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From: Oz <>
Newsgroups: alt.agriculture.misc,alt.sustainable.agriculture,sci.agriculture
Subject: Re: "True cost" of large-scale organic farming
Date: Sat, 6 Sep 1997 10:15:51 +0100

In article <>, Michael E Ross
<> writes
>Oz <> wrote:
>>> It is well established that ecologically sound agriculture works on a
>>>small scale and is profitable to some.
>>In a high-priced niche specialist area, certainly.
>My premise is that another paradigm exists where ecologically sound
>agriculture works on a large(r) scale and is profitable to some(more).

Great premise. Pity the argument is rather weak, to say the least.

>Especially if one broadens the meaning of profit beyond mere cash.

When you grow up and have a family to support and nurture, then you will
find that 'cash' is not 'mere'. About every 30 years in the UK a whole
bunch (ie a significant part of a generation) of quite wealthy young
people go an buy medium/small farms to do exactly what you are saying.
After 10-20 years they are all bust, and sell up to cover their debts
and have a hard time because they have no useful skills and no
experience. This is tragic, actually, a real waste of the lives of some
smart and well-educated people. Of those in my generation that I know I
am the only one left. They thought of reaping profit 'beyond mere cash'
and of 'a benign nature if you work with it', and nature destroyed them.

At least they went and did what they preached.


>Your point is well taken.  I mean a diverse environment populated by
>as much of the non-human life as possible.
>This is an aethetic bias on my part.  I freely admit that.

>>>If we work hard, and think hard, we ought to able to find ways to
>>>increase the scale and profitability of what is being called organic
>>This is not necessarily true. Small scale organic works quite well
>>because pests have (literally) trouble finding the small isolated areas
>>of food plants (the pest's food plants that is). Spread is greatly
>>reduced and although a percentage of plots get wiped out there are
>>enough which avoid excessive damage for a (large) area to produce
>>adequate amounts (ie. small) for a high-priced specialist market. This is
>>why I can run my small vegetable plot organically, of course. Without
>>economies of scale, and reliability of production, it's not easy to see
>>how you will reduce the costs of organic farming beyond a certain level
>>that is probably close to what is being achieved now. The modern (and
>>ancient) organic farmers who have been in the business successfully for
>>a generation or so really DO know how to do it.
>You assume we cannot surpass our present success.
>I think we can do better.
>It is at least worth trying.

Go right ahead and do so then. Buy a farm and run it your way. There's
nothing to stop you proving your point. Personally, I would suggest that
you only do so when you know very much more than those doing it at the


>>Hard to see how you can increase the profitability of conventional
>Some might say we are doing so all the time.  Certainly the Ag
>Engineering School at NCSU works very hard at just this.
>I contend

Contend all you like. Words are cheap.

> that if a fraction of the effort and capitol devoted to
>growing crops outside their best climes, growing in environments
>devoid of a thriving soil ecosystem,

You may speak for the US if you like. In the UK (in general) the soil
ecosystem is more vigorous than it was 30 years ago. It's one reason for
the plague of moles we have.

>and without the benefits of a
>diverse and healthy populations of fertilizing insects,
>were diverted
>to the study and experimentation of (more-)organic practice we would
>see noticeable improvement.

What makes you think it is not? Why do you think that throwing money at
something is guaranteed to 'solve' problems. This is a peculiarly
American idea. In europe we tend to think that ideas and experience are
at least as important. What you seem to imply throughout is that whilst
you have no concrete ideas 'they' will have them if you spend enough
cash. The evidence is to the contrary for technologies in their tertiary
stages, ag is definitely a tertiary technology.

>>Essentially this can only be done by reducing costs or
>>increasing output, unless you go for
>> ------------>complex price-fixing systems.<--------------
>>snip [my arrows]
>These fairly describe agribusiness in the US.  The cost of agriculture
>in the US is understated due to not accounting for the variety of ways
>taxpayers fund agribusiness.

Funny. I thought US agriculture provided a significant part of US GDP,
rather than being a 'cost'.

>>The former suggests doing more with less (ie large scale) and the latter
>>increased intensity.
>This is the a fair statement of the common wisdom.

Which you agree with? Well, you have to, don't you. It's completely
logical and clearly true.

>>The best way is to reduce production to the point
>>where there are no surpluses, prices will then rise significantly.
>>One good way of doing this is for lots and lots of acres to be farmed
>>organically since this reduces production. Currently farm-gate prices
>>are close to break even (in the US), increasing the drift to larger
>>scale and higher intensity.
>I don't quite follow you here.

Very, very basic economics. If you can't follow this then I am wasting
my time having a discussion with you.

>>>The core of organic practice is to try and find ways to "enlist" the
>>>help of "nature"  in the growing of food.
>>Every farmer, everywhere, whatever the system, works hard to do EXACTLY
>>this. Believe you me, nobody understands the ruthlessness of 'nature'
>>better than a farmer, be he large or small scale, intensive or
>>extensive. You get the beneficial bits of 'nature' more-or-less for
>>free, ever know a farmer who turned down something for free?
>Every is a mighty big word.

OK, every successful farmer.

>It happens all the time.  Applications herbicides and pesticides
>greatly reduce the presence of soil microorganisms

Nope, they eat them. The pesticides that is.

>with enhance
>productivity and combat many pests and diseases.

The soil microflora contains pests and diseases and organisms that eat
those pests and diseases. And (of course) organisms that eat the
organisms that eat the pests and diseases. And ... well you get the

>In their absence
>even larger amounts of the aforementioned chemicals are needed.


>more bees, wasps, and flies that visit the flowers of a plant the
>healthier and more prolific will be the output.

Above a certain level. Nope.

>>>The concept of sustainability seems to me an intuitively useful idea.
>>It's not 'intuitive' it's actual, important and essential. The problem
>>with the so-called 'sustainable' systems I comment on here is that
>>mostly they are not sustainable at all. They are 'politically
>As you can tell I am not particularly concerned with the present
>political efficacy of an idea.

I would never have guessed.

>I am more interested in examination of
>ideas that may have merit if more work is done to perfect them...and
>to make them more politically sustainable.  You can't really believe
>that we have really reach the summit of agricultural technique.

Nope. But improvements are very very slow and usually more apparent than
real. Not being one to change implements for small or unproven
advantages, I have noted three complete cycles in 20 years, just now all
my neighbours are sporting new and expensive versions of a spring-tine
harrow, for example. We have used them for 20 years, as appropriate for
the soil conditions, the design of my 20year old one is identical to the
modern one. The same goes for ploughs. The reason is simple, for a wide
range of conditions one design does the job as well as any other variant
because improving it for one soil condition tends to make it less
suitable for another so the net gain is nil. That's why there are very
few jobs for ag engineers as designers, and almost all farm equipment
looks pretty much the same (apart from the colour).

>>Unfortunately 'nature' takes absolutely no heed whatsoever
>>of politics, freedom, 'rights', ethics, fairness or any of a number of
>>human philosophical constructions. You learn that PDQ as a farmer.
>Sophomoric.  Not constructive.

Eh? You have got to be joking here. If you can't follow this then you
really do not understand farming, and organic farming in particular, and
you certainly don't understand nature. Your argument becomes as strong
as some US state voting pi to be equal to 3.

>>>Perhaps this is an aesthetic perspective of mine due to a stern
>>>upbringing to leave things better after leaving than when I arrived.
>>An ancient farming aphorism is "Live as if you will die tomorrow and
>>farm as if you will live forever." I know no farmers who would not agree
>>with you (or the latter sentiment in the aphorism). It does get tricky
>>when economics are such that your livelihood, and that of your wife and
>>kids, is under threat though.
>I am sorry, references to "no farmers," every this, and never that are
>both inaccurate and rhetorical with the intent of squelching valuable

Sorry, did I tread on a political toe in error?

>>>I will stick to it for whatever reason.  I am entitled to my aesthetic
>>>and to let it inform my decisions.  We all do this.
>>Your aesthetic is your right. You should certainly let it 'inform' your
>>decisions, you should not let it dominate reality. Nature has no such
>>aesthetic. Her aesthetic is simple and brutal: survival of the fittest.
>>Note that this does not include most that human aesthetics of modern
>>times holds dear. You may ignore it if you wish, but you will be beaten
>>by nature if you try, absolutely every time. Do not underestimate
>You betray an extremely pessimistic view of human resourcefulness.  I
>think you are overstating for purposes of persuasion.

No. I have a great respect for nature, born of experience. As to taking
a pessimistic view of human resourcefullness I am at a loss to follow
your logic. Farmers all over the world bend nature their way by
understanding it to a greater or lesser extent, this is indeed human
resourcefullness. The political beating up of nature mostly happened in
Russia and other centralised economies and it failed dismally. Nature
cares not a hoot for your politics or high ideals, sad but true.

>Actually , the Darwinian concept of evolution as "survival of the
>fittest" has lost some of it's cache over the last few decades.

Quite the contrary.

>Examining the fossil record shows no gradual, incremental evolution
>due to survival of the fittest.

It certainly does. The speed is of course variable. Why should it not

>Instead it shows long periods of
>little change in organisms

Of course. When each organism is close to a local maxima of 'fitness'
then change will cease, or more often, becomes cyclic. When the
ecosystem changes due to significant climatic change, or the
introduction of new 'fit' species (continents colliding for example)
then evolution forces life to respond

>with occasional sudden changes in

Easy, eh?

>It appears that a great deal of serendipity and luck are
>involved in the evolution of species.

Of course, why not. He who gets to the top of the pile first most likely
takes over the niches which then, of course, no longer exist. And why

>This is another aesthetic which
>pleases me with regard to nature.

Yup, humans were lucky to be first in with a big enough brain for
speech, significant toolmaking, agriculture etc. Real tough on the rest
of the organisms, though.

>>>There are impediments to larger scale organic practice which are not
>>>inherent to the concept, but instead are due to the vagaries of
>>>politics and governmental bureaucracy.
>>Such as?
>I was trying to be nice...
>Lack of research dollars comes to mind.  Lobbies for the agricultural
>chemical industry are successful in obtaining favorable legislation.
>There have been (well documented and legally punished) campaigns by
>American chemical companies to restrict the dissemination of evidence
>of damage to crops and wild flora and fauna resulting from the use of
>new agricultural -cides.  Perhaps you know of such in the UK?

Nope. Probably Torsten does.

>seem to have been fairly well and truly inculcated with the party
>line, as are many people heavily invested in the current corporate
>vision of agriculture.  Are you a stockholder perhaps?

Haven't you guessed by now? I am a poor bloody farmer earning his living
*doing* it. The fact that (like all the farmers I know) I happen to
enjoy and delight in the wildlife on this farm doesn't make me a freak.

The things I am saying come from my own experience, and the experience
of others (very good friends) who have actually *tried* your route. They
believed all the political and ethical stuff, and nature destroyed them,
removed their livelihood and blighted their lives and the lives of their
children. Believe me it's no fun being poor, particularly when your were
originally well off. The ethical warm glow long since ceased to be a
comfort for them. I wouldn't want others to follow their route out of
blindness and ignorance.

>>>There is a lot of inertia
>>>behind present agricultural business.  Capital investment leads us
>>>away from useful change in some instances.  Du Pont and Monsanto
>>>really don't want us to consider techniques that reduce our
>>>consumption of chemicals.
>>Survival of the fittest applies even to human society. Actually I think
>>you malign them here.
>That again?

Boy, are you going to get a shock when you enter real life.

>>The idea of GMO's which allowed less use of safer
>>chemicals was, I believe, their real aim. They just wanted to be there
>>before their competitors. Personally I doubt that the disease resistance
>>or the herbicide efficacity will last for long before some strain of
>>disease, pest or plant finds it's own genetic way round it. I'll give
>>them 5-10 years and it might be less. There is glyphosate resistant
>>ryegrass already in Australia and all the millennia of plant breeding
>>for disease resistance has not eradicated a single plant disease.
>I was alluding to a fact of capitalistic life.  Ethics frequently fall
>by the wayside where money is paramount.  Du Pont is paying large
>fines for hiding information regarding the drift damage caused by
>sulphonyl urea compounds it has trialed.

Drift should never be a problem. Drift, by it's very nature usually goes
on the farmers own field next door (very bad), or on his neighbour's
(even worse), or a local householder (absolutely disasterous). In the UK
the *farmer* is liable for drift damge since he applied it, so he makes
very, very, sure it never happens. I have never had a problem with drift
in 20 years. Anyhow, it's not DuPont's problem.

>And has attempted to strong
>arm Organic Gardening Magazine into retracting comments (defensible
>and part of the public record) published this past year.  All farmers
>should be concerned with SU's.  They have been found to drift large
>distances and can reduce crop yield to literally nothing in very small
>airborne concentrations.

There was a 'problem' with Finesse years ago. It was persistant enough
to affect sugarbeet in some soils in some seasons if they were the
following crop. It was withdrawn as soon as this became clear. IMHO
somewhat drastic action because most of the UK doesn't grow sugarbeet
anyway and as far as I am aware, no other crop damage was noted.
Certainly it didn't seem to affect a closely related crop, canola, on
this farm.

>Glyphosate (Roundup=Monsanto) is an interesting example of
>successfully marketing a chemical of significant toxicity

Yeah, yeah. Common salt has 'significant toxicity' and so does water.

>by glossing
>over facts and building a facade of environmental "friendliness."  I
>admit it is less damaging than many substances, however,  it is still
>necessary to observe care in handling (no mention of this in the
>marketing any ag chemicals that I am aware of).

There is in europe.

>It can be effective
>using application methods that are very discriminate (wick
>applicators).  There is a folklore about glyphosate products that is
>frightening.  Some think it is safe as water, while it is reported to
>be the third highest cause of "pesticide illness" in the US (pesticide
>illness is a term used by the medical profession here to cover
>poisoning by ag chemicals).

It is remarkably non-toxic to mammals.

>There was worthy campaign in the States to place protective gear,
>rubber gloves, respirators, and so on, as well as clearly written
>information on the correct protective measures to be used when
>applying ag chemicals, in prominent locations where ag chemicals are
>sold to homeowners.

I think the problem was that to be consistant then the same label would
have to go on products of similar toxicity. Since this included common
household products (some of which are actually far, far, more dangerous
like bleach containing products) then housewives would have to go around
in their kitchens in full protective gear. I have a memory that some
common toothpaste brands would also have required full protective gear,
which would have been amusing.

>This went no where due to pressure by the makers
>of ag chemicals on the retail outlets.  They, of course, felt that it
>would be bad for business.  One suspects that they were correct.  I
>don't quite see how I can have warm fuzzy feeling about these folks.
>They are in it for the money.  Not public well being.

I guess all the people who work for these companies are not part of the
'public' either.

><<reinsertion of US political stuff.  Perhaps there are similar
>examples of political clout by large corporations in other developed
>countries?  Or by multinational corporations and cartels in third
>world countries?

Very likely. Also cases of political pressure groups forcing regulations
that are politically more acceptable but actually produce more pollution
than politically less acceptable ways. They all bend 'science' to fit
their politics, to the world's detriment.

>Regarding resistance...I think you are mistakenly taking my side here.
>Surely not ; - ).

I am not taking sides. I am trying to point out what is.

>>>Back to my challenge to you.  Just as an intellectual exersize.  How
>>>might we incorporate nectar bearing plants into the crops and
>>>surrounding landscape to attract predatory insects?
>>Predatory insects require prey. They rarely eat nectar.
>>Prey beat predators by breeding faster and earlier than the prey.
>>The best trick is to keep the prey out of the fields until the predator
>>population has caught up in field edges and rough ground. It's why late
>>sprays are rarely economic.
>You are correct predatory insects and nectar seeking insects are quite
>different.  I think they both qualify as beneficial, however.  Maybe I
>shouldn't have left out the comma.  Or made 2 sentences.  The point is
>that these practices work, albeit on a small scale.  I think you are
>wrong that we can't find ways to take advantage of them on a larger
>scale.  Again I ask, don't you have any constructive ideas on this

Look at those who are doing it successfully now. Then go off and see if
you can do it better. Now that's constructive.

>>Personally, and speaking from the UK and with the equipment we use (very
>>conventional) we have no difficulty maintaining highly susceptible wild
>>plants within a foot or so of our farmed area. So IMHO the equipment we
>>have is more than adequate with a little care and attention.
>>Of course in the UK aerial spraying is almost non-existant and there is
>>absolutely no spraying of residential areas or wild areas to control the
>>many man-eating insects you have in the US, which we either don't have,
>>or live with (or rather let them live off us). From here I would be very
>>suspicious of the damage that these cause because they seem to be
>>targetted at exactly the wild areas and low-density suburban areas that
>>should contain the most wildlife. OTOH it's much easier, and politically
>>safer, to blame 'farmers'.
>You are saying you can't think of a better way?  I had higher hopes
>for you.  I am not placing blame on farmers.  I am trying to instigate
>constructive conversation.  Do you have a guilty conscience to be so

[NB You made no comment about US aerial spraying of insect breeding wild
areas that cause inconvenience to local residents. Why?]

I'm not being defensive. You asked, I answered. The equipment we have
now, refined for many years (although the design is pretty well
identical to what I had 20 years ago) doesn't hit outside the cropped
area to any noticeable extent. This is good because I wouldn't want to
waste any, and it's good because I like my cowslips, yellow flags,
herons, kingfishers and other wildlife. What advantage would I gain from
changing it, which just wasts more world resources?

>>It is certainly possible to select sprays and timing to remove
>>significant danger to bees. It is done routinely in the UK for canola
>>crops. Spraying at night is not very smart if you want accurate
>>placement with correctly operating equipment.
>Bee populations are stressed here by mites, but ag chemicals take
>their toll as well.

Yes, I know. A poster called 'pollinator' has mentioned this several
times. This is sad, the US should consider doing something about it.

>>Farmers tend to grow what grows best and avoid growing what doesn't grow
>>well. The balance depends on the prices they gain from the crop together
>>with rotational considerations.
>Certainly farmers try hard to be successful.  I propose that we can do

Jolly-D. That's what all farmers, everywhere, say. And this time I mean
ALL farmers. Actually it probably also applies to all gardemers, too.

>>>Chrysanthemums are attractive to
>>>beneficial insects, deter others which are detrimental, some varieties
>>>are edible and some produce substances with pesticidal properties.
>>>Can genetic engineering produce varieties that have all of these to
>>>some degree?
>>Probably. However don't be surprised if the insects find a way round it
>>pretty quickly. There are oodles of chrysanthemem pests from what I hear
>>from growers.
>You are an uncommon farmer to give up so easily.  You have lost
>interest in finding new ways to ply your trade.

Ho, ho, ho. You have gotta be joking. After 20+ years of constant
observation and thought on how to grow two grains where only one grew
before you will forgive my hilarity. Agriculture is nothing remotely as
simple as you see it. It is a complex interaction between many
variables. Seasonal, cultural, weeds, crop density, crop disease and
susceptibility, pest and predator populations, rotational considerations
and a whole host of variables few of which you can control. On top of
that you have new pests (usually weeds), new pesticides, new
regulations, new varieties and new ideas to factor in. What's more you
gotta do this NOW, for THIS year's crop, you can't wait five years for
studies to be completed and results published. In any case by the time
it's published the varieties have changed, the pesticides have been
superseded and you note they inadvertantly failed to control some factor
of importance. Give up? hah!

What I don't do is waste my time and limited resources copying a system
that plentiful evidence shows would fail to give enough income to
support those that rely on my expertise to do so.

>I was engaging in the
>free generation of ideas.  It is part of the creative process by which
>present farming practice was "happened" upon  (99:1 perspiration to

It would be helpful if you came up with some concrete ideas, things that
are free are generally worth just what they cost.

>>>Can we develop sowing, maintenance, and harvesting techniques to
>>>manage the interplanting of complementary crops?   Monoculture causes
>>>all sorts of problems the cures for which are problematic.
>>Weed, pest and disease contol becomes, how shall I say it, 'interesting'
>>if you think about it. Remember a weed is a plant growing in the wrong
>>place and previous crop species are often major weeds in following
>I guess you couldn't think of anything.

Nothing practical. I can see far more con's than any (mostly theoretico-
political) pro's.

>>>So to summarize,  think there is merit to examining organic practice
>>>with respect to larger scale agriculture.
>>Yup, go right ahead.

You didn't. Why?

>>>There are structural
>>>impediments to its implementation that are not only hard to overcome,
>>>but also hard even to see.
>>Probably not that hard.

Think about it carefully and offer your proposals. After all, it's your

>>>Creative effort and the redirection of
>>>capital towards more experimentation are tools for the promotion of
>>You paying?
>Absolutely.  About 50% of what I earn goes elsewhere than my personal
>coffers (accounting for sales taxes, my "employers contribution" to
>social security, property taxes, blah, blah, blah).  I would love to
>redirect some.  I know a great deal is wasted on all sorts of cockeyed
>schemes.  That is being kind.

So you aren't paying.

>>>I don't actually want to adjust your literary style, but it is fun for
>>>me to consider that I can get you to think differently.
>>Oh dear. I've just said what I have said countless times before.
>>>Brainstorm with us oh zee.  And poke holes in the bad ideas.  But
>>>admit and enhance the good ones.

You haven't given any concrete proposals and in any significant detail
where it is superior to current organic (or conventional) practice. You
just said that no pesticides, 'artificial fertilisers' and more birds
and bees will guarantee plentiful harvests. very nice thought, but it
doesn't put food in people's mouths.

'Oz     "Is it better to seem ignorant and learn,
         - or seem wise and stay ignorant?"

From: Oz <>
Newsgroups: alt.agriculture.misc,alt.sustainable.agriculture,sci.agriculture
Subject: Re: "True Cost" of large-scale organic farming
Date: Thu, 18 Sep 1997 13:55:42 +0100

In article <>, Chris & Christine
<> writes

>       In Moxee City, Wash., dark powder from two Oregon steel mills is poured
>from rail cars into silos at Bay Zinc Co. under a federal hazardous
>waste storage permit. Then it is emptied from the silos for use as
>fertilizer. The newspaper called the powder a toxic byproduct of
>steel-making but did not identify it.

Well, if it has any similarity to basic slag (ie high Ca, high P) then
it would certainly be a good fertiliser, bit not the sort of thing you
would want dumped in watercourses, where it would indeed be a bit toxic.
I would personally be very doubtful of anything from "Bay Zinc Co" and
would have it analysed. I guess you have analysts in the US?

>       "When it goes into our silo, it's a hazardous waste," said Bay Zinc's
>president Dick Camp. "When it comes out of the silo, it's no longer
>regulated. The exact same material."

This proves nothing except the old adage "One mans food is another man's
poison". For example some 'toxic waste' with a high copper (but not As
etc etc) content would be welcome here, we are very copper deficient.
Actually, I did once apply some 'toxic waste', to alleviate our copper
deficiency. Unfortunately it ate the SS sprayer. (Yes, very low levels
of the other heavy metals, bit too much HCl though).

>       Unlike many other industrialized nations, the United States does not
>regulate fertilizers. That makes it virtually impossible to figure out
>how much fertilizer contains recycled hazardous wastes. And the laws in
>most states are far from stringent.

If true, this is a bad oversight. Analyses of by products should always
be done (at least typical and max/min) so that the appropriate use can
be made of them.

>I hear a lot of talk in this thread about LD50's but not very much about
>chemical volatility, *LC50's* and chronic exposure. Isn't glyphosphate
>relatively volatile? In our ag extension pesticide classes (used for
>on-going pesticide license validation in the US), we were told "if you
>can smell it, you are being overexposed." Well, even days after applying
>pesticides I and many other employees could smell them. A chronic
>exposure may not kill the applicator, but has there been any real
>research into _combined_ chronic exposures of pesticides in
>horticultural and agricultural workers?

There should not be any chronic exposure of workers to pesticides, or
anything come to that.

>I do know this: After following copious directions on the labels,
>wearing all the proper gear, keeping records, and never allowing drift,
>I have become grossly sick from chemical exposure.

How, if you were not contaminated?

>As someone who has
>suffered from low-level chronic exposure to pesticides even with proper
>PPE (personal protective equipment) as dictated by OSHA and the EPA,
>etc., etc., following all rules, I must say that Oz can keep all his
>pesticides in the UK.

I can't speak for the US. However if you follow the UK regulations you
should not be exposed. If you are then you are breaking the regulations.
You can in fact avoid exposure without following any of the regulations
(well most of them). Before such regulations became mandatory I sprayed
with no protective equipment except gloves (clean) and still avoided
exposure. I hasten to add that this was tractor spraying and NOT
knapsack, which is a technique only viable (IMHO) for very small usage a
few times a year as spot treatment. Avoiding contamination with a
knapsack sprayer is difficult and requires skill, care and attention to

>I don't trust a pesticide or a pesticide
>manufacturer as far as the next county. Tracy, it's more than just
>"buyer beware", I think you know: The rules themselves are bogus, as my
>getting sick attests.

Maybe. Maybe not. Certainly I sprayed for many years without problem.

>For a thread that's been weaving in and out of issues regarding the
>"true cost" of large-scale organic farming, one thing seems to have been
>barely skirted if not left out: spirituality. Oh, go ahead and laugh if
>you want, but one of the first things to go in large scale _anything_
>seems to be a spirituality which connects us to the land. How can a
>farm-worker who is not tied to the land have any feeling of stewardship
>for that which is not his?

Easy. My staff say 'my herd', 'my tractor', 'our crops' etc etc, and
that's as it should be. As to 'spirituality' what do you mean by this?
Do you mean caring about the herons and wild flowers in the ditches and
hedgefows as well as your crops? Does it mean planting trees that will
not be more than saplings in your lifetime? What do you mean?

What's 'large scale' anyway. Is the australian farmer farming 20,000
acres with his brother 'large scale'? Is a 10ac greenhouse 'large

>Someone else said it in this thread: Factory
>work is factory work. And how can the farm-boss who hires others really
>know what his farm needs from him when he can't even put his feet on
>every acre in a single day?

See australian farmers above. There, a small family unit.

>His workers don't care because their
>investment only goes as far as the paycheck, so he won't hear much about
>it from them.

He could get better workers. It sounds to me that the staff are the ones
devoid of 'spirituality'.

>Where is _his_ sense of stewardship when all that concerns
>him is profit and loss?

How do you know that 'all that concerns him is profit and loss'? Whilst
I expect they exist, I have never come across such a farmer. Most,
indeed, spend more than they should improving their farm (and it's
wildlife) for the following generations *even if these generations are
not their own offspring*. Perhaps brits are different, but franky I
doubt it.

'Oz     "Is it better to seem ignorant and learn,
         - or seem wise and stay ignorant?"

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