Posts Tagged ‘industrial agriculture’


In April, it rained, rained, rained. In May, it rained, rained, rained. Then, in an abrupt about-face, we finished up May with several scorchingly hot, humid days. The morning of June 1st began as another hot day, and while the temperature remained high, around noon the wind swept in from the west and blew hard all afternoon. The resulting dust storm lifted so much soil from the neighbouring field that the horizon was obscured and grit blew into my eyes as I worked outside.

The flat landscape in this area lends itself to agriculture on a large scale. Many fields are huge, devoid of windbreaks or fences. Drainage systems have been installed to move moisture from the soil and improve access to the fields for heavy machinery. Fertilizer laced with heavy metals is delivered and applied with Industrial equipment that compacts the soil. And when the wind blows, open soil is lifted off the unprotected fields and carried away.


I don’t doubt that someone is making money here. It’s said that old-fashioned family farms are dead and no longer viable. Still, living next door to an industrial agricultural site has been eye-opening. It’s hard to believe that these methods respect the very soil on which our lives depend.

William Bryant Logan refers to dirt as the “ecstatic skin of the earth”. Fresh water is the very fountain of life. Yet we treat water and soil as so much waste, to be discarded in our rush for money, economic ‘growth’, more of everything…except what really matters.


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On the first pleasant day that we’ve had since, well, seems like forever, a fleet of massive machinery arrived on the neighbouring corn and soy fields. They’re spreading fertilizer, sludge from the city of Ottawa. We had been notified that this would be taking place, but I was amazed by the scale of the operation.


The sludge was delivered and dumped by huge trucks. A giant yellow…(I would call it a steam shovel. This is obviously wrong and there is no steam involved, but I don’t seem to have moved on from my Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel days)…back hoe (possibly named Mary Anne) shoveled the sludge into a giant spreader behind a giant tractor.


This went on all day, with a steady stream of trucks keeping the tractors supplied. To the best of my limited knowledge, the main concern with sludge is the possible presence of potentially poisonous heavy metals. The sludge has purportedly been processed and inspected etc etc to approved standards. I’d like to think they know what they are doing because the ground water from this field drains into the little river and it is spawning season. On the whole, I don’t have a lot of confidence in they.

Looking at the awesome scale of this operation, and noting the price of gas right now, it is hardly surprising that food prices follow the cost of fuel. And gas prices have nowhere to go but up.


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