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November, 2002

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Walter Goldstein, Ph.D., Research Director
Michael Fields Agricultural Institute

After an invitation from Susan Davis of Capital Missions, I asked the research Director of the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute to guest a column for us about our food in this world today.  Here is what he had to say.

Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in East Troy, Wisconsin has everything to do with the importance of good food, not only at this moment, but also from
a big picture perspective for humanity in general, there are actually few more important issues than good food. Just try not eating someday. We need food to enable us to have the will forces we need to do and unfold our lives, even to think straight, and to stay healthy. Good food is probably the backbone and key to a healthy
future development for all of us and for our civilization.

However, since the 1950's we have adopted industrial agriculture with the unspoken mindset of "bigger and cheaper is better." Food became a lowest common denominator; the single goal became to produce it as
cheaply and efficiently as possible. Meat is meat; a carrot is a carrot; an egg is an egg, irrespective of how they are raised.

This way of thinking may have some benefits but also some unwanted consequences:  Industrial agriculture considers it efficient to support simple, exploitive crop rotations like corn and soybeans, and to separate the
production of animals from the land. The result is a decrease in the amounts of young, high quality organic matter that are fed back to our soils. Thereby the life and quality of the soil are reduced. The soils lose their crumbly structure and they erode. Because the soils also become tight and compacted, roots become unhealthy and there are epidemics of root disease. Industrial farming considers it efficient to use chemical fertilizers and pesticides to maintain crop yields under these conditions; but these inputs become pollutants and begin to kill our ponds, rivers, and oceans as well as to contaminate our drinking

There has been a reduction in the nutritional quality and taste of our vegetables, fruit, and grains since the middle of the last century. Crops have been bred mainly to produce large yields under chemical inputs. Taste and nutritional value were neglected and they decreased.

Animals have been kept under factory conditions that do not allow them to lead lives with normal behavior. They have also been bred for fast growth sometimes to the point that they are living monstrosities. For example: a male turkey would crush a turkey hen if he mated with her
because he is too heavy. He has been bred to have too much breast meat. Besides he would have a heart attack because his heart is too small to support such excitement. Therefore, all modern turkey hens have to be artificially inseminated. Our animals are also fed unnatural diets that
leave them subclinically ill. They are routinely fed antibiotics to ensure maximum gain and just to keep them alive. They also have lost basic instincts. Hens and ducks no longer know how to hatch out eggs, lambs and calves lose the instinct to suckle, cows even lose the instinct to graze and browse.

We eat all that. Is it a surprise that there has been an increase in degenerative diseases for us humans, including cancer, diabetes, heart problems, obesity, autoimmune diseases and a reduction in fertility? Much of this has been linked to a diet that includes synthetic foods and
animal products and crops that are raised unnaturally.

Finally I might add that there has been a decrease in the number of farmers but an increase in the average age of those that are left. Increasingly, there is a future in conventional farming, but only for a few. Farmers perceive agriculture as a cannibalistic machine that ends up consuming them. They become cynical in the belief that consumers only want the cheapest food, not caring about quality and the real price of production.

These problems face all of us. We cannot really run away from them. At Michael Fields Agricultural Institute we are striving to realize a truer image of what modern farming should be and to help make creative educational solutions.

We have a hands-on program that takes a group of young people each year and helps them to learn the skills of farming and to grow organic vegetables. We also have a professional organic vegetable workshop that helps farmers to improve their methods.

Through our research and outreach we are helping farmers to manage soils, crops, and animals in an integrated, healthy way. Towards this ends we are doing research on organic matter management with 36 farmers
in three states. This research involves test-plots done with farmers in their fields. Also we have formed partnerships with scientists in the University of Wisconsin, the University of Illinois, Iowa State University and the US Dept. of Agriculture to do research at our long-term trials on our county farm on how healthy farming works. We
find an apt and growing audience of farmers that need and use the advice that comes from this research.

In addition, we have been breeding corn for quality as well as yield. Our goal is to release varieties of corn so that farmers can keep and reuse their own seed. This gives them the quality they want for feeding their animals and frees them from depending on seed from a few large
seed companies.

Finally, we are fostering real connections between farmers and consumers. We do this by running a community supported, subscription produce program with our students and also through our Urban Rural day. This urban rural day will occur this year November 8-9th and you are welcome to attend. We bring consumers together with farmers, fostering good nutrition and healthy farming. Good food only can come about when people like you find a way to connect with farmers and people like us,
and the circle is connected.

Now, I say-we are what we eat. Hair analysis proves that. We really need to consider this especially in the formative years. Children are ingesting so many chemicals that really may hurt them. You may call or visit the website for Michael Fields Agricultural Institute to plan a visit or find out about their informational programs or days to visit.

For comments, contact: Karon Gibson RN at or call 815-773-4497