I can say for one, due to family history I can talk about this rather well. My family were ranchers, we raised beef cattle all the way out in Joes, Colorado (this town doesn’t even have a light). The family worked along side other ranchers and farmers. When I lived in Colorado my Mom and I would go up every weekend or for some weeks to work on the ranch. I loved it and I would love to have my own little plot of land someday. But before I get off topic about the beauty of the west and please please don’t fence me in, let’s talk business.
Now in short the 1970 Agricultural Act stopped giving small farmers government subsidies, and instead only big crop growers could have these subsidies. Now for those of you who do not know what a subsidy is, its basically money the government gives to someone to promote economic growth. Now think about it, big agricultural businesses typically do monocultures which means thats bad for the soil and you have to use more pesticide. But sometimes the do crop rotation, good for soil, but you still have to use more pesticide.
Now lets say you’re a small farmer but you do mixed agriculture, you will not get any subsidies to help you by farm equipment, or to help you promote business or even to help you when some crops fail. That doesn’t sound to fair now does it? When we want this to happen so badly?
Now lets get one back to Joes, Colorado. Now when the farmers were done pulling up their crop we would bring in our cattle to dig up the roots and eat the scraps left over. This is good for both farmer and rancher. The cows get a nice healthy diet and as does the soil. But lets say you take away that, you take away crop rotation or even growing two crops in the same field. The cows and soil don’t get much nutrients. So to get the cows to weigh more we have to feed them more corn and alfalfa. Now corn and alfalfa isn’t bad for a cow, if they don’t eat a lot, it helps them get nice and fatty for the winter. But if thats the main meal they get, you don’t have healthy meat. Its sad really, my Mom at times tells me of the last time she went to cow camp, thats when you move cattle into the mountains, they get to have a nice healthy diet if grass flowers and such during the spring. But that died because of the 1970 Agricultural Act, that act demanded for things to be quicker so no more moving cows in spring up into the mountains, no more small farmers. No more Joes, Colorado.
Now, we are pushing for the small farmer again and mixed agriculture but we need to pause and think. With the demand for food so high, we need to rethink farm equipment. Farm equipment is meant to pick one type of crop at time, not multiple. This means if this does come through, the farmer will have to by even more equipment and be in even more debt to the government (instead of getting subsidies small farmers have to pull out loans). So multiple things have to happen, we need to tear apart that agricultural act, designers get designing new farm equipment, and everyone get your hands dirty at some point in time in your life to better understand the western life style, its not easy. The west is dying, people can’t say oh I’ve ridden horses and move cattle and sat in a field and watched the sun go down at the end of the day behind golden pastures. Not many, but if you get the chance to get eggs from a chicken, take it. Experience helps you to understand and it also helps you to change the world.
(This is a painting I did thats suppose to represent eastern Colorado in the winter time.)