Friday, July 16, 2010

Donald P. Goodman, III. The Primacy of Agriculture

The Primacy of Agriculture

This primacy of production is even more pronounced in necessaries, particularly the most basic, like food and clothing. The producer of food will always need food; he is motivated to produce enough at least to ensure that he may eat. The consumer of food, on the other hand, is entirely dependent upon the producers of it. If the producers do not produce enough, or produce in too low a quality, the consumer dies. The same is true for a society as a whole: if that society fails to produce sufficient food, it must either import that food, compensating for that importation by some other valuable production, or simply go without, which clearly is not a viable option. Either way, it must produce rather than merely consume, and production is again seen to be primary; for without production, no consumption can occur.

Which brings me to my present topic: the primacy of agriculture. By “agriculture” here I mean, very loosely, the production of food; it includes farming, gardening, animal husbandry, hunting, fishing, and anything else that results in some food product at the end. It’s clear from the foregoing that agriculture is the most necessary of all productive industries. Agriculture is the oldest and the greatest profession. Without a healthy agricultural base, all economies are doomed, for workers cannot work if they cannot eat. Before we worry about whether we’ve got enough motor vehicles, good enough highways, fast enough computers, and big enough office parks, we need to worry about whether we’ve got enough food. We take it entirely for granted these days, but we shouldn’t. It’s the bedrock of all human endeavor, the root of all human production. Without it, we can do nothing.

Without physical sustenance, no other work in a political community is possible. And yet, most Americans pay scant attention to what is required for food to be brought to their homes. In fact, many are content with the industrial system; they are just ignorant of the damage that it causes to the soil and to water systems and of the amount of energy required to keep it going.

Relocalization and sustainability require that more become farmers, but who is willing to do the work? How can we transform the major urban and suburban areas, and make farming more appealing and financially feasible? Would people be willing to pay more money for their food, when they can get it at lower prices from elsewhere, thanks to cheap gas?

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