big struggle to survive but still there are those that are successful. That independant pioneer spirit lives on in the small growers hearts. The comment about climate control and how the topsoil can pull CO2 out of the air while enhancing ecosystems and increasing profits is new information to me. I was always under the impression that plants pulled the co2 out of the air and through the photosynthesis released oxygen back into the air. As always your post was a good informative read. Have a great agrarian pioneer day.

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