Farmer’s Daughter: Why is Big Ag automatically treated like big bad?


The other night I had to swing by the grocery store after work to pick up a few items before heading home. After grabbing a gallon of milk and my prescriptions, I headed over to the cleaning-supplies aisle. I needed garbage bags. Admittedly, they annoy me a little bit. I’m quite literally spending money on something I plan on throwing away. But apparently it’s the preferred method of keeping the trash together for disposal.

We have a lot of options for trash bags. A lot. Regular. Jumbo size. Petite. Reinforced. Flexible. Colored. Stretchy. Perfumed (Yes, perfumed!). And that was just in my small, local grocery store. Big Waste Disposal is a booming business!

I bought the perfumed bags that smell like fresh linen. Do I need garbage bags that smell nice? No, not really. And they don’t really mask the garbage smell. But why not? It smells nice when I open the bag, and maybe my neighbors will think I’m fancy when they see my garbage at the curb.

When I was little, all garbage bags were black. They didn’t smell pretty. They often broke open. And no one thought they were fancy. And while my fancy trash bags aren’t necessary, I’m not complaining that we have them. I can certainly live without them, but why not?

I recognize that so many things in our lives today are solely convenience, not necessities. We’ve only been convinced we need them.

toothpaste aisle
Image by dcwcreations, Shutterstock

Take toothpaste. There are dozens of brands producing dozens of different toothpastes. Some fight plaque, some whiten, some are sensitive, and others are aggressive cleaners. And that’s not even getting into the different flavors available. I won’t even bother discussing floss …

Why do we need such variety? I’m sure my grandparents only had one option from each brand. Of course, half of my grandparents also had dentures. But it certainly seems like Big Dentistry has won!

Yet I’m thankful for sensitive toothpaste that also whitens. My teeth get sensitive when I eat too much fruit (… and sugar). So I use it religiously. I also floss daily, brush my teeth twice, and visit my dentist every six months. None of it is necessary, but my teeth are a lot healthier than what they would have been in generations past.

Or how about anesthesia? No, hear me out. People used to drink copious amounts of alcohol so they could undergo surgery. Or they would bite on a leather strap to endure the pain. It wasn’t easy, but it got the job done. These days Big Anesthesia convinces us that we need to sleep peacefully while medical professionals mutilate our bodies. But maybe we’re just getting weak.

Fine, that’s an absurd example. But aren’t they all?

I appreciate all the conveniences of modern life, even if it isn’t necessary. I don’t complain when I can buy my favorite toothpaste or scented garbage bags. I don’t see as something evil or bad. Unnecessary and silly? Perhaps. But the “big” industry players aren’t trying to hurt us.

So why don’t we have the same attitude toward Big Agriculture?

Instead people believe that when a farm gets too big or too large, it’s going to do things wrong. It’s as if having an abundant, nutritious, and affordable food supply is somehow serving an ulterior purpose. We have grocery-store shelves stocked with endless options and food choices. But our society is leery of it and suspects something sinister!

The difference, of course, is that Big Ag actually accommodates our modern lifestyle. So we have time to fuss over trivial things, like smart-phone cases and shoe styles. Instead of being afraid of our modern food system, we should be pretty excited about it. Because it means we aren’t all working in the fields. Humans have the opportunity to explore other pursuits. And we all still have enough food to eat.

At the very least, we should find it more exciting than perfumed garbage bags.

Amanda Zaluckyj blogs under the name The Farmer’s Daughter USA. Her goal is to promote farmers and tackle the misinformation swirling around the U.S. food industry.

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