“What future trends do you see coming in agriculture over the next 10 years?” This was the question asked of a speaker at a recent local foods event I attended, and I didn’t envy the need to reply with a short, coherent answer. Reading a crystal ball is never easy, but the future of agriculture seems especially unclear. I have to imagine that if the same question were asked at an automotive conference, there’d be good consensus that autonomous vehicles are a sure fire future trend. Agriculture seems to lack that clarity about its future.
Low cost food has been the sole objective for decades, but consumers are now concerned about animal care, the environment, and water use on farms. We’re told there’s a need for increased use of genetic modification in crops, and yet food makers are racing to produce more non-GMO food products. Farmers hear the refrain that we need to grow more meat, but there’s continued advancement in the development of lab grown meat replacements. There’s concern about the aging farmer population, and yet technology is fast replacing labor on farms. Farmers hear the drumbeat that we need to grow more food to feed the fast-growing population, but the number of family farmers continues to decline.
Agriculture is at a crossroads, and even the big guys know it. Heck, General Mills is working to convert a 34,000 acre farm in South Dakota to organic production for their processed food business. Yet in this jumble of potential paths for the future of food, it seems to me the best way agriculture can respond is with an army of independent farmers, not a continued consolidation of global companies. It appears the future will require more diverse products and practices from farmers, which is why we’re proud to partner with local, independent farmers and food makers at Ferndale Market. In our case, maybe our future still lies in our past, using tried-and-true practices to grow our turkeys, and create our Ferndale Market products.
You, the consumer, will ultimately decide which future trends in agriculture prevail, and we look forward to journeying together toward continued good food and farming. Thanks for seeing the difference in what we do.