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The Vanishing American

Written By: Derry Brownfield  |  Posted: Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

When I was growing up on the farm, there were very few farm families that didn't have a few chickens, a few hogs, a few cows and maybe some sheep, ducks or geese. We grew most of our vegetables and all the feed for our livestock and poultry. The typical farmer was completely self sufficient. The chickens and eggs paid for the food items that were not grown at home: flour - bananas - coffee - sugar - salt. The hogs and cattle made the farm mortgage payments and paid for other farm expenses and living expenses. In the late 1940s, the Colleges of Agriculture at the Land Grant Universities began teaching the younger generation of "agriculturalists" that farmers must become more efficient - get bigger - get better - concentrate on expanding production.

The little two plow tractors were replaced with larger models, neighbors bought out the farm next door, the beef herds grew and farmers began buying their milk and eggs at the grocery store. The small flocks of 100 laying hens were no longer, and only a few farmers put up laying houses that housed thousands of birds. Then - Corporate agriculture entered the picture, building "processing plants" and feed mills. It wasn't long until Purina, Tyson, Cargill, and a handful of other corporations, had complete control of the poultry and egg industry. There was no longer a free market and poultry farmers became "serfs" on their own land. Learning from their own experiences in the poultry industry, these same corporations began expanding into hog production. It didn't take but a few years and pork production had gone the way of the poultry farms.

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