In Defense of Farmers

photographer: Alia Malley
photographer: Alia Malley

In my hometown of Toronto, Michael Pollan is a hipster gOD.

His mantra to Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. is spoken with reverence by those Torontonians with a social conscience and enough disposable income to live organic, green and sustainable.

And it isn’t only Toronto. From what I have heard, this new breed of Agri-Intellectuals can be found in every city in North America and beyond.

In fact, according to the most recent census data, Agri-Intellectuals are America’s fastest growing ethnic population.

And that’s great for Michael Pollan’s book sales.

But, not so great for conventional farmers.

And they’re starting to get a little pissed off.

omnivores delusion

This past July, farmer Blake Hurst penned this article.

In the article, Mr Hurst disputes a number of the anti-Big Ag arguments raised by Michael Pollan and other Agri-Intellectual deities.

He reminds us that “farming has always been messy and painful, and bloody and dirty. It still is. This is something the critics of industrial farming never seem to understand”.

He goes on to say that “farmers have reasons for their actions, and society should listen to them as we embark upon this reappraisal of our agricultural system.

“I use chemicals and diesel fuel to accomplish the tasks my grandfather used to do with sweat, and I use a computer instead of a lined notebook and a pencil, but I’m still farming the same land he did 80 years ago, and the fund of knowledge that our family has accumulated about our small part of Missouri is valuable”.

And everything I know and I have learned tells me this: we have to farm “industrially” to feed the world, and by using those “industrial” tools sensibly, we can accomplish that task and leave my grandchildren a prosperous and productive farm, while protecting the land, water, and air around us”.

Please note that this is only a small portion of the article. Please read the rest.

And when you do read the article, keep in mind that way back in 1995, farmer Hurst asked congress to end crop subsidies. At that time, Hurst was quoted as saying that “government farm programs have fleeced taxpayers and stifled farmers’ ingenuity and profits”.

This is not a man content to sit back and let the government nor the Agri-Intellectuals tell him how to do his job.

And he’s not alone.

Last Thursday, Michael Pollan was invited to speak about his book, In Defense of Food to an audience of 8000 at the U of Wisconsin.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Michael Pollan at the U of Wisconsin“, posted with vodpod

Amongst that 8000 were 200 In Defense of Farming protesters.

Luckily, it was all very…civilized.


(media hates civilized protests)

On Friday, the protest continued when the U of W held a panel discussion involving Pollan, a U of W student and two farmers.

I can’t find any video of the event, but according to this review of the panel discussion, the U of W student took the position of Big Ag and went right at Pollan.

She covered the typical Big Ag talking points:

  • America has the safest, most abundant food supply in the world.
  • Global food production needs to double by 2050 if we are going to feed everyone.
  • She said that 99% of Wisconsin’s farmers are family farmers.
  • And she called Pollan “polarizing”

Pollan responded by:

  • commending one of the farmers on his innovations and said that he would love to come and visit his farm.
  • saying that he doesn’t think the world should have only one type of farming. He used the phrase “Let a hundred flowers bloom,” meaning: the more diversity in farming, the better. Let’s try everything and only through that will we see what works best.
  • Pollan went on to say that critique is not necessarily a bad thing, and it’s not necessarily an attack. He said that he’s critiquing the system, not the farmers, and he made the analogy that in our national critique of the health care system, we aren’t criticizing the doctors.
  • He said that in fact, much of his critique is directed at the people who buy the food from the farmers and process it before selling it to the consumer.
  • He also said that the interests of agribusiness is often at odds with the interest of farmers. In fact, agribusiness exploits farmers and squeezes them off the land.


North American food production is becoming an even more important topic as we attempt to climb out of the global recession and hope to reverse current trends in obesity and healthcare.

Now if only the policymakers can act half as civilized as Michael Pollan & the folks from In Defense of Farmers.


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  1. I’m currently about half way through “In Defense of Food”, I guess actually a little bit more because I read the last few chapters first as that was where most of the “what you should eat ” stuff was. The beginning and middle get a bit mired down in how we got where we are. Interesting but a bit slow.

    I will say that what I have taken away from it is the importance of eating “real” foods as opposed to foods from a box, can, jar or drive thru window. I would think that if most folks ate fresh food that they prepared, a major part of the battle would be won. Once someone gets on the real food kick, they will, I think become more choosy in the origin of the food. At least that is how it is working for me.

    Thanks for your blogs, I’ve found them very helpful and motivating. I’m especially awaiting the next installment of the Deadpool workout.

  2. Well – the mantra “His mantra to Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” sounds good to me. Plus some meat of course 🙂

    In a perfect word I’d eat at least some of my meat organic…



  3. Health-wise, I think he’s on the right track….I would add lots of meat as well.

    The problem begins when we try and roll that philosophy out on a large scale. Money, size of population, politics, employment, amount of land, etc…

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