For many years we've seen the rural to urban trend, not only in the Great Plains, but in the Canadian prairies as well. Most of us who live out here understand the cities are getting larger, that's just a fact. Winnipeg, Fargo, Sioux Falls, Omaha, Kansas City; they've all grown at the expense of the outlying rural areas. But the rural areas are worth fighting for. There's peace and tranquility, the night sky, trust in each other, you know where your food is coming from, and you know the difference between a cow and a steer.
Addressing your point about Washington; there are far too many people in Washington who believe if it is outside the beltway, it doesn't matter. Unfortunately for them, it does matter. Think for a moment if you took away the canola from North Dakota, the beef from Nebraska and the wheat from Kansas, where would we get those products, China, Argentina, Australia?
Now, lets assume that mega farms were allowed to operate. In my opinion that would eventually turn into corporate chaos. It may be good initially because people would be euphoric about new jobs and all that, but the control of corporate America we've seen so many times would take over the farm sector as well.
In the past couple of years I've done some research about organic farming. As you know the stereotype is for farms to get bigger and bigger to continue with a profit margin. Some farms, privately owned that I'm aware of, are in the neighborhood of 10,000 to 14,000 acres. To me, it's just ludicrous because they continue getting bigger and they continue farming for the bank.
Now, most of the organic farms in California are much smaller. In fact, more than half the organic vegetable farms are less than 100 acres. Some are as small as 10 and 14 acres. And they're making it. They are making profit. How can that be possible? Well, it is. They're land, machinery, taxes and labor is paid for, thus the product they produce, be it lettuce or garlic, is profit. Thus California organic farmers can afford to remain on the farm and make a living.
I am a beginning farmer. This past year, 2005, was my first growing season and I made a profit growing vegetables on one acre, yes, one acre, about 40 miles from the Canadian border. Last spring, before I purchased equipment, I was hoping to get a loan to buy a good garden tractor, seed and some other items to jump start production. USDA and the banks said one acre doesn't constitute a farm, but I ended up making more money than some of the small farms that grow wheat and barley. So, I made a promise to myself. I will not borrow money under any circumstances.
I will operate in the black, just like organic farmers do in California and when I make enough money selling cantaloupes, I will buy more riverbottom farmland and get bigger and all the time I will control the spending, not the bank. To me, bigger is 10 acres, not 10,000 acres.
Bigger isn't always better and the day is going to come when these little podunk towns in the panhandle of Nebraska, or near the international boundary in North Dakota are going to become pretty important. Have you ever heard of Kilgore or Albion, Nebraska, Leola or Presho, South Dakota, Hazelton or Noonan, North Dakota or Blue Rapids or Scott City, Kansas? I'll bet everyone in all those communities knows where Washington is?
Those small towns that are hanging on will come back. Too many people are going to get sick of the big city transit strikes and homicides and drug deals and political corruption, that they'll return to the "Buffalo Commons" that we call home. We like it here. We know there are four seasons and we know the difference between North and South Dakota.
Thanks from someone in rural America who is concerned about where his food is coming from. By the way, tonight my wife and I will be enjoying Grade AA Montana beef that we basically hand picked and paid about a third of what people in the big city grocery stores pay for it. Then, after dinner, we'll go out on the deck with a glass of organic red wine and watch the northern lights.
from a North Dakota reader,
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