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Single-Crop Fields: Mass-production gone wrong

13 Jun. 2011 Posted by Hannah Mich in single-crop fields, monoculture, agriculture, shade-grown coffee
single-crop fields, monoculture, agriculture

Have you ever known of a forest that had only one type of tree? Taking it a step further, have you ever seen any natural landscape made of just one type of plant? The answer is no because the natural landscape is made-up of hundreds of thousands of plants that developed and evolved based on survival and efficiency. Every plant has a specific and important role in the grand scheme of the natural landscape. And yet we continue to try and defy these natural ways with our single-crop fields. Why?

Early on many thought, the more land cleared the more single-crop fields could be planted each year, leading to the highest yield and greatest profits. But if they had looked a little deeper at the forests they bulldozed or burnt to the ground, they would have realized early on that it is much more complex. And the complexity of growing crops has become all too apparent throughout the years of attempting to perfect agriculture and to provide for the growing human population. Consequently, we now have land or fields that have been sucked of their nutrients, forced into supplying for humans’ undying appetite and subjected to chemicals and fertilizers engineered by humans to correct what is wrong. Natural? No. Has this stopped it from continuing to happen all over the world? No.

So why continue agriculture this way? Probably because the alternatives are still being learned about and shared, and as usual change is always slow. More importantly, agriculture is shaped by the food industry, which wants to supply cheap food for the masses -- us -- while still making astronomical profits. And we demand having easy access to vegetables and fruits year-round. Then we have our wonderful processed foods made available to us due to the development of single-crop fields of soybeans, corn and wheat. Do you like crackers, chips and frozen pizza that are cheap and ready-to-eat? This is all possible because of the single-crop fields of wheat and corn, along with government subsidies. Our demands and buying habits are how we the consumer have and continue to contribute to the viscous agricultural cycle. We are not innocent bystanders.

Although we are not innocent bystanders, we are not evil, mean or cruel either. We are trying to survive and thrive. I grew-up in a rural farming community and farming single-crop fields was and continues to be the livelihood of the community. They care deeply about their land and have pride in providing food for their family, friends and livestock. But we must take this passion that has progressed us to where we are today and use it to further improve our techniques and understanding of nature. We cannot continue to rape the land we claim to love.

The progress made with alternative farming methods is small, but far from insignificant. Crop rotation and shade-grown coffee are two alternative methods currently used to combat the problems of single-crop agriculture. Crop rotation means planting different crops either within the same year or rotating crops from year to year to replenish the nutrients in the soil and decrease erosion. Shade-grown coffee grows amongst other trees and plants, minimizing its impact on the local ecosystem and maintaining habitat for local animals.

Next time you go into the grocery store, look for products like shade-grown coffee and support agricultural change. Although we may not know the farmer growing our food, we can still make decisions as a consumer to purchase food that is produced using better agricultural standards.

Call To Action: 

Purchase shade-grown coffee
Research food companies and products
Buy from local small farmers
Avoid cheap processed food

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