March 2, 2017
Our collective notions of progress imbue an inevitable sense that things will improve with time. As ideas and knowledge and indeed our technology advances— by definition—our quality of life will accordingly rise. If only that were truly so.
Today’s article in the NYT is written by a British sheep farmer in the north of England whose livelihood is as old as the hills. 4500 years old, to be more exact. And though, as James Rebanks writes of his small farm with a herd of 900 sheep, his ancient profession is barely profitable.“The price of my lambs is governed by the supply of imported lamb from the other side of the world. So I have one foot in something ancient and the other foot in the 21st-century global economy”, he says.
The central point that Rebanks makes is that as we continue to treat agriculture as an agribusiness, the main goal is to efficiently produce food at the lowest possible cost. The farmer, the land and all that is upon it is only valued for its short-term economic worth. And that, is a recipe for doom.
As Rebanks points out in describing his recent tour to the rural communities in the States where farming once prominently existed, he sees ruin and decay in their wake. This is but another recent reminder that society does not exist inside a vacuum. Rural communities matter too. If society is to prosper, they must also enjoin in the success. That means agriculture needs to return to its more traditional roots with a greater emphasis on the culture side and less of a factory-floor mentality.
Read the full article: An English Sheep Farmer’s View of Rural America