I wanted to take a moment to raise a comment up off its original page, as it deserves some time here in the spotlight. Thank you Burt for your thoughtful addition, I hope you will stop by often. Here is what Burt had to say in response to the "Going Organic" post:
It seems to me that we need to push initiates like the Dairyland State Academy as a local resource for helping small farmers go organic or some form of sustainable (e.g. grass-fed, humane, etc.). A living, breathing farm that teaches profitable small-scale farming to the current and next generation would be a valuable asset to the biggest dairy county in the country (Marathon). It would be especially valuable if it focused on value-added enterprises that took an amazing local commodity and created farmstead butter, small-batch cheese or something along those lines.
I read an article about this proposed program a while back, but haven’t heard anything since. It seems that teaching the ‘old’ conventional model will lead future farmers down the same path of difficulty and ultimately despair as previous generations, and who wants to see more small farms disappear?
I know that the folks at GrassWorks are blazing a similar trail for the grazers out there and it would be great to get more funding behind similar and complimentary movements in the area. It can be done. These are four of the leaders of the proposed Dairyland State Accademy – does anyone out there know these folks and can pass on the idea as an insider/friend/peer?
Robert Prahl, Granite Vu Farm
Chair, Dairyland State Academy Task Force
Tim Buttke, M&I Bank
Chair, Partnership for Progressive Ag
Jackie Matthiae, Agribusiness Director
Wausau Region Chamber of Commerce
Eric G. Hurley, Agriculture Instructor
Northcentral Technical College
Quite a bit to chew on there, Burt, thank you very much. As time goes by here I will be posting more about what we as consumers can do to support sustainable agriculture, but I will say this. Large scale or factory farming (modern farming, if you will) requires huge inputs from fossil fuels — fertilizers, pesticides, tractors and transportation. As the price of fossil fuels continue to rise the economies of scale of the factory will be offset by the cost of those inputs, giving smaller, local sustainable farms the opportunity they need to become profitable again.
But it won't happen by magic. Farmers have "new" skills to learn and so do we as consumers. Voting with our dollars is a very important part of how this country works and we need to be informed and proactive. One of the things we as consumers need to learn is the high cost of cheap food. People involved with sustainable agriculture like to remind us that "Good food isn't cheap, and cheap food isn't good."
Although it is not in Marathon County and the products are perhaps not available here yet, here is a close by model of what we need more of: Grass Point Farms. The offer cheese, butter and milk, but so far are concentrating on selling in larger cities, like Chicago. Bug your local grocer to try and carry these kinds of products!