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A growing number of young Americans are leaving desk jobs to farm (washingtonpost.com)
600 points by blueatlas on Nov 24, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 416 comments



We did this. My wife has a masters in microbio, and I worked at IBM on their C++ and for Fortran compilers for about 8 years (yay std::atomics). I still do remote contract work to help pay for upgrades to the farm. Would be nice to get one of my side-projects finished and start pumping out some income streams, but it's not a big rush anymore. I have a point of sale system built with React and Haskell that integrates with big payment processors, etc. that I sell to local businesses. Maybe one day i'll productize it and sell it as a package, but honestly my bills are paid and I don't feel the need to make more money than I do right now. Why take on the stress?

Why'd I switch to rural life? Quality of life. When we had kids and got a glimpse of what life would be like with daycare, two people commuting, etc, we got scared and made a plan. It's been 5 or 6 years and still enjoying selling expensive pasture fed eggs etc. I like working from home and having no childcare expenses. Everyone is happy and healthy and we have time to raise our kids.

I remember the limp office parties when we reached GA on some new release, and we'd eat cheap cake. Then I think of how we practically dance and shout at the sky in joy when we all finish digging up all the potatoes. The comparison is stark. Modern life is a dystopic hellscape from this perspective.


I grew up in a rural community where farming was basically the only industry. It's easy to talk about how awesome it is when you basically are selling insanely overpriced boutique goods (organic, free-range, etc) to yuppies who are willing to pay triple for their calories. Once enough people do this, the prices fall and you're just another farmer, scraping by.

I grew up working on farms. It's not romantic to me in any way. Being outside is nice, but there's a reason the kids doing this grew up in suburbs and cities: they have no idea what agriculture really involves when you have to achieve economies of scale to make it remotely profitable.


I also grew up on a farm... in Maine. It did instill a work ethic that I find it difficult to teach to my own children. But I always joke with people and say it is a great place to visit and a great place to be from. Not so much a great place to actually be.


> It is a great place to visit and a great place to be from. Not so much a great place to actually be.

I'll definitely echo this. I grew up on a farm / nature refuge in Australia. It's beautiful to go back to, but I could not live there again. My family hovers around the poverty line, work long, hard hours, and are completely at the mercy of the climate and other difficult to control external factors for their lively hood.

Combine this with the isolation, poor (or non-existent) community and education resources, complete void of cultural events and niche activities that require higher population densities. It's nowhere near as idyllic as most people make out.

I now live inner city. When it's nice weather I can drive an hour, go hiking, rock climbing or exploring. During day-to-day life I have everything I need within walking distance. I can live spontaneously. Myself and my partner are talking about children and I'm looking forward to raising them in a city where they can access whatever interests they like.

Once thing I will agree on though is: modern suburban life is a dystopic hellscape. It literally combines the worst of both lifestyles.


Good points, but I totally disagree about the suburbs. We live on a quiet cul de sac in a very suburban neighborhood. We’re 20 minutes from mountains, trails, beach, schools, stores, and work. It’s safe and friendly and our kids play with other kids in the street every day. Seems like a pretty sweet compromise to me, but YMMV.


To each his own. To me, the utter dependence on automobiles, the blatantly wasteful lifestyle and the oppression of HOAs feels claustrophobic, dissonant and excessive. I feel depressed when I have to battle traffic to get access to nature.


Something I never considered when I was younger was how much these things are a spectrum and that there is no bright dividing line between many of these choices.

As an example: I'm living in what's definitely the suburbs (VA Beach), but within easy walking distance of the local coffee shop, groceries, my kids school, etc.

We don't have an HOA, but know a lot of our neighbors. I have a car, but don't use it much b/c of both location and that I work from home.


What is HOA?


I believe in this context it means Home Owners Association[1].

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeowner_association


It can vary a lot, town planning goes from meticulously fine tuned for successful community, to max number of houses and fewer services for property developer profit.


hay buddy, which suburb you live ?


Meh, still better than the tourism based places. At least with a farm you're busy all year. With tourism you're under employed half the year and shooting up something to kill the time.


"shooting up something to kill the time."

I like FPS games to. ;-)


I wish I could upvote you twice. For some reason many people who have never farmed have this romantic vision of it. In reality farming is extremely hard work and requires a wide range of skills and knowledge to be successful.

If you're good at it you can make decent money but someone who's only worked desk jobs is not going to be good, at least not for a while.


Not only is it extremely hard work, but you can't ever get a break from it. There's a bunch of work that needs to be done every single day (things like milking the cows). If you're someone who likes taking vacations, just know that it becomes a lot harder when you've got a farm. Forget about travel entirely during the growing season.

Hell, I don't even have any pets because I travel frequently enough that they'd be a hassle. I can't imagine how I'd deal with an entire farm in these circumstances. I barely keep one houseplant alive as it is, not from lack of care when I'm home, but from lack of care when I'm gone.


Depends where you live, and what you farm.

In the case of e.g. cereal crops in the north, there are 4-6 months where you can do little beyond some maintenance, buying/selling equipment, planning next year's crop, etc. that means there is plenty of time for vacations. You are right that during seeding or harvest (especially), all bets for travel are off.

But, it is incorrect to imply that because you farm, you ought to kiss vacations good-bye.


Animals need taking care of every day year-round. There's very few homesteaders who don't have at least some egg-laying chickens. I have a feeling you're thinking more about industrial-scale monoculture farmers, but that's not what the linked article is talking about.


Chickens are pretty easy though. You can pay some neighborhood teenagers to take care of the flock while you’re in Aruba.


We had about 20 chickens and this is exactly what we did. Not sure why you got downvoted.


Talking about farmscale agriculture, it's hundreds of chickens at least. If it's pastured, they likely need to be moved quite often.

Chickens are likely easiest, but on a scale to produce a living for a family, I don't think any type of farming or ranching is low effort or easy to step away from.


I bet most people don't know chickens need light to lay eggs, their egg laying will slow down as the days grow shorter. Plus they will kill each other if even the slightest bit of blood appears. And the smell oh the smell!


This problems improve if given enough space and aren't crowded


We have hundreds of chickens most years now, and yea the neighbours can take care of them for a week or two. The biggest thing that keeps us from traveling in the summer is our "garden".


When I was a child we had some chickens. The most difficult part was keeping them safe outside dogs, cats kill them for fun. Foxes and other wild animals tend to really like them for lunch.


We learned the hard way that pigs also like to kill chickens for fun. Although it's possible this behavior was unique to our pig.


> I have a feeling you're thinking more about industrial-scale monoculture farmers

That seems to be what the article is about. The first case study is a vegetable farm, without any hint that they produce anything else. They are also industrial-scale, else they would be considered gardeners, not farmers.


Not just hard work but dangerous. So many people including children have been killed or maimed working on farms. What makes it is farms are all family operation not some factory.

Farming must be the last industry in the western world that has children working in it and it's seen as OK.


I can't upvote this enough. There are aspects of agribusiness that are great (built in gym, outdoors, teaching work ethic to children, etc.) but there are other aspects like all the "vendors" you work with (seed supplier, livestock feed supplier, equipment companies, etc.) all sell to you (the farmer) at retail prices but you ALWAYS sell at wholesale. They set their prices to the market, you take what the market gives you. Unless you can be Cargil or ADM, prepare to scrape by.


grass is greener.

Kids in isolated tribes or areas are running away from their parents lifestyle as fast as possible. They don't see the beauty in the old ways and are unable to see the lies in modern cities, too much shiny.

Surely nothing is perfect but modern society has reached a point of diminishing returns IMO. Somatic and mental health issues, absurd jobs, absurd structures influenced by remote financial games; etc etc

Whenever I see some guy that bought a piece of land and fixed an old barn I get dreams. All I'd need a bit more mileage in ceramics and electronics so I can get just enough modern science, the rest is already there.


I grew up in a small rural shithole. I don't share the same positive outlook you see. What did I see? I saw poverty. I saw far too much land not bringing enough money into the area to even sustain it. Schools struggled because they didn't have money, businesses suffered because nobody had money, the lack of businesses meant a lack of work. In fact, entire sectors of the economy up there don't exist. As I was coming of age, I realized I was pretty good at solving problems, working with logic, and writing code. The problem? The one software development job for hundreds of miles paid $9/hour. There is no money in the small towns. In fact, even now that small rural town is heavily subsidized by the one or two metro areas in the state.

If an area can't bring in the tax dollars and other money to run the local economy, it degrades. When the only influx of anything is welfare dollars, how is that a beautiful way? It wasn't beautiful sixty years ago either. Stories of my parent's generation are similar stories of poverty and struggle and the occasional running away to live an almost comfortable life closer to the city. The "work ethic" often lauded by those who pine for these times seems to be the willingness to work far too much for far too little.


> Once enough people do this, the prices fall and you're just another farmer, scraping by.

You’re assuming that the bulk of the market always has to be cheap commodity goods. But the idea behind the artisanal movement is that both sides of the market will change. More small producers will produce more high quality goods and more consumers will pay high prices to buy them. Both sides need to grow in synchrony.

Maybe you can argue the dominance of low quality commodity foods is inevitable. I’d love to see that argument.


There is a huge number of people who can barely afford to buy cheap food now, let alone expensive "artisanal" food.


There is a huge number of people who can barely afford to buy cheap laptops now, let alone expensive MacBooks.

Doesn’t change the fact that Apple is the most profitable firm.


It's also a matter of priorities, I'm currently "poor" by the definition of the (western) country I live in, but can afford quality food by choosing to prioritize it.


There's also a huge number of people (myself included) who can afford (and do afford) to buy expensive quality stuff.

I don't hold it against science and bio-tech for bringing high yield and disease resistant crops to market; that shit will help us feed the whole planet economically. Doesn't mean I can't also enjoy organic, non-altered food in my own home. I get annoyed with this attitude so many people have about these things, that somehow we can either feed the whole planet economically or have ritzy well-to-do people buy organic kale. We can do both very easily.


The idea is that those people become producers of high margin goods too, and then they can afford to buy high margin goods themselves.


I grew up working on farms. It's not romantic to me in any way. Being outside is nice, but there's a reason the kids doing this grew up in suburbs and cities: they have no idea what agriculture really involves when you have to achieve economies of scale to make it remotely profitable.

I suspect it's a "the grass is always greener in the neighbour's lawn... or in this case pasture" effect.


Beeing outside for long stretches might sound healthy, but at the end of day gives you skin-cancer. Source of Information: Scar over my eye, where the doctor cut out the summers harvest of pesticide resistant weeds in uv-rays.


Skin cancer is generally much easier to treat though than all the other internal cancers people can get from vitamin D deficiency... Also, something to think about: http://dermatologytimes.modernmedicine.com/dermatology-times... "Researchers at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) have revealed that they are finding more instances of melanoma in office workers than people who work outdoors..."


I might have missed it from just quickly looking at that source, but what do they think is causing this increase of melanoma in office workers?


From other things I've read, probably vitamin D deficiency form lack of sunlight is a factor. Of course, there can be too much of a good thing too...

Intermittent sun exposure has also been blamed rather than frequent to promote tanning.

Lack of exercise and stress from indoor jobs may play a part as well in increased cancer risk in general.


Well yeah- the truism that a hobby turned into a livelihood makes it less fun applies to everything. Coders talk about it all of the time.


But in the long term, even local farming is probably a better idea than the current debt-based economy that depends on imported goods from for example China, especially when even central farming with long distance shipping of foods has its costs.


the farm in my family indirectly exports some crops to China (as in crops go to a port which takes them to China): the import/export relationship is not one-way. it (China) is a large country by population, and while that's got to be one of the factors driving economic growth --- steel industry and various forms of tech and manufacturing (rise of ODMs, etc.) --- now that the government is increasingly (indirectly) opting into the IMF, there are also a lot of people to feed.

debt can be viewed as another word for "relationship."

and it's cool in some ways, yet in other ways kind of a shame: debt from the United States is, to some degree, buying into the military-industrial complex. valuing China's money is, in part, condescending to a rather selective perspective on human rights. hopefully the guanxi flows to the best in each rather than the worst.

i don't pretend to understand the international economy. however, with the sort of logistics enabled by modern communications technology, i suspect that it's a lot more feasible to completely pack one large barge with a variety of goods than it used to be, making for lower-cost shipping than one might expect.


I am talking about all goods not just food, and not claiming there are zero exports either. And yes, part of the reason we got off the gold standard was military spending. Even now I like to mention that the more NSA/FBI spends, the more money is printed using government debt.


My mom’s family were Dust Bowl refugees, and my grandfather had to hustle to not starve to death.

On a lighter note, check out this Canadian using a large backyard as a profitable farm: https://youtu.be/KO-OuqbR3EE

Here’s also a working Swedish homestead/farm (that’s being threated by the uncertainty of oil/mineral extraction): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7GkLSNBmds1DZit_oHk-Fg


If I did it someday I wouldn't be thinking about making money, just being self-sufficient and growing enough food for me and my family. If I could sell some that's great but that's not the objective.


Where will you get clothing, gas, spare parts, school supplies, internet/phone connection, healthcare? There's more to self-sufficiency than eating.


My guess would be to be independently wealthy at that point.


> Once enough people do this, the prices fall and you're just another farmer, scraping by

I suspect these individuals will find something new to popularise and produce at high margin.


> they have no idea what agriculture really involves

Well, no. They have no idea what it involves for that type of scale, but to say they have no idea at all (about their operating scale) seems to just show your hurt feelings about growing up that way.


> It's easy to talk about how awesome it is when you basically are selling insanely overpriced boutique goods (organic, free-range, etc) to yuppies who are willing to pay triple for their calories.

Most of the hipster microgreen crowd aren't even making their money that way, they are making it by scamming other hipsters into trying to do that by acting like anyone can make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year selling $10/pound lettuce to hipster restaurants. There's obviously a very limited number of restaurants in the "overcharge people for local food" market to sell to. But you don't need to do that crap. You can sell normal vegetables for a normal price to normal people and make a perfectly reasonable living.

>Once enough people do this, the prices fall and you're just another farmer, scraping by.

The reason most farms are "scraping by" is the same reason most restaurants fail, and most programmers can't handle fizzbuzz. Most people are simply incompetent, regardless of their occupation. Every farmer I see complaining about money is wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars. Most of them are driving around in $80,000 pickup trucks while complaining about how poor they are.

>Being outside is nice, but there's a reason the kids doing this grew up in suburbs and cities: they have no idea what agriculture really involves when you have to achieve economies of scale to make it remotely profitable.

You don't have to achieve economies of scale to be remotely profitable. Not every farm has to be a corn+soybean rotation.


>"Most of the hipster microgreen crowd aren't even making their money that way, they are making it by scamming other hipsters into trying to do that by acting like anyone can make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year selling $10/pound lettuce to hipster restaurants."

Can you elaborate on this? What exactly is the scam? How does the scam work?


There are lots of youtube channels (and similar) promoting this idea. These channels can generate a lot of ad revenue for their creators. I'm assuming that's what they're referring to.


Unless they’re among the top 500 YouTubers I bet they make more selling fresh basil than YouTube ads.


I would disagree with this, my small YouTube channel ( https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6WpEeF48A7r032N486j1cQ ) generates a couple hundred a week at which point I rotate videos for newer fresh ones. And this channel is literally about saving money by buying things at thrift stores.


You've only got a few hundred views in total on all of your videos; how could you possibly be generating a couple hundred dollars per week?


> I like working from home and having no childcare expenses.

I worry that with a young child, we'd still have childcare expenses - except that instead of paying with money, we'd be paying with our time.

My wife and I discovered, like many parents probably do, that raising a child is fucking hard. We love her, we wouldn't trade her for the world, and it's fun, but it's the kind of fun you have while camping, or hiking, or sparring. It's fun, but it's exhausting, and we would both be complete wrecks if we had to do it full-time.


You’re doing a specific high intensity form of childcare. There are lower intensity approaches. When full time child care was the norm, parents didn’t fuss over their kids. “Is she dying or soaking in shit/piss? Ok, then she’s fine for an hour”


But even with a minimal approach, I still wouldn't be able to work from home with any level of effectiveness, because at some point she would be soaked in shit and piss, or would need something, or would be about to injure herself. Kids need some minimal amount of supervision below a certain age.


None of this would really be a problem if the economic system actually worked. If people actually made enough to afford FT care of their children and home stay for the very early years then the economy would seriously employ many more people. But instead people have to essentially win the economic lottery.


I am very much in favor of large, generous subsidies to new parents. For many people, having a child effectively means their ejection from the workforce for a decade.


> worry that with a young child, we'd still have childcare expenses - except that instead of paying with money, we'd be paying with our time.

Yes, that's called raising a child...


> I worry that with a young child, we'd still have childcare expenses - except that instead of paying with money, we'd be paying with our time.

You don't pay income tax on your time. That's the advantage of doing yourself what you would otherwise pay for with after-tax income.


I imagine raising a child on a farm is much different from raising a child in a city.


My FiL was a farmer. He farmed 88 acres in NE Indiana. He raised chickens, eventually 40,000 at a time.

The work was hard beyond belief. To make the farm pay, he bought used farm equipment from farmers who failed, built his own buildings, mixed his own feed, and did well in marketing to find buyers.

He used USDA Extension advice and research on chicken breeding, nutrition, and disease control. When he started, progress in these three made chicken raising suddenly a hot field. But eventually the business mostly moved to the US South with warmer winters and cheaper labor.

He then was able to get a good job in the local county seat: He became the head of the local Rural Electric Membership Cooperative (REMC). In part he got that job because he was respected in the community from his participation in the church, the Bank BoD, Lions, the school board, etc.

For the land, he leased that year by year to someone with good, large scale equipment farming 1000 or so leased acres.

At one time, 90+% of the US population lived on farms. Now it's 10-%. Farmer productivity has made fantastic gains.

So, now, it's tough to make much money farming. One approach is specialized products for high end markets, maybe pheasants, ducks, goat cheese, mushrooms, etc.

There's a lot nice about farm living, but life can be nearly as nice in rural areas still near a town and with work not in farming. A good Internet connection can eliminate some of the effects of a lot of geographic distances.


Here's a question about adjustment to rural life, because I have been daydreaming about this for a long time: Are you now isolated from existing friends and family? That's really my one big worry.

I'm super burned out on software, and currently facing all the same concerns it sounds like you did before, it just frightens me the idea of being further removed (geographically) from the few family and friends we have left.


Maybe I can shine some light on the adjustment, as I have quite some experience with moving and living in small towns.

I did lose a great many friends whenever I moved from one place to another. Usually meeting up once-twice a month keeps the thread alive, but closest people will stay in touch online probably forever.

That being said, if you put some work into it, you will find new friends. This requires a mindset of getting involved in any open event that you're even slightly interested in. The bigger the town, the easier it seems to come across those.

In the other hand, talking to neighbors is easier when there's no one else around. I have an impression this creates a tighter knit community, where you can find new long-term friends.

This would probably happen in my case if I didn't relocate again :)


Thanks, that's interesting. I have moved around a lot, so I'm used to adjustments there, I'm just concerned with moving to a small rural town here in Texas and being 3-4 hours away from the few friends family we do have left.


my guess is that it depends on what kind of person you are and how good you are about keeping in touch. your mileage will vary. if you live like you essentially died instead of simply moved, then you'll have no friends. but if you invite friends over and actually make it a priority to meet up at least once every X weeks/months, then i'm sure you'll be fine


We are lucky to have lots of family on the farm here with us, so it was actually a bit of an upgrade in terms of family connections. It's multi-generational. Leaving friends behind was the biggest adjustment. That and Toronto food/music are the biggest adjustments for us.


Good for y'all. I am very envious. Maybe one day.


> Why take on the stress?

As a precaution against hitting a bad spell. Money in the bank is an excellent anti-dote against all kinds of mishaps.


Many things wrong with this:

1. Is money really a precaution? Why is money in the bank guaranteed safety from a bad spell? Can't the government take everything but 100k if they need to?

2. Why isn't having food production on site considered guaranteed safety against a bad spell? Between our savings and the food production on site we could survive in place for a decade. When we lived in a place-in-the-city working two jobs with all of our assets in a (few) mortgages we were two or three paycheques (or a bad tenant) away from losing everything. The bank had a lien on all of our assets, even though we were nominally a 1%er.

3. What can money really fix in a bad-spell? I mean, can you buy skills? Can you buy relationships? Those things have to be made. Nevermind that if the bad spell is actually bad for more than just you, money might not have the same value as it does.

But I will grant that money does have a lot of benefits too, which is why:

4. I have money in the bank... I mean, why are they mutually exclusive for you?


Yes, you are looking at it from multiple wrong angles.

1. Yes, it is. Government will not take the money (and I don't buy any "omg inflation" arguments, since last crisis has actually in effect reduced inflation everywhere) and even if it does - if you cannot live through bad spell on 100k you have a problem.

2. Sounds like bad reserve managment i.e. missing "money in the bank". I haven't heard anyone recommending to go for mortgage with less than 6months reserve. And you had multiple mortgages with "two or three paycheques" in reserve? Seriously?

3. Money can almost always provide time (to heal, get a job, opportunity to choose less well paid job with more / flexible free time etc.), which can (for most people) be converted to relationships / skills. If you cannot make friends / learn new things given enough time, once again you have a problem.

4. > but honestly my bills are paid and I don't feel the need to make more money than I do right now. Why take on the stress?

Does not sound like you have money in the bank. Especially considering the tiny reserve (two or three paychecks is really ridiculously small, especially when you have multiple mortgages).


1. You've got some reading to do about how banks are going to deal with bank failures after the fiascos of 2008. start with: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/bailin.asp

2. You're right, which is part of why we bailed on the situation while the real-estate market supported our exit and converting the assets into something real.

3. the time it buys you depends on it's value.

4. Zero mortgages right now actually. you're not a careful reader.


So you started in 2011-2012. What happens when the next downturn comes and people stop buying "expensive pasture fed eggs etc"?

This is my fear about doing something like this. Boutique farming seems like it would similar to the oil industry in how especially sensitive it is to economic cyclicality. Having spent the past 5+ years farming surely complicates the process of getting a job in tech during a contraction.


Not worried about it. First, we're not really "boutique". We don't dress anything up. It's all used machines and old bags. We charge more because that's our real cost plus a small profit...

I figure thing happening in food right now is not so much a trend. Food prices are artificially low by historical measures. As the subsidies granted by cheap oil-based fertilizers goes away and diesel-powered harvesting starts to be less cost-competitive, the prices will go back to historical norms. People want the industrial system to stop cutting the corners they have been (believe me they tell us) so we make profit from those who are ahead of the curve.

The way I look at it: normal food has been getting more expensive over the past 100 years and is now considered "boutique" by some. There has been a fad in cheap food that is starting to wind up as it is no longer possible to maintain. It's time to get in front of that before your food costs rise. More importantly it's time to start teaching kids how to do it too as they're going to really be in the post-climate-change world where viable solar-powered food is the most valuable thing to have a startup in.


Yeah, I spend each winter contracting for funded startups and the vision of new tractor implement or some new gizmo makes it easier to work on the stuff.

I guess the big part of better lifestyle is just giving up on ambitions. You know that you are not building next billion dollar company and you also know that you are not going to buy new BMW every year anyway so there is no pressure in keeping with Jones.


You don't actually have to become a farmer to adopt the latter viewpoint and reap all the resulting life benefits.


True. I live a minimalist lifestyle by design but I don't live on a farm or anything. Unless your main source of pleasure is having the nicest car, newest gadgets, various status symbols, etc, then you can trade your labor hours towards those things in for more time doing what you really enjoy.


>Modern life is a dystopic hellscape from this perspective.

Amen, brother.


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I would imagine rural high school would be a hellscape of a different sort.


I look back at it pretty fondly. School in the country was basically all of the people from the town meeting up every day to joke around and learn stuff.

We had excellent facilities, it always felt safe, and after school we roamed the town and bits of nature on our bicycles. I had like 6 tree houses I could visit, jump around tall hay bail forts, we even once dug a bunker on someones paddock next to the cemetery. The beach was no more than four streets away no matter where you were in the town, and you always had friends and family around the corner.

I am glad I left at 17, because once you have gone through school ambition takes you out into the greater world to explore. But I would never want to have grown up in the city.

Most of the benefits of the city are really only enjoyed once you are an adult anyway.

Perhaps rural towns are different now, I haven't been back since I left.


I went to a rural high school from 2008-2012. It was hideously underfunded, and if it wasn't for enormous effort from underpaid, overworked teachers putting their sweat, blood, and heart into everything they did, nobody would have learned anything. The school struggled to heat the building in the winter, which seems okay except this far north, "winter" is really 90% of the school year. If you were even slightly different from the "norm" normal school days were hell. Out of 150 students who entered my year as freshman, 95 walked during graduation.

The fact that there are so few people means it's incredibly hard to share interests, and because you live in a rural shithole, the only interests people have are: drinking, drugs, driving around in the mud, and making fun of "different" people.

While I appreciate "small towns" allow you to "know everybody", that has it's own downside in the complete inability to have any privacy. I also hate thinking about all the possible opportunities I missed from growing up in a poor rural environment.


I live in the city but grew up in the country too (minus the beach, although I have lived near once), I would definitely want that for my kids, the city isn't kid friendly.

The problem is, as an adult, you don't want to leave the city with all it's cultural charms.


>cultural charms.

I believe you misspelled "opportunities for acquiring wealth" ;)


It's great if you're white and a boy, and straight.


I came to say something similar. I can even expand this - it isn't so bad being a straight white girl either. The main thing is that you need to be a pretty average person. Most small towns this basically says you are white, straight, fairly traditionally minded and christian.

Being an outcast in a high school with a population of less than 400 isn't easy because most folks know everyone else.


> but honestly my bills are paid and I don't feel the need to make more money than I do right now. Why take on the stress?

What is the retirement plan for a farmer?


Sell the farm. I have friends in farming. The ones who own farms will do pretty well in retirement. The ones who farm rented land have to combine farming with any other source of income that they can scrape up. One of them farms, drives trucks, and is a moderately successful bandleader. His dad is in his 80s, and still works on the farm.


> Maybe one day i'll productize it and sell it as a package, but honestly my bills are paid and I don't feel the need to make more money than I do right now. Why take on the stress?

I really admire that you made something "useful" with Haskell! When you say you're making enough does that include savings for retirement? That's my biggest worry as someone who just started saving for retirement (I'm 27).


[flagged]


Yes, because wordpress is useless and snap is a hugely popular web framework.


This. I agree 100% that modern life is not as great as everyone thinks it is. Just getting outside and hiking was enough to convince me.


Hiking and camping can be part of a modern life. It is for me.


> Modern life is a dystopic hellscape from this perspective

Hellscape, yes, but that hellscape also has funded your farm and that is something that I'd keep in mind. It is pretty big luxury to be able to (financially) go and live on the countryside, doing farming more as a lifestyle rather than means to livelihood.


I think this is a hugely important point. The article highlights some of the systematic hurdles facing would-be farmers, including the cost of land and student loan payments. However, it also highlights some possible solutions.

This is a throwaway point in the article, but I think it's key to imagining a food system and economy that can support this kind of farm:

> Young farmers are also creating their own “food hubs,” allowing them to store, process and market food collectively, and supply grocery and restaurant chains at a price competitive with national suppliers.

Sure, monetary wealth from corporate desk jobs may be necessary to fund farms right now, but small farmers have a lot more power to shape our food system when they band together. Agricultural cooperatives have a long history in the United States [0] and may have a role to play in keeping the new crop of small farmers in business.

[0] http://www.uwcc.wisc.edu/whatisacoop/History/#Development_in...


True, and it's also not for everyone. Maybe things will change when I'm older but speaking from my perspective, I was born and raised in a dense suburb, moved to the countryside because my folks grew up in the country and wanted to leave the dense suburb/corporate dystopia or what have you. Its just not for me, I'm a city boy. I like being close to other people. I feel comfortable with busy areas (like a downtown district or a beach). My teenage years spent on a 1.5 acre lot was filled with lots of manual labor (help build a retaining wall, care for horses and other livestock) so in my mind I see living in a metropolitan area as an easier life.

That's not to say I don't appreciate the outdoors and nature, I do immensely. I just think the whole 'gotta get away from it all' attitude is interesting because it's the exact opposite for me, what I guess could be described as the 'feeling of missing out'.


I grew up in a dense city, and feel the same way. Currently work in a suburb and live in SF, and I especially enjoy the close proximity to lots of people. That said it is nice to spend some time outdoors and walk the soil barefoot!

It's a personal choice, do what works for you.


Also don't forget that without the 'hellscape' that pays for the expensive pasture fed eggs (and other things), they may not have such a cushy income to sustain a countryside life. I always consider what happens when everyone switches to this lifestyle. Unless and otherwise we have robots who can go work at the factories that build everything from a tractor to a cellphone, other people have to live in the 'hellscape'


It's a point of view. To some coding all day is a hellscape, to others managing a network, to others managing a business. I don't think we have to worry about people flocking to the countryside, especially with technology like LED grow lights which were not possible 4 years ago and other technologies which make it possible, maybe even efficient, to run a small garden in an apartment.

Check this article out, it touches on how efficient farming can be, and I think it could be applied in a smaller scale.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2017/09/holland-...


I disagree with your sentiment. Rural living and small-scale farming can be very inexpensive compared to city living, and easily supported by a remote tech worker salary or the part-time work clord mentions. Yes you need capital to get started, but this can be much less than buying a house in an urban area. I think the tech industry would be a much better place if more people chose to work remotely to improve their quality of life.


You can say that again. Cities are, for the most part, where humanity (i.e., compassion and community) goes to die. I’m seriously contemplating migrating someplace where people aren’t 80% deplorable jerks, like suburban Oregon or New Mexico.

Plus, all of the learned helplessness and ostensibly “incapable,” self-absorbed bullshit job people whom are disconnected from anything but a narrow specialty of bullshit... if food prices spiked for any reason, they’re boned.


Oddly enough, cities are where I have found actual compassion andd community. Small towns and villages are stratified horrors, where being different from their norm is penalised.


  > Then I think of how we practically dance and shout at the
  > sky in joy when we all finish digging up all the potatoes.
I grew up on the small farm. Got to deal with pigs, cows, patatoes and hay. Do not miss it at all. What's more I used to want to have a houe in the countryside. Then somehow that desire completely wanished.


It may return with time.


I am doing pretty much the same. I am currently an engineering student, working part-time as a programmer. Although the job market for programmers is excellent in Europe, I bought an apple orchard (via loan) pretty close to the capital of the country where I live. Due to the proximity of the capital city, I can sell my product at a decent price and earn more than an average senior dev here. I also enjoy being outside and collaborate IT with agriculture. I am planning on purchasing drones to calculate NDVI and other useful stuff. People working 160 hours a month at a desk requires nature, peace. They love my U-pick programme as the venue is beautiful and close to the capital (less than 15km).


> I am planning on purchasing drones to calculate NDVI and other useful stuff

As someone who works at a company that uses Drones to do NDVI, look into EVI. And getting a proper calibration plate, or a light sensor you understand, will allow you to make the results much more accurate.


thanks, I looked at NDWI too http://openweathermap.org/news/post/ndvi-ndwi-differences-an... "NDWI in comparison with NDVI is more accurate indicator of plant humidity. NDWI is calculated with the help of water absorption band which is more closely connected with moisture than chlorophyll whose light-absorbing properties are used in calculation of NDVI. "

I'm not familiar with EVI


Granted I'm just a software developer, we have a whole processing team of GIS people that can go into more detail. And we are focused on vineyards.

Here's a blog post we made to explain the difference, the jist is NDVI can change throughout the day while EVI is more stable: https://skysquirrel.ca/2017/07/evi-vs-ndvi-whats-difference/


Thank you guys I will check out the linked sites; I haven't purchased the drone yet. I do not want to spend, too much (1-2k in €) so maybe I will use a service instead. I am pretty familiar with GIS, and I use it on a regular basis for the orchard (I am experimenting with almond as we have a warmer microclimate here in the valley).


here's a paper looking at which indexes work with corn, wheat and irrigation water, it's very likely each crop will have an index that is more accurate;

"The following spectral indices were examined: Difference Vegetation Index (DVI), Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI), Difference Water Index (DWI), Normalized Difference Water Index (NDWI), Difference Drought Index (DDI) and Normalized Difference Drought Index (NDDI). "

https://www.degruyter.com/downloadpdf/j/jengeo.2015.8.issue-...


> I am planning on purchasing drones to calculate NDVI and other useful stuff.

Have you toyed already with Sentinel-2 NDVI? There's a free API: https://scihub.copernicus.eu/twiki/do/view/SciHubWebPortal/A...

It would be interesting for instance to have a cron job warn you if the values get too low, etc.


Thank you, I will check it out.


Are there good spots in Europe? I was in Belgium and wasn't satisfied (too corporate jobs or underpaid jobs) so I moved to the US and now can afford on one salary an apartment near Venice Beach in LA, CA with my wife and two kids whule having a family life. Living on one salary, even just with my wife at the time, was impossible in Belgium.


> Living on one salary, even just with my wife at the time, was impossible in Belgium.

Although tech in Belgium isn't as well paid/rockstar-ish as the rest of Western Europe, that's a bit much.

Where were you living, what were you earning?


This is great and I'm planning to do the same. Currently working as a software programmer but figured I can move to a tropical country and have a higher quality of rural life. However I don't know how to get started on using computer assisted agriculture to grow sweet potatoes. Do you have any recommendations of courses or resources that can help get started?


I have an agricultural engineering BSc, too. So it was not a big transition for me. My family helps me a lot since I am studying and also having a job. I work a lot; my life is always in a hurry. Maybe paying for a consultant is the best way if you do not know how to start.


160 hours a month?

I remember having a part time job.

All kidding aside, I can tell you aren’t American based on that statement alone.


Unless you're a founder you shouldn't be working more than your employer pays you for, eg 40 hours.


How strong is the overworking culture in America? It's pretty strong here, but not too bad.


They once let me go home to sleep, but then I got called back for a hot fix.


We aimed to have two deploy brackets, Monday morning and Wednesday morning. If it is broken we roll back, fix it properly, redeploy at midday. If it can't be fixed in a day then it's properly broken and probably shouldn't have made it to release.

I worked at that agency for four years and did perhaps two weekends of overtime. Bliss. It can be done, and in an agency environment with client expectations.


It depends. If you've got a "throwaway skill-set" and they can hire any random CS grad to replace you after a month of training you had better answer your phone when they call at 2am. If you're time consuming and expensive to replace then feel free to put your phone on vibrate before you go to sleep.


Never stated that I am American^^ Up to your profession but 8 hour is the standard here.


Do you have a blog or something with more details? I have a dream of doing something similar, although growing vegetables, and would like to know more. My email address is in my profile if you don’t want to make it public.



Hello, Here at Open Agriculture Supply (https://www.openagriculturesupply.com/) we are a company working at the intersection of technology and agriculture, using the Open Agriculture Platform from MiT to deliver the next generation of Food Production, Agricultural, and Agtech products to reality. Given your unique background in both software development and agriculture we would love to work with you to help develop and refine our own products as well as support you with any potential needs, ideas, and development activities you may have in mind. Please contact us at info@openagriculturesupply.com if you would like to talk further. Happy Farming!


That's so cool and really inspiring to me! Do you have a blog or anything?


Yes, but mostly about tech stuff. I have just started the orchard thing, so it has been my first year. I will consider posting agriculturally related articles shortly. If it becomes actual, I will leave the URL here.


How long do you estimate it will take you to pay back the loan?


I could pay back in 5-6 years at the current pace. But the loan is long-term (10 years) designed for farmers.


You should blog about it, haven't seen something like that before.


I will consider posting agriculturally related articles shortly. If it becomes actual, I will leave the URL here.


Which country? I'd love to pop by the orchard!


Hungary, send me a PM next autumn, and I will be glad to have you here.


Is this in Germany where the CAP supports small scale hobby farming in order to buy the faming vote ?


Farming is no way to make a living. I'm glad that these people are finding success, but I come from a farming community and family and for decades farming has only been affordable if you also had another full-time job. Although microfarms for trendy produce might not be so bad.


You're right, most farming is a race to the bottom; more crops and produce for lower prices has been the goal for years. This article however is more about exclusively-priced artisan goods, probably even without an intermediate party / wholesale. I can imagine that, as long as the economy stays good, some people can make a decent living with that. But it really depends on, on the one hand, how long they can do it with minimal overhead (like wholesale), and on the other hand how long people are willing to pay a premium for organic / local produce.


As someone with first hand experience or exposure, what do you think are main reasons?

I'm still amazed at how cheap food is in the U.S. (though quality just isn't there for the most part).


Not a farmer, but it's hard manual labor to produce a commodity product, competing against mega-conglomerates with endless capital, robotized everything, and economies of scale for days. Water rights are hard to come by, actual water is vanishing, and airable land is getting ever more expensive. Many farmers farm plants that can't be propagated (Monsanto). Soils have been mismanaged for decades, insects & weeds are constantly developing pesticide & herbicide resistance.

Basically, talk to a knowledgeable farmer and you'll learn about a whole new world of struggles. Just about the only upside is increasing interest in local and/or organic products.


It varies with whatever you're trying to produce, but the biggest problem is that family farmers are being displaced by larger farms mostly because of economies of scale. The only thing left (at least, where I'm from) that family farms can do alright by is beef, and the reason is that you can't just stick a calf in a feedlot for its entire life like you can with chickens or hogs, so there's not as much room for economies of scale.

Farming has been a race to the bottom for a long time, and this is welcomed by people who want to see cheaper food at any cost. I'm sympathetic to that view, but when I watch the continued erosion of rural communities based around the erosion of farming as a living, I have to think we should do something. What will happen to those people? And what will we do when (or if) we take into account the enormous environmental costs of large-scale farming? You're not going to just get those family farms back, because unless you're raised on a farm you probably won't have an interest in farming.


What do you mean by quality? Fruits and vegetables in the US tend to have much higher visual quality than elsewhere.


You are absolutely right, but that visual quality comes at a huge cost in other areas. For example, I find tomatoes in the US disgusting (and don’t tell me “oh, you need to try fresh/cherry/whatever tomatoes”, I have). They look good but taste horrible. They’ve been bred for looks and weight, not flavor.

In many places outside the US, the tomato breeds there are bred for flavor, not looks. They’re uglier, but they have a vastly higher sugar/fat/whatever content and taste much better.

https://www.vox.com/2016/2/12/10972140/fruits-vegetables-tas...


It's well known that tomatoes you buy in the store in the US are pure garbage, even among Americans.

I live in the Northeast. Around here practically every single person plants tomatoes if they have a backyard, even if they never plant any other vegetables ever. Chatting about how your tomatoes are doing and what type of tomatoes you are growing is a classic pasttime around these parts.

Of course the reason is there's nothing you can buy in the store that tastes like what you plant in your yard. I know quite a few people who don't like store tomatoes but like home-grown tomatoes.


I'm in Northeast too I'm going to miss my backyard cherry tomato until next year.

It's quite fun being able to control acidity, sweetness, texture depending on when you pick them off vine.


"They’ve been bred for looks and weight, not flavor."

Yes, and cost-effective long-haul transport-ability and long shelf-life.


To be fair, the gross tomoato issue isn't just the US. I am from Indiana, where summer tomatoes from farmer markets (or a backyard) were wonderful. Grocery store tomatoes were foamy, tasteless things.

I'm in Norway now. Same issue, only I've never found yummy summer tomatoes.


Yeah, but Norway is north of the USA. It's not possible to have local tomatoes, so ones optimised for transport should be expected.

Many US states should be able to grow tomatoes like they do in Italy.


here's an exception to that rule: san marzanos are pretty cute and they're IMHO the best tasting tomato, and they look the same in Gabicce Mare or in Sacramento.


> visual quality

When it comes to food --and specifically fruits and vegetables-- visual aspect is not a good indicator of taste or nutrition value. I would actually argue the opposite.


I would guess that the commenter who said that is making the statement that the US farming market touts visual quality because consumers look for visual quality and that is the reason for visual quality being a premium in the USA. Tomatoes being an example for this where recent years find the taste being almost absent but visual quality and uniformity of grocery store tomatoes being very high.


"Visual quality" is actually a big part of the problem. You can't optimize for visual while also optimize for taste...


Not visual quality, that's for sure :)


How is this even a question?


Can you show me a quality metric where American fruits or vegetables are consistently different compared to other countries? These are commodities, after all, so there is little differentiation. Is it visually, callorically, or nutritionally different somehow? I immediate went to visually, because one does notice this in the US compared to Latin America.

Everyone is jumping on me about tomatoes, but Europe has the same bland greenhouse tomatoes in my experience.


> Europe has the same bland greenhouse tomatoes in my experience.

Try any Mediterranean country (France is included in that btw).


> microfarms for trendy produce might not be so bad.

Yup: https://modernfarmer.com/2016/10/jm-fortier/


> Farming is no way to make a living.... Although microfarms for trendy produce might not be so bad.

You contradict yourself here. If they manage to find a niche in which they make a living, then they're doing fine. It doesn't make sense to grow corn when that portion of the market is already saturated.


I read it as "Farming is generally a tough racket, though microfarms might be an exception." Not necessarily contradictory.


Then the comment above was ambiguous at best. The tone of the parent's post was definitely criticizing the trend of people going into farming.

"Farming is no way to make a living... I come from a farming community and family and for decades farming has only been affordable if you also had another full-time job."

Here's another way of thinking of it.

"Tech is no way to make a living. I'm glad that these people are finding success, but I come from a sysadmin community and family and for decades tech has only been affordable if you also had another full-time job. Although software dev for trendy websites might not be so bad."

Tech is broad. Even though tech support and sysadmins are doing poorly, other facets of tech are doing fine, making the phrase "Tech is no way to make a living" inaccurate. Just like saying "Farming is no way to make a living" can be inaccurate if there are still parts of the market largely profitable.


I suppose it depends on how much of the market is profitable, doesn't it?


I'm also from a farming community. They're scraping by currently, with college debt... Every farmer will tell you that unless you get enough "good years" stacked away in the bank, when the inevitable "bad years" hit, you will go under. I've seen it dozens of times to young farmers starting out. If they time it right, they'll just make it. If not, the farm is in foreclosure and they're back to their 'old' jobs.


Some commentators here have difficulty of understanding how small farming can be profitable. It's relatively easy to explain.

They are not selling just the product. Just like microbreweries, small farms sell for people who want more than just a beer or lettuce. They want to distinguish themselves and buy the feeling of authentic life and values. Consumer pays more for "small farm" even if the product is not any different from neighboring farm product that is not marketing itself as "small farm".

Modern consumer marketing sells identity, lifestyle, and values. There is no reason why small farm products can't create value from association and self–identification just like Pepsi is not selling sugar water or Nike is not selling sneakers. Everything that is sold using words classic, authentic, natural, original can be more expensive for segment who wants those tings.

Traditional farmers who produce standard grain or milk in bulk quantities are selling for different market segment.


> They want to distinguish themselves and buy the feeling of authentic life and values.

More than this, I think there is a substantial portion of consumers who aren't as much attempting to distinguish themselves as they are realizing how important their dollar vote is.

Buying from a small or local farm keeps money circulating locally (ideally). When there is a community of local businesses, this becomes amplified.

It's the primary reason why the whole "farm to table" concept with restaurants caught on. By choosing to eat at a diner that gets their eggs from a local farm, rather than, say, buying a breakfast sandwich from McDonalds, you're not only supporting the local restaurant, but also the local farmer.

So while there is certainly an appeal (not exclusively, either) to purchasing something labeled as classic, authentic, natural or original, there's a less selfish reasoning tied to the root of it.

An interesting part of this is the way primarily Liberal-metro local/organic movements have been ignored as a common ground, and even mocked as purely an aesthetic, by the "anti-globalists".


Questions to someone with more economics knowledge than me:

I understand the sentiment and intuitive reasoning behind this argument (I find myself thinking it every week when I go to the local farmers' market!), but is there evidence that "buying local" actually increases the local standard of living?

And a followup: if it does increase the local standard of living, would this behavior, if duplicated in all communities in the world, increase the average standard of living in the world?

Some conflicting (and probably all wrong) intuitions I have for different sides of these questions:

Pro local:

The notion of keeping money circulating locally makes sense. If money is a sort of proxy for productivity, then money leaving the community is productivity leaving the community.

Anti local:

If I pay more for Local Larry's eggs and Down-the-road Dave's cabbage (etc.), then to maintain my standard of living at a constant level, I have to charge more for whatever service I provide the community. And recursively, everyone else has to as well. It seems like, at best, we just wind up at the same standard of living we started at (and at worst, lower).

Pro local:

If money is a proxy for productivity, and buying non-local means trading productivity to some large corporation in exchange for some good or service, and that corporation will disproportionately funnel that money to the already-wealthy who can afford to save that money (productivity) for a rainy day, then we have effectively contributed to removing productivity from the economy.


It only intuitively makes sense -- there are quite a few assumptions. The local product is typically more expensive because it's production is less efficient (if it wasn't, it would just compete with the non-local product at regular market conditions). Being less efficient means using more inputs per output, so what is the local farmers inputs, and -- crucially -- where are those inputs made? Is he using his not-locally-made tractor less efficiently? Is he paying a mortgage to a non-local financial institution? Is he sourcing his feed, seeds, fertilizer, fuel etc locally? And of his profit, how much of it is he spending locally?

These are difficult numbers to work out exactly, but it's not difficult to see that they have to be in a pretty thigh range for your local-premium to actually, on the net, drain resources from the community, compared to you just eating cheaper meals a bit more frequently. The main type of input that most obviously support the local community is labor, and most modern products, particularly agriculturally, are rather light on labor, so you might end up supporting one job at the farm in favor of three jobs at the diner. Especially if the farm-job is held by a "highly educated, ex-urban, first-time farmer" and the diner-jobs by single moms, it's getting morally quite dubious.

But to wrap this up, local to non-local is rarely apples to apples. Just as with organic, there's probably a very substantial overlap with meeting a demand for products that are simply better (and thus more expensive), with the nominal quality (local, organic) actually being secondary.


> The local product is typically more expensive because it's production is less efficient

I agree with the gist of what you're saying, but I think you're leaving out some details.

We know that other non-local products can be made cheaper because they are in localities that are lax on labor laws and environmental protection.

So the notion that it's simply about efficiency is in my opinion a bit reductionistic. As an example, to make my point... I would use a different word than "efficiency" to describe someone who uses slave-labor to push costs down.

So when buying local, at least you know which standards the producers are held to. It's the same with Bio/Organic/Free-trade products.


> We know that other non-local products can be made cheaper because they are in localities that are lax on labor laws and environmental protection.

That can be a factor, but simply making things in bulk is a huge efficiency gain even with the exact same worker/environment protection.

And on top of that you have transportation efficiency to take into account. A remote farm can send full trailers of product to a distribution center, which then sends full trailers carrying multiple products to stores. A local farm can't send a full trailer of apples to a local store, it has to do much less efficient things.


It's not always advantageous to be efficient, and this is even more true in really important areas like food supply, because having the extra, underutilized capacity can save you in a pinch. When it comes to frivolous things like computers and phones and cars, it's much easier to favor efficiency,because the breakdowns can be really problematic, but still less immediately endangering.

Evolution is perhaps the best example of how being inefficient can be hugely beneficial in the long term.


Only specific types of inefficiency represent underutilized capacity. And I don't see how local food shipping qualifies. If anything the distribution-center model makes it easier to reallocate resources toward food supply, because they already have lots of trucks available that typically don't carry food.

By comparison, "just-in-time" shipping is an example where the efficiency removes those margins. But that's orthogonal to how far the food ships. You can have similar-sized buffers either way.


I'm going to just try a couple analogies because I suspect my argument won't come through if I try to explain or use examples. It seems like one interpretation of complex distribution networks is that they form a strong web that can flex and even have fibers break while still maintaining the cohesion and function of the whole. On the other hand, if that web actually turns out to have long dependencies, it could rapidly deteriorate, which is what concerns me.

I suppose that it's true about the large numbers of trucks, but wouldn't those only be reallocated to the detriment of providing other goods? And what happens to all our excess flexibility if severe oil shortages come to pass? Looking closer to the origin,the centralized model leaves us more susceptible to local droughts and floods (because everyone's produce comes from Salinas and watsonville), infectious diseases in livestock herds, and fungus that can cripple the entire crop of a particular fruit (because we've reduced the number of varieties by nine tenths or ninety nine hundredths.)


> On the other hand, if that web actually turns out to have long dependencies, it could rapidly deteriorate, which is what concerns me.

I agree, but certain types of dependencies are much riskier than others.

> I suppose that it's true about the large numbers of trucks, but wouldn't those only be reallocated to the detriment of providing other goods?

Yes, but what's the detriment of emergency-increasing local shipping? Probably at least as bad.

> And what happens to all our excess flexibility if severe oil shortages come to pass?

Local shipping takes more oil in many cases.

> Looking closer to the origin,the centralized model leaves us more susceptible to local droughts and floods (because everyone's produce comes from Salinas and watsonville), infectious diseases in livestock herds

Instead of a major shortage leading to deaths in one area, while everyone else is fine, it turns into a slight supply reduction over the entire country.

> fungus that can cripple the entire crop of a particular fruit (because we've reduced the number of varieties by nine tenths or ninety nine hundredths.)

That is definitely a major problem, but is also unrelated to how far you ship. Megafarms could plant 50 kinds of tomato efficiently, if they wanted to.



For the purposes of this discussion, tax is a cost like any other, and subject to the same considerations: Where and on what is that money then spent? If it's spent on a Halliburton-produced armoured vehicle for the local police departments war on drugs, you and the community are probably better off buying non-local from a low-tax locality.


The biggest efficiency is nutritional, and taste - varieties that travel very, very well trade off a lot of nutrition for that trait.


From the studies I have heard about, there is no measurable nutritional difference between organic and non-organic food. See https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/no-health-benefits-from-org...

I am unaware of such studies for small farms versus large farms.


Your parent is not talking about organic methods, but rather different varieties of crops. E.g., big red beefsteak tomatoes are popular and travel well while little heirloom varieties do not, so you are going to have access to additional, possibly more nutrative, varieties if you buy local.


This has nothing to do with "organic" anything - the conditions of breeding - but modern breeds of vegetables and fruit. There's no shortage of evidence of the difference, and the decline in vitamin content over the last many decades, in the U.S.


If you're buying a better product for a price you're considering fair, you're not meaningfully "buying local" - the product you prefer just happens to be locally produced (and possibly can only be locally produced).

The kind of buying local that you need campaigns to encourage people to do, is generally either more expensive or poorer quality than the non-local alternative.


Better is the whole point of buying local - the can't buy traditional varieties remotely because they don't ship well. Of course you COULD buy shabby shipping varieties locally, but that was never what Alice was about, and it would be a silly thing to do.


There's quite a lot of economics behind this for local currencies e.g. The Brixton Pound [0]. The number of times that currency gets re-used (keeps flowing in the system) is very important, that is the person you pay, uses that to pay for something else locally rather than just sticking it in their bank or sending it overseas.

Susan Steed, one of the co-founders of the Brixton Pound explains a bit more in this TEDx video [1]

[0]: http://brixtonpound.org/

[1]: https://youtu.be/l_F0xBABI7c?t=7m6s


A good argument is the question what happens with the money.

For example, assume Facebook replaces a local competitor. Now instead of the profit going to owners, which spend it locally, on philanthropic projects, or just high quality goods, instead it goes to Mark Zuckerberg, who spends it in the US, on US brands, and to fund US charities, in best case.

If you currently live outside the US, outside SV and NYC, you’d very likely gain an advantage if everyone would buy local. The skyscrapers of NYC, and the philanthropic projects in these regions of the US, are funded with money that was extracted all over the globe, but will probably never leave the US again.


You need to see a layer deeper than that. The opportunity cost of the tens of thousands of highly qualifies engineers required to build and run dozens of national/regional Facebooks rather than doing something else is absolutely huge.


Free software can help with that. In my past two jobs, I've worked with a business platform which we adapt for our clients by developing custom modules, and there's a decent community of small companies from over the world which sell mostly to their internal markets but share modules under Free licenses.

Of course, nobody is getting rich from this, but there are many of us making a very decent living.


It's not about that. It's about choosing not to use an existing, appropriate solution because it is not being developed and run locally. There can be valid regulatory or security reasons to choose that, I'm only considering the "keeping money local" argument.


My point is that you can keep money local without having to develop everything locally.


Gains from trade is maximized when traders specialize in their most productive work. When profit is reinvested, it raises the standard of living. - Econ 101

If for any reason, you truly value your neighbourhood chicken farmer Bob's livelihood though, there's no better means of buying Bob's well-being than giving money straight to Bob.

You would have to reimagine the idea of "a high standard of living" to include the comfort of knowing that Bob's well-being is sustained.

Of course it would be at the cost of excluding the welfare of people outside of your monkeysphere.


Negative externalities are rarely fully accounted for with this model. If you ignore the non monetary impacts, specialization wins every time.


You might be taking spherical cows too far.


I don't know what you mean.


You are over-simplifying, he says.


Pro-local: attempts to directly avoid problems of trade imbalance and wealth sequestration in imperfect markets

Anti-local: a perfectly functioning market doesn't have those problems

It's basically protectionism with all the same arguments for and against. Less economically optimal, but protects you from market malfunction and bad actors.


There's at least a third explanation as well, which is the fact that eggs from farmer Tom down the road are likely to taste 1000x better than the egg-inspired food product in a McGriddle.

I can't imagine many people are thinking "Screw local farmers, I want Tyson Chicken Nuggets!". That might be a bad example but the point is that cost is probably the bigger factor here, not politics or lifestyle or even taste.


I’m not disagreeing with the trust of your comment, but despite popular belief, McDonalds does use real eggs.[1,2] Though there’s no doubt that an egg from a chicken who has walked around, eating bits of grass and bugs, will taste better and have a better nutritional profile.

[1] https://yourquestions.mcdonalds.ca/answer/does-your-egg-mcmu... [2] https://www.cnbc.com/2015/01/27/are-mcdonalds-eggs-real-fast...


It does, but only the McMuffin sandwiches really taste like it. The others use the folded egg that they get premade and frozen.


The folded eggs used to be made from fresh eggs. Did this change?


It must have, if they were. It's still made from eggs, they just make a bunch of liquid egg and then make it into these shapes and freeze them & ship to restaurants. The scrambled eggs in the big breakfast weren't frozen, though. They could made with the sort-of-real liquid egg stuff or just fresh eggs, I'm not sure.


Strange... We used to have a blender for both scrambled eggs and folded eggs. Crack the eggs in, blend them smooth as silk and Bob's your uncle.


They microwave them though, eggs are good when they're cooked a in a bunch of fat with herbs and spices.


Yes, but only a small/unknown brand can successfully hide the fact that it's been cooked in a bunch of fat and properly salted/spiced. Once the brand becomes big enough, people are forced to confront the fact that the good food is good on account of being unhealthy.


Eggs are insanely cheap. I’m not sure why anyone would bother to fake them.


Perhaps surprisingly, fake eggs do exist.

http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/11/06/how-to-make-a-rotten-egg...


To economize other costs on the supply chain and to standardize quality


This plus spoilage, durability & logistics costs. (which you might be already including).


>> there’s no doubt

There is very much doubt about that. Stanford (IIRC) did a study and no one could tell the difference.


i would also add to "taste" and "nutritional profile", (3) the well being of the chicken, (4) the well being of the factory workers who tend to them, and (5) the impact on the environment where the non-industrial chickens are raised. the more dimensions one considers in the multivariate optimization, the more McD's starts to lose value (geometrically, even).


> better than the egg-inspired food product in a McGriddle.

People always use this as an insult, but how cool would it be if fast/processed food providers had actually found a way to make eggs/chicken/beef/etc artificially? It's been an area of active research with decades of failed attempts to show for it. Achieving fast-food level quality would be a huge step forward.


The secret to fast-food "quality" is the same as any other restaurant: fat, sugar and salt.


Egg synthysizers exist and they're shaped exactly like chickens.


Now do it without a nervous system that can experience suffering


and without losing 90% (or was it 99%?) of the input energy to heat.


I think egg production by chickens is actually more efficient than that. If I'm reading Figure 1 in the following link correctly, it looks like modern farms are about 17% efficient for calories of food fed to the chickens to calories of eggs produced: http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/11/10/10...

For comparison (from the same figure) pork is 9%, chickens raised for meat are 13%, cow production of milk is 17%, and cows raised for beef are 3% efficient.


You are confusing a recipe that you don't like with an ingredient that you don't like.


You seem to be implying all eggs taste the same, which is not true.


Eh, at least one test seemed to show that there wasn't a noticeable difference: http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/08/what-are-the-best-eggs-ca...


There's a massive difference in taste, and an objective measure that correlates well with this - namely, the thickness of the collagen sheath just underneath the shell (eggs being single cells.) It's an excellent correlate of the overall health and nutritional value of the egg. If the egg can't even protect itself from breakage well, the rest of the egg isn't ideal, either.


>There's a massive difference in taste

You feel that way, but all evidence says otherwise.

>and an objective measure that correlates well with this - namely, the thickness of the collagen sheath just underneath the shell

Measuring that is objective, but there is no evidence it correlates with taste at all.

>(eggs being single cells.)

I honestly don't know how to say this nicely. You expect people to take your pseudo-scientific nonsense seriously when posting things like this that clearly show you don't know the most basic facts on the subject? A bird egg is not a single cell. The ovum is a single cell, and is a tiny spec on the surface of the yolk. The yolk, the white and the membranes are all not part of the single cell ovum.

>It's an excellent correlate of the overall health and nutritional value of the egg.

Show us the evidence. That is an easily proven objective claim, so where's the evidence?


Next you'll be saying that all carrots taste the same. Or wheat (my grandfather was an elevator operator - it doesn't at all according to his account, due principally to local soil conditions - different geology.)

Science isn't whatever meets your expectations. While the egg isn't functioning as one big working cell, it's not made of cells, it is what became of just one cell. More here if you want the discussion. https://www.reddit.com/r/askscience/comments/ry2ug/are_chick...

As for what healthy eggs looked like, I'm guessing you haven't spent much time on a farm. The fragile, rather sickly eggs you're so used to buying now were unknown on farms fifty years ago, when I was younger.


> The yolk, the white and the membranes are all not part of the single cell ovum.

Do these contribute additional cells to the egg that must be counted?


There is a huge difference in taste between different types of chicken feed. The same chicken will produce thick, dark orange, bitter yolks with one type and lighter yolks with another, in both cases free to roam and eat bugs and grass.

So any taste test that doesn't find a difference between eggs isn't testing the right eggs.


I can taste the difference.


Did you do a double blind study?


You don't have to blind a study when the effect size is big enough (the classic example is the ridiculousness of a double-blind test of the use of parachutes). See my other comment for how easily egg flavor can be altered.


He's right to be distrustful. People are terrible at taste tests. If you ask people how something tastes, they will tend to tell you what they think they're expected to taste rather than what they actually do.

There's plenty of scientific evidence for this based on wine studies[1], but on a personal level, the tongue map myth[2] is the one that gets me. It was taught in science class as true, and we did (non-blind) experiments to measure the effect, but we failed to conclude the effect didn't exist.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_wine_tasting [2] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tongue_map


People are terrible at taste tests.

True, but after being served backyard vs. store eggs without being told which is which, or which feed type was in use, or that anything had changed at all, and still noticing a difference, I am confident that it is possible for the flavor of eggs to vary.


+1 for "food product". i use that more accurate term frequently.


It seems to me that there's a small fraction of people who are into this stuff that are really doing this thoughtfully and for the right reasons, and that the majority really are either pursuing an aesthetic or using this or other social causes as sort of a prop or a distraction. I suppose this could vary based on where you're at, but I've met few people in the Midwest who were into this stuff that were not shallow and/or neurotic.

At the same time, that's an incredibly stupid argument to use to dismiss what is being done. The positive effects you mention happen regardless of the motivation of the individuals, and the people that start these trends seem to be the ones who really care.


For what it's worth, almost all McDonald's are franchises. If you buy a breakfast sandwich there, the money likely goes to a local owner.


some of it


Hell, here in Canada at least, McDonalds is trumping up that it buys it's beef locally. Same with eggs.


They may well be buying locally (as in within Canadian borders, or perhaps even within the province) but they certainly won't be buying from small individual producers for the simple reason that a small scale farmer can't supply enough beef or eggs to satisfy McDonald's consumption requirements.


came here to say exactly what you said, but you did a more elegant job of exposing the thinly-veiled cynicism of the parent-post.

i also find it ironic that in many cases of debating this issue I find that those of us who consider "organic" to be the lowest-baseline quality are literally deploying capitalist principles by voting with our dollars, even thought my foodie kin tend to be super liberal, because the opposition attempts to claim the libertarian mantle in these scenarios.


Hmm. To this unfashionable middle-aged guy, that sounds too complicated. I buy local produce simply because it often tastes better. And, I can afford to pay 50% more for better taste.

I guess you could spin it to describe it as a lifestyle choice - my boring, middle-aged lifestyle. Like, my ‘I buy costco toilet paper’ lifestyle. That seems like a stretch. Or, maybe not.


If you think it will taste better, it will... (taste is based on more than your tongue).


It’s not psychosomatic- fresh vegetables taste much better. A salad that was picked the morning of is much different.


Buying tomatoes even from wholefoods vs literally getting them freshly picked is a world of a difference. Carrots that come from Costco vs. carrots that were picked yesterday make a world of a difference. Onions look, and taste better than the ones you get in bulk. And I can go on. I've made side by side comparisons of both, and regardless of how you feel, I know personally that buying even the "organic" wholefoods variety of produce is a lot worse than freshly delivered CSA from a farm.


Just because some people buy local produce for lifestyle reasons doesn't mean that's the reason everyone does.


Look, gramps, you either fit into the box or you don't matter. Get with the program and start buying your groceries from costco or your toilet paper from apple.

Also watch "Raise the Steaks" episode of King of the Hill.


Most farmers are producing a commodity and there efficiency will win out every time over the small farmer.

But farm to table restaurants are willing to pay a premium for a steady local supply. Some people are willing to pay a premium for organic and non-GMO produce.

The small farmer is able to do something the larger farmer is unable or unwilling to do and receives a much higher price for it.

Small farms are exploding in Detroit. But they're having a problem getting title to the land they're farming.

https://www.pri.org/stories/2016-03-30/black-farmers-detroit...


For those who are interested in the topic, i just finished reading this: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3109.The_Omnivore_s_Dile.... The author follows the ingredients of a meal he makes all the way back to the farms. He seems to romanticize certain notions of naturally grown foods and at other times, is given to polemic against the agriculturally industrial complex (quite justifiably at times). The book itself was a lesson in the history of agriculture, nutrition, politics, policy, cooking, animal husbandry and the organic food industry. There is a part of the book where he talks about the huge industrial setup behind organic food and tries to distinguish it from the vicissitudes of the small scale farmers life. He even turns into a hunter gatherer for a little to experience life as it was before agriculture. It was a totally fascinating read and i recommend it.



I pay ten dollars a gallon for fresh non pasteurized milk from a local family that has seven cows. I don't buy a lifestyle from them, I buy fucking good milk from animals that are loved like family, and I'm proud to be helping them make a living doing something that is good for everyone(including the cows). It's not a lifestyle, it's just supporting people who aren't shitting on everyone's future.


>I don't buy a lifestyle from them, I buy fucking good milk from animals that are loved like family, and I'm proud to be helping them make a living doing something that is good for everyone(including the cows). It's not a lifestyle, it's just supporting people who aren't shitting on everyone's future.

The things you say here seem like you are ABSOLUTELY buying a lifestyle here. ie. values for how animals should be treated, values for supporting families and values for "not shitting on everyones future" are very much lifestyle choices imo.


"Lifestyle choice" implies a frivolous or even capricious choice in many contexts.

Personally, the notion that we're taking a chicken raised in conditions "bad" for the chicken and for the quality of the product is just offensive and bad for everyone in the economic chain, save the big company. In a farming environment managed by a modern day tenant farmer, shipping it to China or some place in South Dakota to be butchered by exploited immigrants, and shipping it back in a cryovac to save $1.50/lb.

Or I can pay a little more, an amount that is negligible in my budget, for a bird raised, slaughtered and packed within 50 miles of my home, by farmers who are working for themselves, by a butcher whose work isn't going to debilitate him and leave him in poverty later, and a retailer in my city who is a part of my community.

This is one of these areas where I agree with the conservative ideal of markets picking winners and losers, which never works out in practice. When you consider how we destroyed regional vegetable industries by having the government spend billions to turn the California desert into an eden of industrial agriculture, or how we allowed nasty people to transform cattle ranching and butchering from solid middle class professions to a feudal/industrial nightmare with trillions of externalized costs, it's just awful. It's not how the market should work.


Buuuut Ethics is a lifestyle choice...


Partially agree.

2 things though:

- taste. The difference is real

- and while I think this is a lifestyle thing I'd say that word has different connotations


If you believe that consumers are rational actors in a free market you indeed need to rationalise behaviour like "not buying the cheapest/best possible thing".

If your theory cannot explain a behaviour you can add an imaginary product called "lifestyle" to the equation and stick with your flawed theory.


I think he means that he is buying "the cow's lifestyle", instead of his.

I applaud the sentiment, but do small farm cows, loved like they are part of the family actually do less damage to the environment? Is factory farming doing something that makes factory cows produce more methane?

I also disagree he is not buying a lifestyle for himself. Non pasteurized milk is ABSOLUTELY better tasting. So he is purchasing a luxury item, which is the definition of lifestyle buying. It may be ethical, and but its still tasty.


'I applaud the sentiment, but do small farm cows, loved like they are part of the family actually do less damage to the environment? Is factory farming doing something that makes factory cows produce more methane?'

Why does it matter? If both methods do equal damage to the environment and one doesnt torture animals, I still see the one that doesnt torture animals as superior.


"Is factory farming doing something that makes factory cows produce more methane?"

Unequivocally yes,by increasing the number of cows as a result of their being more affordable.


You might also find yourself buying tuberculosis with your milk, but that's your choice.


I think you are wrong here as you are mistaking lifestyle with principles and ideals. Lifestyle is something very different than principles and ideals. Strange that you don't see the difference...


> Lifestyle is something very different than principles and ideals.

Are you leading a lifestyle that goes contrary to your ideals and principles? Isn't that a rather depressing and dishonest way to live? Why would you want to live like that?

Sure, not everybody can "afford" to live by the ideals/principles they ascribed to, depending on what these might be, but that's not a choice by those people, it's a choice made for them by their circumstances.

If they had an actual free choice, I'm pretty certain the vast majority of people would prefer a lifestyle matching their principles and ideals, instead of being stuck in a place where they have to throw their principles and ideals overboard just to get along.

> Strange that you don't see the difference.

Even stranger that you didn't try to explain that difference, which leaves the rest of us wondering what you are actually trying to allude to.


"Even stranger that you didn't try to explain that difference, which leaves the rest of us wondering what you are actually trying to allude to."

I've found that many people now seem to prefer 'ill just be snarky to my fellow man with zero content whatsoever' as their primary means of communication unfortunately. :(


You say you don't buy for lifestyle reasons but then go on to describe lifestyle reasons for your purchase:

"animals that are loved like family"

"helping [small farmers] make a living doing something that is good for everyone"

"supporting people who aren't shitting on everyone's future."

These are all lifestyle choices. You make your purchase not just because of the product but because of your identity, feelings, and values. If there were an identical product produced by a big company using factory farming methods it would be less appealing to you. That's not a bad thing and I don't make a judgment about it, everyone has lifestyle reasons for some of their purchases, it's just a fact.

Just like how probably half (or more) of the beer I consume is from the brewery down the street. If they are releasing a new beer I'm going to be there, either on release day or the day after if I'm busy. This is not only because the beer is good, the prices are on par with similar beers, and the location convenient but:

-I like supporting local independently owned business. I believe that to be virtuous in and of itself.

-The owners and staff are really nice and they all know me by name.

-The owners and brewer take time to come up front and say hi and chat when they see me. We talk about what's new in life.

-Their presence helps keep my property value high and my neighborhood characteristic.

My purchase makes me feel good and feel like I'm helping a friend out rather than just consuming a product I enjoy.

If those lifestyle factors weren't there I'd probably vary my purchases more and buy their beer only a couple times a year.


> These are all lifestyle choices. You make your purchase not just because of the product but because of your identity, feelings, and values.

I think it's the other way around. A product can have such good marketing that it gives the illusion of identity, feelings, and values - for example, fair trade coffee.


I think the grandparent point was about buying commodity goods from not just any seller but a seller who's values aligns with theirs.

What you talked about is the whole point of good marketing -- to allow people who are not already customers make the connection to products they should be buying.


So what? That's irrelevant, it doesn't matter.

The purchase is still made at least partly because of the purchaser's identity, feelings, and values. It doesn't matter if the traits in question are all marketing or objective.


Lifestyle is your interests, opinions, and behaviour.

Words you are using: proud , helping, doing good, supporting. These are all values that form the basis for your lifestyle.

ps. non-pasteurized milk aka raw milk is not healthier and it's less safe. It's organic-natural consumer fad.


To me it tastes better; maybe it's what i'm used to but I find pasteurized milk quite horrible. Maybe it's just taste and other people love the taste of pasteurized. Never met those people, but that says nothing either. Raw milk cheese is also a lot nicer in my opinion.


Have you done a blind test, if not whatever you are saying is meaningless


Why are you calling a random person's milk preferences meaningless? They just like raw milk. It's not a big deal. I like pink lady apples. Do I need to do a blind test to confirm that? No, I don't.


I gave you the reason why I am calling it meaningless. What part did you not understand.

> Do I need to do a blind test to confirm that?

Why not, go ahead, you might be surprised with the result.


I said that it means nothing so I agree. But you wanted to be snarky anyway which is your right ;)


Might tastes different / better though?

I do know that I like non-homogenized milk better. (But that's a different process.)


Amen, brother. I pay $5/gallon for a family farm to deliver milk to my house, and have been since 2006. People think that we're nuts for doing this, then they have the milk or the yogurt I make with it.

It's helped my in my efforts to lose weight an improve my family's health. When you pay more for better product, whether it be milk or chicken or beef or vegetables, you eat less and utilize it more. Instead of seeking bulk, we chase flavor and quality.


> When you pay more for better product, whether it be milk or chicken or beef or vegetables, you eat less and utilize it more.

That strategy works equally well for any product, not just "better" product.


In my case, I'll go for volume if satisfaction with the product isn't there.


The problem is identifying the better products. Price alone doesn't work.


> it's just supporting people who aren't shitting on everyone's future.

If all dairy cows were treated exactly the same as the cows you're getting milk from, would milk be sufficiently plentiful and affordable for everyone to be able to get milk?

If you really want something that's better for cows and the environment, why not just drink soy milk (or any of a pretty big variety of milk that doesn't come from cows)?


Is everyone supposed to be able to buy gallons of milk and pounds of meat with the money they ear from less than a day's work? What's right? Who decides?


I don't see how it's controversial to say that we should strive for a world and economy where people can easily afford healthy food for themselves. I already suggested that the best route is probably to avoid cows altogether for this, and I didn't say anything about pounds of meat.


I have the feeling that this is controversial because it plays with guilt feelings and people, in general, don't want to be the bad guys and rationalize bad decisions polarizing the opposite field. This is reflected in the vegan cliché.


It might go deeper. Many societies are not that far away from hunger and poverty in the past.

I can see memories of hunger and war in our collective behaviour and also shaping my family, and wealth including being able to afford to eat whatever whenever cushions that a bit. In Europe, the grandparent generation that grew up with the war and the following hunger years is still alive.


And what happens to cows, as a species, a few decades from now?


I don't fully understand what you're asking. Could you clarify? Are you suggesting they might go extinct? Or something else?


Not the above poster, but relevant SMBC: https://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=3105


I can see how that mom in the comic would be a supporter of bullfighting - they tend to use similar justifications around the idea that, if it wasn't because the bull was raised and taken care (to ultimatelly be killed in the sports), it wouldn't have existed at all. I say that's BS, if you ask me.


There is more than one question I am asking -

(1). Is there any scientifically sound study proving that the quality of protein from plant sources is equivalent to or better than from dairy products?

(2). Is there any reproducible, quantitative data on leaving milk producing cows to fend for themselves vs caring for them in small -to- mid size "cow caring" setups (farms, one-cow ops etc.)? I ask this because both my maternal and paternal grandparents had 1 to 3 milk producing cows at any given point in time - from what I recall, they were well cared for (food, medicine, weather etc.)

(3). If we, as a species, were to stop consuming dairy products today, or cut consumption by, say 90% over the next year, what would become of the current cow population? How is that better than the current situation for the animals?

I am personally, utterly and deeply biased towards the survive-and-let-survive school of life --- so take what I say colored by my very, very, un-apologetically biased PoV.


If you are interested in these questions I think it will be worth it to spend some time and do a bit of research, no?

You can look up Peter Singer and Yuval Noah Harari to start with and read what they have written about this. I mention them because they write well and mainly stick to scientifically supported ideas.

I haven't decided where I stand on the issues yet, but with a little research it has become apparent that you can have a very healthy diet without any protein form animals.

I've also discovered that more and more philosophers, ethicists, biologists etc, are starting to make the argument that our factory farming of animals may be the the worst crime in human history.


Thanks for the pointers on where to start looking. This is helpful.

The modern “factory farming” is not something I care to defend for any intent or purpose. It may as well disappear tomorrow, as far as I am concerned.

However, I still see no argument against deeply caring domestication of a small number/herd of animals, providing them food, shelter and care in exchange for milk or unfertilized eggs. Can’t seem to find a convincing argument against that in my current ethics framework.


Cows as a species are probably as safe as humans. Plenty other cases to worry about, assuming it’s feasible to fight extinction on a per-species basis.


As someone who grew up on a farm: yes, there is a real difference in taste between fresh milk and processed milk.

IIRC My dad told me it was more about the homogenization part than a the pasteurization part (which is good because it means you can get milk that tastes well totally without risk.)

That said: I'd drink fresh unprocessed milk again without hesitation as long as I know the farmer.


As someone who spent his summers getting fresh milk (often still warm) from a nearby farm, and pasteurized milk the rest of the year, I can't say I ever tasted much of a difference.


"Buying a lifestyle" sounds bad because it's associated with big brands for which that's just a marketing tactic, and where the lifestyle is artificial. But you're actually - and proudly - supporting an authentic lifestyle, there's nothing bad in that.


Is that legal? In Canada I'm not sure your allowed to sell unpasteurised milk.


The answer is it depends and it's complicated, as raw milk is actually fairly highly regulated. The FDA has laws that prohibit the sale of raw milk across state borders. State laws vary, obviously. In some states it is legal and can be found in stores on shelves, in some states it is legal and can only be sold on the farm, and in some states it is illegal to sell. And, of course, those state laws can be superseded by local laws. You really have to put a little effort in to reading the local and state regulations in each area to sort it out.

I feel that if I was going to buy raw milk from a very small scale operation that I would want to personally see their operation. You have to ensure that the farmers milking are really paying attention to what they're doing. I've had some particularly nasty food poisoning in my life, one instance of which landed me in the ER and had me on a quasi quarantine watch by the county CDC, in fact, and so I don't really play around with my food too much. Milk is a tough one because a healthy cow can become a sick cow overnight. It's also made more challenging by the daily goings-ons with the milking process.

Having said all of that, my wife and I buy raw milk from a mid-scale creamery in Los Angeles, near where my wife grew up, whenever we are in the area. I've never really had much concern over it, because this creamery has been in operation for many decades and is quite reputable, but we are also well aware of the risk.


Similar laws in the US, some places in my state label it as something not to be consumed by humans to get around the laws. I forget what the labels say exactly.

People forget we pasteurize for a reason.


you don't have the eqvielent of green top milk like we have in the UK ie a herd that has much stricter regulation and testing?


In the UK you can only buy unpasteurised milk direct from a farm, not from a shop.


In Canada you go to jail for selling unpasteurized milk.

http://torontosun.com/news/provincial/raw-milk-dairy-farmer-...


Canada is an extreme example though, we don't even come close to being a free country.


It's not legal to sell it in a store but there's no problem buying directly from the source.

At least that's how it worked in new Hampshire about 10 years ago.


It is a problem buying it directly from the source:

http://torontosun.com/news/provincial/raw-milk-dairy-farmer-...

Source goes to jail.


Blanket statements like this are not helpful, every single jurisdiction has very different laws.

An state level overview is here: http://www.realrawmilkfacts.com/raw-milk-regulations but certain local jurisdictions within each state may further limit sales.


I'm with you. My family in Japan is living extremely countryside. Most of the immediate friends are farmers for generations. So we get access to fresh eggs, strawberries, blueberries, onions, and milk on a quality level that is off the charts. Their products never end up in supermarkets. Still they exist. Is it a lifestyle choice? It yes, it is not an active one.


>>animals that are loved like family

What about the calves that are taken away from their mothers (and mothers that have their calves taken from them) for that fucking good milk?


That's a lifestyle.



How is it good for the cows? If you want cows that are "loved like family", then please explain how milking a cow is worse than a human woman getting (well, being forced into) a job as a milk producer? (Which goes far beyond "wet nursing" in terms of milk production)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wet_nurse#/media/File:Wet_Nurs...


> then please explain how milking a cow is worse than a human woman getting (well, being forced into) a job as a milk producer?

It isn't about the cow, it is about the babies those cows must have to be able to lactate. They are chained up or crated and then killed.


Keep telling yourself that


You've been posting only comments that break the guidelines. Could you please stop? We ban accounts that continue like this.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Reading most of the replies here reminds me the gun debate. It’s one side that has experience with said subject and the other side that has zero. And they argue.

Some posters don’t believe there is any difference between eggs from a small farm where the chickens roam the yard eating naturally and Tyson sized operations where they are all cooped in a mountain together.

Ethics of the two approaches aside I grew up in a small farm town in Kansas. I’ve eaten eggs straight out of the chicken my entire life. They not only taste better they last longer too. I can take freshly laid eggs and put them in a dark coolish place like my basement on a shelf and they will last well over a month. Do that with store bought eggs. I dare you

Another example is raw milk. If you’ve ever had raw milk and then bought store bought milk it’s shocking how different in taste, mouth feel, and richness there is. Raw milk is flavorful, slightly off white from the grass diet, rich from a lot of cream and if you compare that to milk at the store which is watery, chalk colored, sweetened with sugar, and lacks any cream.

It’s night and day. One is healthy for you the other is watered down, profit maximized chalk water.

There is a big difference in veg as well. So for those posters to say there is no real difference clearly have never eaten on a farm. There is a noticeable and large difference in quality, taste, smell, longevity, and nutrition between small farm non gmo and organic produce and dairy and store bought garbage.


> can take freshly laid eggs and put them in a dark coolish place like my basement on a shelf and they will last well over a month. Do that with store bought eggs. I dare you

The only reason this is true is that commercial eggs in the US are typically washed, which removes the protective impermeable membrane that both covers the egg and makes it look a little icky. In many jurisdictions is is a legal requirement.

In Europe/pretty much anywhere else in the world there are stacks of factory produced eggs sitting out on the floor/counter.

Anywhere else in the world would take your dare any time since that's exactly what they currently do :)

> There is a big difference in veg as well. So for those posters to say there is no real difference clearly have never eaten on a farm.

Grew up on/around farms as well. My parents are organic vegetable farmers.

Blind taste tests prove the difference is highly variable. Some items (tomatoes in particular) are quite obvious, other items you can tell no difference.


>milk at the store which is watery, chalk colored, sweetened with sugar, and lacks any cream.

Isn't that because milk at the store has been homogenized?


This reminds me of what an operator of a small, high end, boutique winery told me: "we sell a lifestyle"


If/when the economy has a major hiccup all those sellers of "distinguished" goods will have a very hard time because people will pay their mortgages first even if that means drinking PBR and eating GMO grown frozen broccoli. The upper middle class aren't a very stable or loyal set of customers.


And at the very opposite end the big retails create their own brands that sound traditional and farm-ish while the food is purely industrial.

I buy at the farmer market because it's great to know the people who produce the food I eat.



Large corporations introduce massive negative externalities (Walmart employees are on welfare, sugar industry hides and fakes scientific research, advertising). If you contribute to small, local businesses, it's very easy to hold them accountable if they do something bad (they don't have the protection of corrupt governments, for example).


I think you're wrong.

Look up Justin Rhodes on YouTube or Joel Salatin.

Small holding is profitable once you get over the hump and get customers


So if I switch from drinking Racer 5 to drinking Budweiser I won't be able to tell the difference?


You'd only tell the difference if it was Guinness http://isomorphismes.faith/post/54831080606/perception-is-re...


Any developers have aquaponics systems setup? I've been thinking of doing this.


Lots of exciting things going on in this space. There is also an Open Source Movement that came out of the MiT Media Lab, called OpenAg (https://www.media.mit.edu/groups/open-agriculture-openag/ove...) which has created a platform for folks like our company, Open Agriculture Supply (https://www.openagriculturesupply.com/) to create "Food Computers" which are climate controlled boxes that grow food for you indoors. All open source, all on the same platform. The future of farming is indoors, distributed, hyper local, and vertical. Also check out the book that started it all "The Vertical Farm" by Dr. Dickson Despommier.


I'm talking about a different space.

A closed loop farming ecosystem where plants filter water and fish fertilize plants. There's a lot piping and artificial structure to facilitate this type of environment but the control system is largely self regulating, there is less need for a computer to intervene, although it wouldn't hurt.

See: http://homeaquaponicssystem.com/basics/hydroponics-vs-aquapo...

In my research, aquaponics is the most nutrient dense farming system available. My eventual goal is to produce a farming system that can live on a single typical suburban property, function with minimal care and produce enough yield to feed a single family. That's right, Fish and veggies on my plate from my farm, daily.

The openAg platform seems great, however to make it fit with aquaponics it would need pH control system and a separate tank for fish.

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