I am loathe to be impolite at the expense of anyone in this space, but c’mon, dude. Vilifying commodity producers, in an article ostensibly titled “Celebrate the Farmer”, just makes Mark Bittman pompous.
I find this particularly bombastic:
“In short, we need more real farmers, not businessmen riding on half-million-dollar combines.”
Is it not “real” farming unless my food is delivered to my coastal Maine retreat in a burlap sack on a vintage Chevy? How about via donkey? The glorification of pastoralism in alternative agriculture is good marketing, but no one should advocate for it as a business practice.
All successful farmers are good businessmen, and they acknowledge a worthwhile capital investment when they see one. According to the Organic Trade Association, last year organic farmers did $31 billion in business riding on those same half-million dollar combines. They did it in a humane and environmentally conscientious manner for sure, but they were not at all shy about learning how to graft the big-scale of their commodity analogues onto an alternative agricultural practice. Now that they have made the investment in scale, matriculating into “fake” farmers in Bittman’s view, organic production is no longer a niche. It is an established component of the food industry. Using the half-million dollar tractor is what helped to make organic farmers the established economic force they are today.
Other alternative producers should be just as driven by efficiency and investment if they ever want to be more than a fleeting, elitist pursuit. Alternative producers may make better tomatoes, but they have way, way more to learn from commodity and large scale producers than they and Bittman will ever admit. Mocking capital investment and commercial success relegates alternative agriculture to a perpetual state of adolescent, elitist, pop-culture ephemera.
Commodities, by the way, don’t just feed us. They clothe us, too, in titanic amounts of cotton grown and gathered using more half-million dollar machines. Bittman always forgets about his shirt and bluejeans when railing against commodity production.