The era of the small family farm is fast becoming history in America. They are giving way to “corporate agricultural developments,” and conglomerates headed by people who have never set foot in a “meadow muffin.” These industry bigwigs keep track of their farming interests by studying reams of computer products, and issuing orders via board meetings.
Many of those actually tending modern farms do so from the air-conditioned cab of a giant machine capable of tending many rows at once. They keep in touch with their office via cell phone, and keep the rows arrow straight with the help of global positioning satellite (GPS) receivers. Their barns resemble industrial warehouses, complete with offices, computers, and break rooms for employees.
There was a time when a farmer’s barn was the hub of his private industry. Most cold winter days and rainy summer days were spent in the barn. There was corn to shuck, cows to milk, and livestock to tend.
Early 20th century farmers were on hand to monitor the birth of every new calf or colt. He knew each animal by name; there was the heifer Elsie and the bull Ben or Homer. Horses may be Princess, Sweetie, or simply Old Gray.
There would be a wallboard in the barn with the number of calves born that year written in pencil. Another board might have a tally of the number of bales of hay stored, or how many bushels of corn. The old barn was his office complex and he alone was the CEO, office staff, and caretaker. He was his own long-range planner, finance expert, animal doctor, and stable cleaner.
There is not much use anymore for the old barn or the 40-acre type farmer. His entire year’s production would be laughable in today’s market. His barn would be bulldozed and buried to make room for a birthing parlor or an on-site laboratory.
The old farmer is as outdated as his mule harness or his “scooter and wing” cultivator. His sweat and hard labor means little anymore. The orphaned calf he so lovingly hand fed with a bucket of fresh warm milk is now put down and forgotten. After all, it and the old farmer stand in the way of progress.
While the concept of industrial farming is fitting in today’s modern economy, it is burying a way of life and a social concept forever in the name of progress.
Is this change a good thing?
For the overall economy and physical well being of America, maybe. For the conscience and inner human spirit of our nation, it probably is not.