So I have had a particularly interesting discussion with my brother, of course, I don’t know if you can’t have an uninteresting discussion with him…
He made the comment that agrarian is fine and all, but that I shouldn’t expect it to feed the world. I think its a good point, if I am going to propose a way that is a more ethical treatment of the land, it should also be an ethical treatment of the people the land feeds. In this case, ethical in that it actually does feed everyone and not force people into starvation simply for the sake of ethical land practices.
I agree with that, and if agrarian farming can’t feed the world then we have a whole different ethical issue on our hands… which I’d love to, but won’t, get into… right now.
I do disagree with him on the facts that he’s using and the land ethic such a conclusion comes from. No one can claim that agrarian farming can’t feed the world. We have no model to judge it by, agrarian farming is completely different from small scale, family farming. It is an ethical practice that informs farming practices, it is not a farming operation type. Agrarian farming can cut across all sorts of operation sizes and produce; therefore we have no agrarian model to compare to the current corporate farming model. The green revolution wasn’t changing an agrarian system that couldn’t feed populations to a corporate system that could; it was the import of technology that enabled the small farmers to get bigger and produce more. Any one that argues that agrarian farming can’t feed the world is coming from the same place as I am when I say it can, a reasoned hypothesis. I do not doubt that corporate farming looks like it can feed the world, but I also do not doubt that it looks that way simply because it is the way that we have known for so long that we don’t know how any other way would work.
I am not an advocate of getting back to the “good ole days” of farming prior to corporate take over. That won’t work, because the purpose then was the same purpose as now, and that’s evident of the dust bowl. The dust bowl was the result of unagrarian farming practices: using the land to get produce. I could be able to say that most of human history has farmed in similar ways, but I don’t want to because I don’t want to justify the statement! So instead I will go on… Corporate farming is just fine, I have no problem with the ideas of corporations owning and running big farms, I do have a problem with how they run them, and why. This is where agrarianism, at least as I see it, cuts across all farming operations, a corporate farm can be agrarian, it can farm the land ethically, it can treat the land as God’s gift to man and rule over it as God rules.
Perhaps agrarian farming can’t feed the world, but I would also say that neither can corporate farming. Agrarianism might not be able to do it because its practice won’t produce enough yield; Corporatism won’t be able to do it because it is unsustainable and will eventually farm the land to a point to where it simply can’t produce enough yield. But I think the underlying issue here is the idea of the land’s purpose to serve us. So long as the world views land in that selfish light it will never be able to feed the world; the population will continue to live beyond its means by way of over-population with the idea that they can force the land to keep up, leading to over-production. This is why I mention the creation story’s idea that humanity is created to exercise dominion how God does, and the perfect picture of how God does that is Christ. There is nothing selfish about God, he does not demand things from us, instead he seeks only to do everything for us. There is a difference between how God desires fellowship with humanity, and how humanity demands produce from the land so that it can live how it wants to.