Photo by VickiMoore/FlickrCC
When the two of us talk about transforming agriculture into a more environmentally sustainable and humane, less industrialized system, we are often confronted with questions about how realistic and feasible that is.
In particular, many people express doubts about whether there are enough people willing to work the farms we envision. We reply that we believe that if consumers continue to show greater willingness to seek out and buy food from traditional (non-industrialized) farms, and if the government redirects some of its resources away from agribusiness and toward traditional farms, the prospect becomes much more doable.
We also believe that the industrialization of farming is one of the main reasons that fewer of America's best and brightest have been attracted to the field in recent decades. The intellectual challenge and the direct connection to nature implicit in traditional farming make it a much more appealing profession.
Traditional farming is also more doable than industrial agriculture for new farmers because it requires little start-up capital. The new Census of Agriculture, recently released by the Agriculture Department, bears this out. It shows that the total number of U.S. farms actually increased by four percent from 2002 to 2007.