So what we buy, that was supposedly bought to liberate us from the constraints of nature, and from the constraints of the ecological balance sheet become actually then an enslavement in the future, because we are emotionally and economically enslaved to that highly capitalized infrastructure.
Diego, Permaculture Voices:
There was actually just an article in the New York Times a few days talking about how in Kansas the ground water is dropping dramatically. And there is a guy in there saying “…you got $20000 of underground pipe, $10000 in gas line, a $10000 irrigation motor, and a $90000 pivot…are you just gonna sit there and let it rot?” So you’d tell him forget growing the corn with your pivot, convert over to an herbivore based system?
Yeah. And if he wants to use his irrigation, his in place irrigation, go ahead and continue to use it on a perennial prairie polyculture. The fact is that the perennial, with what we call mobstocking herbivorous solar conversion lignified carbon sequestration fertilization – with good herbivore management, a perennial system will out compete an annual system of any stripe. Any stripe. And in fact that’s what built the soils of our prairies that we are now mining with annuals.
So yeah, if you’ve got the infrastructure, and it’s paid for, and you have this unfair advantage of being able to do the water, go ahead. But it’s a perfect example where so many times our infrastructure, our highly capitalized infrastructure, begins to dominate our decisions. So what we buy, that was supposedly bought to liberate us from the constraints of nature, and from the constraints of the ecological balance sheet become actually then an enslavement in the future, because we are emotionally and economically enslaved to that highly capitalized infrastructure.
Diego, Permaculture Voices:
There’s a stat out there that says there’s something like 3% of all farmers make over 60% of all of the money. Do you think that is because it’s the mega farms are making all of the money, and the little guy is just getting squeezed out? And the little guys just aren’t doing it in a more diverse system?
Well yeah, yeah it’s because the commodity system has such low margins. The people who succeed in a low margin system are the people that have economies of scale to spread the capital intensive infrastructure over more and more acres. Even a small combine costs $100,000. That’s a floor, a floor overhead if you are going to grow grain. Growing grain is kind of like being pregnant, you either are or you aren’t. You’re either into it or your not. It is very difficult to grow a little bit of grain. And so because of that capitalization overhead the people who have successfully grown grain are the great, great big operations that can get over that floor.
Now, if you go to a diversified operation where you have stackable symbiotic enterprises and you for example integrate plants and animals in the system then you can compete as a small producer because your value adding all of your production through to a final product. And then if you direct market, then you even become more financially successful. Because the average farm is getting all of it’s income off of just production. Well that’s only a ¼ of the retail dollar, the other ¾ come from processing, marketing, and distribution. So if you start wearing all of those other hats, from the evil middleman who makes all of the money; if the middleman makes all of the money, then I want to be one. Pick me, pick me. So if you start taking some of your dollars, not just from production, but from processing, distribution, and marketing, you can sit on a four legged stool instead of a one legged stool and reduce the risk of your income.
This is an excerpt from an interview that I did with Joel Salatin on May 22, 2013 in Big Bear Lake, CA. The transcript is verbatim. A complete transcript, audio, and video will be available at a later date. For now enjoy these small bites.
Read Part 1 of the interview: Joel Salatin on the importance of running a profitable, yet balanced agriculture business.
Read Part 2 of the interview: Joel Salatin on Converting Conventional Farms to Organic, Salatin-Style Systems
Read Part 3 of the interview: Joel Salatin – There has never been a better time to go into farming.