Sorry, Critics, Sustainable Farming Is Not a Myth

Small-scale agriculture provides a path toward real solutions: Joel Salatin
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Suggested by gbyrdeaux
Posted Apr 21, 2012 11:46 AM CDT
Sorry, Critics, Sustainable Farming Is Not a Myth
A pair of cows feed on a hay bale in a pasture in East Montpelier, Vt.   (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

In a recent New York Times op-ed, James McWilliams dismissed the movement toward smaller-scale, sustainable farming as ultimately unworkable in terms of logistics, and nowhere near as good for the environment as proponents suggest. In doing so, he called out one of the movement's leaders, Joel Salatin of Virginia's Polyface Farms, who writes in Grist that McWilliams' essay has "enough factual errors and skewed assumptions to fill a book."

He takes them point by point—grass-fed cows emit more methane? "Factually false"; chickens on these farms are worse for global warming? "Apparently if you lie often and big enough, some people will believe it"—and accuses McWilliams of cherry-picking facts to present a distorted view. The full rebuttal gets into the nitty gritty of things such as nutrient loops and the "biomass accumulation photosynthetic engine," but Salatin's larger point is that the nation's current food-production system is an abomination and that while operations such as Polyface may not be perfect, they are "a lot farther toward real solutions than McWilliams can imagine." Read the full essay here. (Read more sustainable living stories.)

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