Fresh Facts: The American Farmer is the Most Adaptive Businessman

By November 7, 2013Newsletter

Volume 7, Week 11, November 4-6, 2013

There was this odd moisture that fell from the sky yesterday. There was barely enough of this stuff to run off the road a few inches, but it made the air smell good. I asked around, and finally found somebody who said they call it sprinkles, and if there were more of it, people called it rain. A lot of that rain would sure be nice. We’ve had to lower the pumps and boost the horsepower on a couple of ranches, and we’re in the best watered part of this great valley.

I just read a little book called Indian Summer that describes the life of the Choinumni Indians who lived hereabouts. It was so interesting to me, because I knew all the different places it talked about. Each summer, they made reed boats and floated right by my house to the Great Tulare Lake, which was at one time the largest lake in surface area in North America, other than the Great Lakes. As a matter of fact, you could take a paddle wheeler from Wasco down by Bakersfield clear to Dos Palos, about 175 miles. That lake bottom that would have started about 15 miles from here became the richest farm land in the world. Coupled with the California Aquaduct that transports water from the delta that was built in the 60s, it enabled California to feed the world.

I don’t have a dog in this fight, and in many ways I’m personally better off financially with the present status quo as the remaining natural Sierra run-off that irrigates your crops in this box has become much more valuable. But as an American, I feel we were better off when we fed ourselves. Presently, as shocking as it sounds, the good ol’ USA is a net food importer. That would change tomorrow if we had the leadership to use the resources our forefathers had the insight to build.

While we’re dreaming, I’m just wacky enough to believe we could feed this world with all its billions of people organically. That’s right, you read it here first. We could feed this world organically. Let’s take the rest of this space to unpack that and dream together about the changes that would necessitate. Most importantly, it will require consumers willing to purchase 100% organic. I think if present trends hold, that might happen significantly in the next 5 years. If you’re familiar with the concept of tipping points, we’re already moving through the early adaptor stage—that’s you all by the way—towards that critical 8–15% market share. Right now, we’re getting close to 4%.

The American farmer is the most adaptive businessman we have. He will produce what people are willing to pay for. Right now, Americans are spending 10% of their income on food. They want cheap, and baby they’re getting it. Simultaneously, we’re spending 17% of our income on health care; Hello? Can anybody do that math? My opinion, you’d add 25% to the food bill to do it all organically which would throw us clear up to a staggering 12½%  of our income and we’d still have the least expensive food in the world. If we just ate right, we could easily cut the doctor bill in half for a net savings of 6%. Sorry, that’s just how my brain works; I’ll let somebody else put a value on quality of life.

The next thing that’s going to happen is a return of our best and brightest to the farm. Organic farming is management intensive. The average American farmer is in his mid- sixties and looking for an exit strategy. I honestly don’t think there’s a better career opportunity right now for a bright motivated young person than organic farming or ranching. If they were coming out of college right now, paddled their surfboards out into the great wide ocean, and kept their eyes open, it would be pretty easy to catch an organic wave that’d leave ’em sittin’ on top of the world. A natural out flow of this will be a healthier nation, a healthier planet, and a re-establishing of trust between producers and consumers. These are realistic scenarios based on achievable results, common sense and just a pinch of optimism, something that organically occurs when you…



 ~Vernon Peterson

Author Jessica Lessard

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