Technology

Threading Needles with Camels

Twenty-five years ago, when almost every American farm and ranch organization was denying the existence of climate change, William E. Rees and a colleague developed a method to measure how much “nature” was required to support a people or an economy. They called that measurement an “ecological footprint.”

That science–ecological economics, Rees’s career specialty at the […]

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The Actual Costs of the ‘Industrial Mind’

In an essay in his new book, Hogs Are Up, Wes Jackson, founder of the Land Institute near Salina, KS, revisits a speech he gave in Coon Rapids, IA, in August 2009 to mark the 50th anniversary of Nikita Khrushchev’s famous visit to the Roswell Garst farm.

During that cornfield summit, suggests Jackson, Garst and Khrushchev chatted about […]

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Managing Climate Risk is Good for Business and Good for the Future

With the wave of a wand, you’re the boss of the Farm Credit System (FCS). You manage a portfolio of 592,000 ag-related customers holding 946,119 loans totaling $315 billion—$113 billion in real estate debt alone—according to Dec. 2020 FCS data.

      Those numbers keep most people up at night but you sleep like a baby because your staff […]

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Rural America Shouldn’t Be a Dump Site for Corporate America

There’s a clear lesson in the chemical and ethical cloud now shrouding AltEn, a 25-million-gallon per year ethanol plant just south of Mead, NE.

      In fact, there’s more than one lesson but the big one—how rural America is becoming a legal dumping ground for wastes created by corporate America—may be AltEn’s enduring legacy.

      The plant, […]

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We Don’t Even Choose ‘Herd Immunity’ for Livestock

Two generations ago, no one in the cattle business ever thought “herd immunity” was a solution to bovine brucellosis. Instead, farmers and ranchers, often with the help of U.S. Department of Agriculture veterinarians, blood-tested every animal they could find to discover, trace, and isolate the disease’s source and spread.

      It was hard, dirty work but […]

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The “Chinese Century” Looks Like the “Chinese Decade”

      While most county and state fairs are Covid casualties this year, a giant, buzzing Ferris wheel—America’s relationship with China—continues to spin at such a dizzying pace that, sooner or later, it will break to harm riders and bystanders alike.

      While that idea may fly in the face of current beliefs, it doesn’t fly in […]

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Talkin’ About My Generation

      It’s a truism in American agriculture that food-growing technology undergoes an industry-shaking metamorphosis every generation.

      When Grandpa (both yours and mine) farmed, hybrid seed corn came in and oat-eating horsepower went out. His sons, our fathers, were early adopters of anhydrous ammonia, 2,4-D, and, whoa, combines.

      Twenty-five years later, our generational farm-changing moment arrived with […]

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Brother, Can You Spare a Cup of Water?

Humanity depends on three critical threes: Without oxygen, most humans will die within three minutes; without water, life expectancy is three days; without food, we’ve got three weeks.
Few Americans give three seconds of thought to any of these life-ensuring elements because, here, food is safe and plentiful, air quality laws are in place and enforced, […]

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Wisdom Should Come with Age

In May 1543, Nicolaus Copernicus, a Pole living in Prussia, published On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, a book that used mathematics and astronomy to postulate how the earth and the then-known planets rotated on their own axes as they orbited a stationary sun. Within days of its printing, however, Copernicus died.
His theory of […]

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The Long, Sustainable View

Who knew that the best view of 21st century agriculture would be from Darrin Qualman’s farm office near Dundurn, Saskatchewan? And yet, there it is, charted by Qualman, a data bloodhound who thinks graphically but writes plainly.
The long-time researcher for Canada’s National Farmers Union appeared on my radar in Feb. 2017 with a blog post […]

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