Sustainable farming needs math as much as mulch, says one veteran

Mr. Willey’s thoughts about creating new, more just and sustainable food systems are discussion we all need to be having, and I particularly appreciate having him point out the reality that much of our “sustainable” growing today piggy backs on very unsustainable resource uses, like the widespread use of petrochemical fertilizers.

But as always, we can’t overlook the math and economics of producing food!

Grist

As I begin looking for concrete ways to advance local agriculture, I’m going to talk to some established players about what they see as the problems and potential for the immediate future.

I phoned up T & D Willey Farms because, in some sense, they’ve made it: Tom and Denesse Willey earn a comfortable income off 75 acres in the California’s San Joaquin Valley, near Madera. Most of their produce goes to organic specialty markets, and they deliver about 15 percent of what they grow through a community supported agriculture, or CSA, program.

“The CSA enjoys probably twice the profit margin of the farm wholesale business, but the hassle factor is also very high, in comparison,” Tom Willey told me, with a chuckle. I called because I had a very basic question: The Willeys have a proven model; why we don’t see a landslide of other farmers emulating them?

Tom…

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