We need farms for a variety of reasons, besides just a place to get our bread. The domestication of cattle and the dawn of agriculture gave birth to the rise of civilization and the growth of human culture. Much of the work was done by slave labor. As consciousness expanded, hired labor became the norm. Farms are at the cutting edge of a future where people donate labor out of love for their work and each other. As the old saying goes “you don’t count your labor on a farm,” meaning farmers love their whole lifestyle while not regarding money as the most important aspect of it.
Although the farmer gets just a few pennies from the dollar we spend on our daily bread, the rest of the dollar is widely distributed. Farms create jobs. For every 6 or 7 farms in a neighborhood, one business sprouts up in town. There are lots of tasks involved in turning farm products into food, clothing and shelter. But the farm is the place where it all starts, where the miracle of photosynthesis annually creates wealth from sun, air, water, and earth. Filling needs with the least effort is true economy. The market economy relies on the productivity of farms.
Healthy farms are good for the environment and less likely to become a subdivision. A farmer’s care for the land is reflected in the scenery. A drive through the countryside uplifts the spirit. Instinctively, we still feel inwardly secure when we see crops, animals and the potential for next year’s food supply. Local food production consumes less energy and recycles carbon, nitrogen and other nutrients. The diversity of plants and livestock on a farm is mutually sustainable, and good farmers conserve and preserve soil and water as if their lives depended on it.
Farms offer amazing opportunities. A simple lesson like “you reap what you sow” becomes much more real when you’ve planted the wrong type of bean seed like I did last year. Cause and effect, barnyard animal antics, pond ecology, the continual changing of the seasons, and all of the natural processes happening on a farm teach a morality and practicality largely unavailable in modern education. Willpower and work ethics are enhanced by farm life.
Farms are fun places to visit, for camping, hiking, swimming, hunting and other entertainment. Communities form around farms, with picnics and bonfires, family and friends. A net is created for the less fortunate, handicapped and older folks. Nature’s display of interesting insects, industrious wildlife and colorful forests never cease to amuse and amaze.
America stands at an interesting crossroads now, importing most of its food from other countries, and promoting an unsustainable and highly toxic agriculture here. There are more Americans today in prison than there are Americans who are farmers, a fact we would have found unimaginable a few generations ago when the prison population was way less than one percent of the farming population. Thomas Jefferson, among many others, believed that small farmers and small businesses were necessary for democracy. Farms certainly provide more freedom than other lifestyles, and allow people to supply their needs without the global economy and all of it’s social and environmental ramifications.
So, we need farms for economic reasons, for a healthier environment, as well as education, entertainment and inspiration. And we need farms for one other reason – to give us this day our daily bread.