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Sarah Taber @SarahTaber_bww
, 24 tweets, 4 min read Read on Twitter
Been tweeting a lot about bad ideas lately. Let's switch gears and talk about some Blessed Concepts in Agriculture.
1. Diversifying Crops For Better Luck With Labor

The foodie world focuses on diversifying crops because of the environment & "if it's bad weather for 1 crop, it might still be good for others"

Those aren't wrong, but I think they also actually miss the #1 reason to branch out.
Storytime: once worked w a big apple-growing region in upper midwest. Dozens of family farms growing apples & nothing else. A one-county applepalooza.

These growers had the WORST time with labor. #1 problem that came up, way beyond weather or bugs or markets.
I drive 2 hrs north. Asked growers there "how's the labor situation?" 100% of the farmers said "it's fine ... why?"
Turns out none of the farms in the north zone were apples-only. They all grew asparagus, cherries, AND apples.

Asparagus harvest = early spring

cherries = late spring, mid summer

apples = late summer through late fall
They just split farms into crops that spread their labor across the entire season, so people could come, stay, & do a steady job for 8-9 months. That's it. Migrant workers'd rather migrate less, & the farm can land people early in the season and keep them all the way through.
The folks having a hard time were the ones who put the whole farm on one crop, and it was the same crop all the neighbors were growing too.

So each farm could only put pickers to work for maybe 4-6 wks. And it was the same exact 4-6 weeks as the whole rest of the county.
I think about this every time farms complain about how "impossible" labor is. Turns out if a farm invests in being a good job prospect, hiring gets a lot easier? so weird
2. Grassfed Livestock*

is legitimately better for you, the environment, & makes more sense financially

*ruminants (cows, goats, sheep). they ... actually eat grass. pigs & poultry on pasture = a whole nother discussion
The reasons the livestock industry's been so slow to adopt pasture over CAFOs, even though pasture is technically more scaleable/"big ag"-friendly, is also a whole nother discussion.

But bottom line, while I'm kinda meh about organic produce-- grassfed meat & dairy are legit.
(pls don't bombard me with questions on "but what if I'm poor"

lemme just stop you rn by saying 1) I am poor, so 2) no I don't buy grassfed and 3) diet's really not *that* important for your health, compared to getting enough sleep & therapy)
(I'm out here to talk B2B farm systems, not tell ppl what to eat

however the "food press" is mostly camouflage for food commercials so now anytime you talk food systems, ppl assume you're telling them what to eat.)
3. Giving Crop Land A Break By Turning It Into Pasture For A Year Or Two Is Good Science.

nfrec.ifas.ufl.edu/sod-rotation/
So the ol' "livestock is a bad way to raise protein bc 90% of what the cow eats doesn't turn into meat" concept is technically true, and deeply flawed.

That 90% that doesn't turn into meat? Turns into soil.
Meanwhile, growing grain and/or legume crops* on a piece of land for year after year after year is INCREDIBLY destructive to the soil. You're basically mining out the nutrients & organic matter.

*to be known as "row crops" hereafter since that's what ag calls them
You can't do that forever. What's that mean? IT'S UNSUSTAINABLE

No coincidence that all societies that did vegetarianism, were in river valleys that flooded every year.

That's the ONLY way you can get away with mining the soil like that- when it gets a free top-up every year.
"What if you rebuild the soil by doing a cover crop between row crops?"

Great idea! Let's build on it: have cows eat the cover crop.

90% of the green manure still becomes soil, plus you get animal protein.

Congrats! We just reinvented crop/pasture rotations!
Row crops grown the year after the field's in pasture for 1 yr can yield up to 2x as they would have otherwise.
In other words: you can take a field out of row crops for human consumption for a year & raise pastured livestock on it.

Then it grows so much more row crop the next year, you get *more* food than you would have if you'd just raised row crops for human consumption each year.
This whole "you can feed more people with plants-only diets" is what happens when you look at stats from 1-year yields

and completely ignore what happens when you try to repeat it year after year.
The food movement is really into "all good things that happen to dirt are bc nutrients" but no.

-cow poop becomes organic matter, holds water so next year's crops don't get thirsty or drownt

-break weed & disease cycles- which you can't actually get just by rotating row crops.
Corn, peanuts, cotton, soybeans, most other row crops share enough pests to keep "rotating from one row crop to another" from working 100%. Got to get all the way into pasture to break those cycles.
Eating less meat is great.

But switching to a 100% to plant-based diet ... um... destroys the soil. Crops-only farming causes so many problems where it's actually practiced.

That's why taking good care of farmland means raising some livestock.
So that's some Blessed Concepts in Agriculture.

Stay tuned for more, like why raising nuts is awesome but rarely done outside CA, good fish farming, and why thanks in part to agriculture, we're currently in a Golden Age of Falconry.

wnyc.org/story/206202-f…
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