PBS documentary review by Preston Sullivan, southwest coordinator.
In spite of many efforts around the nation by sustainable agriculture advocates (myself included), the American conventional factory farming still thrives. For example; the Central valley of California produces a huge portion of the fresh produce consumed by the entire nation. All of this production is supported by irrigation water piped in from 400-miles away from the lake behind Shasta dam in northern California.
When flying over central Kansas you will see mile after mile of center-pivot wheat and corn fields. Water going onto these irrigated fields comes from wells drilled into the Oglala aquifer which has been declining for over 30 years. The US produces around 322 million tons of corn per year. Each American eats around 100 pounds of corn per year from the many different processed foods containing corn products such as corn syrup and corn starch. Fully one third of the processed foods on the grocery shelf come from corn.
From Kansas, the host traveled to a cattle feed lot run by JBS that housed up to 90,000 steers fed corn to fatten them from 600 pounds to 1300 pounds in 6 months. There was no mention of the mountain of manure that feedlots generate each year. A slaughter plant just five miles down the road from the feedlot processed 5000 steers per day into hanging meat ready for shipment around the nation and export to the world.
Next they showed footage on European corn borer ( a corn insect pest) becoming resistant to pesticides and how they had to manage their genetically-modified corn to prevent resistance by planting some susceptible corn with the genetically modified corn so the borers would not develop resistance to it. They also covered mobile bee hives that are shipped around the country to pollinate crops. The journey starts in California with the almond crop then moves to Georgia where the bees have to be detoxed from all the pesticides used on the almond trees before they can pollinate the vegetable and peach crops there. They move bees on up the east coast eventually ending in Maine to pollinate the blueberry crop before being transported back to the south in the fall.
Just when I was about ready to throw up, they showed a section on Detroit urban agriculture where inner-city lots became available for farming following urban blight. When the old dilapidated homes are destroyed, green space is created. Small community gardens are put on these empty lots to provide fresh produce to food-desert neighborhoods. The Greening Detroit effort has resulted in lots of fresh produce growing in the city being made available to city residents in local farmers markets. The host referred to the local small farming renaissance as the “new green revolution.” He also stated that local fresh food is reshaping American diets. Let’s hope so.