Last week I examined what got us into raising livestock (read it here
). In essence it was a desire to build a better life for my family which lead to the discovery of the immensely superior quality and flavor of pasture raised meats. I’ve gained a lot of wisdom over the years since we first started homesteading. My children are now adults with families of their own and my focus has shifted toward a broader, more philosophical rationale for operating Amber Oaks Ranch. Because they are our future, children are still at the heart Amber Oaks Ranch. But it goes beyond just the nutritional fortification of our youth. What type of world will we leave the next generation?
As I learned more about raising livestock, and the agricultural industry in general, it quickly became apparent that the existing systems are broken. Everything is treated as a means to an end – the soil, the animals, the farmers, and the consumers, all in search of higher profits. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to profits. On the contrary, I’m a staunch capitalist, but the existing agricultural industry could not function without immense government subsidies. These government subsidies, along with the regulations imposed to qualify for those subsidies, have facilitated a “Go big or go broke” system that has resulted in a consolidation of the food industry into the hands of a few global corporations. The global beef and pork industry is dominated by just four international corporations (85% and 70% respectively). Similarly, 54% of the poultry industry is controlled by the top four producers. They have no concern for animal welfare, environmental sustainability, or worker and consumer protections. These corporations are routinely fined for regulatory abuses stemming from unfair trade practices (collusion and price fixing) to health and environmental abuses. I find this to be intolerable, but instead of trying to fix a broken system, let’s try to build a new one, or more accurately, lets restore the old one.
Farming is a noble profession. Going all the way back to the Creations Mandate (Genesis 1:28), we are to be stewards of His creation. It is no mistake that the act of farming is called Husbandry. Farmers form a union with the land and are to protect and nourish so that we may be fruitful and multiply. Unfortunately, most farmers today are enslaved to a system that forces them to abandon their principals in order to survive. Farmers receive only 14.5% of every retail food dollar, and much of that goes to the debt they’ve accrued in an effort to Go Big. This has resulted in a dying profession where the average age of farmers in the US is 58 years old (not to mention farmers are 2 times as likely to commit suicide). Their children are leaving the farm seeking professions elsewhere because they do not see a future in our existing agricultural system. This leads to further consolidation in the industry as the likes of Bill Gates and Blackrock buy out the farms of the aging farmers.
As one gets closer to that “average age” it’s natural to reflect on one’s legacy. It saddens me when I think about those farmers, most of whom have been on that land for multiple generations. What legacy are they leaving? I too am approaching that average age and find myself reflecting on my legacy. Will my grandchildren want to be farmers? Probably not, but I hope to teach them about the importance of caring for the land and the animals, about the joy of honest work and sound nutrition. I’m proud of the work that we’re accomplishing here at Amber Oaks Ranch, and we are grateful to you, the community of folks that have supported us with your encouragement and the fruits of YOUR labor. We are honored to be able to play a small role in the nourishment of your families and we take seriously the trust you have placed in us.
On that note, we encourage you to join us at the ranch on April 16th as we host our second Farm Tour. Come join us and lets further build a community of likeminded folks who care about the land, the animals, and most importantly, one another. We will be discussing the techniques we employ here at the ranch, from water and soil conservation to animal husbandry. So come join us for great food and fellowship as we go forth and multiply.