We are evolving toward the cows every day

Forrest Johnson

While authorities are still seeking the cause of last week’s fertilizer factory blast in Texas the larger question regarding inorganic fertilizer use and a non-sustainable and industrial modeled farming method goes unanswered.

Once again, the elephant in the room goes unnoticed as a compliant and domesticated society goes about its business mourning for the dead. Many locals worked at the plant that used ammonium nitrate and anhydrous ammonia to produce low-cost nitrogen-based fertilizers, fertilizers that essentially lead to organic soil mortality.

In other words, once you shift to the use of inorganic fertilizers such as the kinds produced in Texas and many of the other plants around the nation your soil will be dead fairly soon and require more applications of the synthetic kind in order to grow your Roundup Ready corn hybrids for an eager American Industrial Food System.

As my uncle Vernon once said, you don’t put embalming fluid in a person who’s not dead yet.

Vernon farmed a couple hundred acres in Isanti County, raised a big family on a small herd of dairy cows, gardens, bees and maple syrup. He raised enough hay to keep his animals fed, understood that cattle seemed a bit intolerant of corn and grains, flung manure off the back of a wagon and left enough woods and ponds on the property alone so he could hunt deer and shoot some ducks. He earned a masters degree in agriculture from the University of Minnesota and was very suspicious of the urgent claims by scientific farming experts to mechanize, use herbicides and pesticides and push productivity to its highest level.

It was an old time farm, the kind with living soils that produced exactly what they could. I never heard him really say it but I knew Vernon clearly understood that living plants needed living earth.

Much of the American farming landscape is dead as a doornail these days. The farming community became addicted to fertilizers as crop yields grew, sometimes exponentially. The complete chemical package was needed to force crops out of the ground in the dead zone of modern agribusiness. Go check out a field left fallow these days. The residue of modern agricultural chemical practices makes it tough for a weed to grow. The land just looks poisoned, burned, acidified.

That’s how we grow much of our food today, in fertilizer plants that occasionally blow and knockdown half a town.

Apparently the ammonia based nitrogen fertilizers are favored by the fruit tree industry. It’s not just for row crops anymore.

Once again, the pell mell rush away from sustainable agriculture as practiced by farmers for thousands years to an industrial model that promised profits over sustainability has led the human race to an interesting brink.

In a world gone crazy over fast food and snacks and soft drinks our overall health is in the decline and so is our agricultural landscape. Not only is agricultural runoff poisoning our natural landscape, the human agricultural  landscape has been decimated by “Better farming through Chemicals and Overproduction.”

Another of the modern agricultural mottos might be “You grow it and we’ll invent a new use for no matter if it’s good for us not.”

During the Dust Bowl years American agriculture did move to curb overproduction through New Deal farm policies. Over time, American agricultural policy was directed at developing and supporting family farms and the inputs of the total agricultural sector, such as land, research, and human labor.

That changed however, according to author Daniel Imhoff.  In the early 1970s, under Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz, farmers were encouraged to “get big or get out” and to plant “hedgerow to hedgerow.” Over the course of the 20th century, farms have consolidated into larger, more capital-intensive operations and subsidy policy under Butz encouraged these large farms at the expense of small and medium-sized family farms.

The landscape, both human and natural, suffered at the expense of such a centralized monetary policy based on the industrial production of fertilizers, foods and myopic agricultural thinking.
Why do we need fertilizer plants like the one that blew up?

Once again society has been lulled into thinking like cows. We were led away from sustainable methods toward unsustainable methods and we were told it was better for us all and even though the jobs aren’t on the land anymore we can still be in the farming business and work at a fertilizer plant. We didn’t think rationally when a living method of farming was replaced by a dead method of farming.

Some people of West, Texas say they aren’t mad at the fertilizer company for storing 270 tons of explosive ammonium nitrate at the facility because the company provided a good living for a lot of locals.
Cows and humans. Our two species are evolving closer and closer all the time.