Category Archives: Agrinomics

“The Great Commerce of every Civilized Society is that carried on between the Inhabitants of the Town and those of the Country.”- Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, 1776

In 1984 New Zealand WENT COLD-TURKEY ON ALL FARM SUBSIDIES

new zealand

New Zealand is reputed to have the most open agricultural markets in the world after radical reforms started in 1984 by the Fourth Labour Government stopped all subsidies.

“In 1984 New Zealand’s Labor government took the dramatic step of ending all farm subsidies, which then consisted of 30 separate production payments and export incentives. This was a truly striking policy action, because New Zealand’s economy is roughly five times more dependent on farming than is the U.S. economy, measured by either output or employment. Subsidies in New Zealand accounted for more than 30 percent of the value of production before reform, somewhat higher than U.S. subsidies today. And New Zealand farming was marred by the same problems caused by U.S. subsidies, including overproduction, environmental degradation and inflated land prices.”

rank country overall change rank country overall change
1 Hong Kong 88.6 -1.0 4 Switzerland 81.0 +0.5
2 Singapore 87.8 -1.6 5 Australia 80.3 -1.1
3 New Zealand 81.6 -0.5  

New Zealand is in third place on the Wall  Street Journal’s Economic Freedom list. Since, Hong Kong and Singapore are city-states not agrarian power houses, the Kiwi’s are the top of the line. Oh, the United States? America is in 12th place and dropping.

As New Zealand is a large agricultural exporter, continued subsidies by other countries are a long-standing bone of contention, with New Zealand being a founding member of the 20-member Cairns Group fighting to improve market access for exported agricultural goods.

What happened after they cut the chord, nothing but good. 6% annual increase in productivity and agriculture as a percentage of GDP went from 14 to 21%. Notice Australia is number five on the WSJ chart and number two of OEDC countries regarding agricultural subsidies.

the-growth-of-western-australias-grain-industry-could-be-boosted-b_95_81435_0_14100598_1000-620x350The report shows Australia has a producer support estimate of 3 per cent, making it the second lowest in the OECD, and the third lowest in the report. The OECD average is 19 per cent and of the 47 countries in the report the average is 17 per cent.

Today, data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development show that farm subsidies in New Zealand represent just 1 percent of the value of farm production, which compares to 11 percent in the United States. That 11 percent is times the $900,000,000,000 US Ag-Market, the world’s largest.36 New Zealand’s main farm organization argues that the nation’s experience “thoroughly debunked the myth that the farming sector cannot prosper without government subsidies.”37 That myth needs to be debunked in the United States as well.

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Six Reasons to Repeal Farm Subsidies

1. Farm Subsidies Redistribute Wealth: the 90% poor farmer gets poorer while the 10% rich farmer gets richer.

2. Farm Subsidies Damage the Economy: In 2006 the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that all the studies they reviewed showed that both the U.S. and global economies would gain from the repeal of subsidies and trade barriers.  

recipients3. Farm Programs Are Prone to Scandal: Perhaps the biggest scandal is that congressional agriculture committees are loaded with members who are active farmers and farmland owners. Those members have a direct financial stake whenever Congress votes to increase subsidies, which is an obvious conflict of interest.

4. Farm Subsidies Damage U.S. Trade Relations: The World Trade Organization estimates that even a one-third drop in all tariffs around the world would boost global output by $686 billion, including $164 billion for the United States. Worse developing and under-developed countries cannot compete fairly with industrialized nations dump their corn, cotton, soy and wheat.

5. Farm Programs Damage the Environment: Farming, like any industry, can cause negative environmental effects, but it is misguided for federal policies to exacerbate those problems.

6. Agriculture Would Thrive without Subsidies: If farm subsidies were ended, and agriculture markets deregulated and open to entrepreneurs, farming would change just as it did in New Zealand.

policy-makers-quotes-2“What we have hear is a failure to communicate.” Bernie has called for a Political Revolution but he only got us to the gates. Hillary is the guardian of the gates. Think of Trump as a nonsensical talking Trojan horse who can crash the party of the elites. Bernie will be on the inside, Hillary will be on the outside doing what she does best, nothing. Bernie can be the kinder-gentler-wiser LBJ Senate leader humbly allowing Trump to take credit for the Revolution of 2016.

 

LET THE BUFFALO ROAM GOD DAMN IT!

buffaloLET’S get back to our grass roots before there is no longer grass or roots to get back to. When our wise ancestors reduced the indigenous buffalo from 30 million in 1800 to just 30, that’s three-zero, in 1900 they destroyed the Eco-system of American agriculture. Not one blessed thing has been done since then to restore, resurrect or rebuild our agrarian soil. Well, there was one thing, Ronnie Reagan did sign into law The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) in 1985.

CRP is the largest private-lands conservation program in the United States. Thanks to voluntary participation by farmers and land owners, CRP has improved water quality, reduced soil erosion, and increased habitat for endangered and threatened species. For success stories, click here.

hunterFor many years, enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) was 30 million to 36 million acres, but Congress lowered that total in the 2014 farm bill to 24 million acres. 

“There is a lot of interest in this program that is untapped simply because we have a cap,” Vilsack said Wednesday in an interview.

Vilsack said at the time that farmers were dealing with significantly higher commodity prices, and lawmakers believed producers were more likely to keep land in production rather than remove it and put it in the CRP. The farm bill also was touted as a way to cut $23 billion in spending, and the reserve program was among those programs targeted to save money.

pheasant-by-streamDan Hansen, an Audubon County, IA. corn, soybean and livestock farmer, said he decided to stop growing crops on 45 acres of his lower-producing land and is considering enrolling an additional 80 acres — together the land would total about 20 percent of his acreage. The CRP is paying him nearly $300 an acre, a more stable return than how much he could have generated by farming with today’s volatile commodity prices.

Hansen also is saving money on labor and input costs he doesn’t have to pay to farm those lower-yielding acres.

Yield-per-acre is farming lingo for how much money can you make per acre of farm land.  Adam Smith called it the rent of the land, the individual farmer, the man on the spot, was best suited to get the most out of the land. Karl Marx, didn’t want to let the farmer do his own thing for fear he would rape the soil to produce as much as possible today and not worry about tomorrow.

The Rent: Today Illinois farm land goes for $425/acre the farmer produces 180 bushels on that acre and then sells it for $6 a bushel $6 x 180 = $1,080 less $542 for all that good fertilizer, pesticides, machinery, etc. he’s at $538 minus the $425 rent leaves him at the end of the harvest with $113 per acre profit. The minimum CRP payment is $150/acre or in Dan Hansen, the Audubon County, IA. corn, soybean and livestock farmer’s case $300/acre.

That $6.00/bushel was the 2013 price as of April 30, 2016 it’s down to $3.58 x 180 = $644.40 less $542 for all that good fertilizer, pesticides, machinery, etc. he’s at $102.40 then when the rent of $425 comes due he is –$322.60 in the hole. At this rate Dan Hansen, our Audubon County, IA. corn, soybean and livestock farmer would be wise to convert the remaining 80% of his land to CRP but alas alack there is that Cap on CRP acreage down from 36 million acres in 1985 to 24 million today.

ag subsidiesWhat is so absolutely idiotic, absurd and beyond any economic rationality is the $30 billion/year farm subsidy legislation. The FED’s pay corporate farmers – those who own more than 1,000 acres – to destroy the land with row crops, herbicides, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, patented seeds and any non-organic farming practice known to Monsanto. Corn’s draw-down of subsidy loot is a double dipper, first as corn and second as ethanol.

cornuse2011Corn doesn’t do man or animal any good. We feed corn to chickens, pigs and cows because they live in factories. We turn corn into fructose  to make people fat. We use more fossil fuel to produce a gallon of ethanol than it does to produce a gallon of fossil fuel. That 14% Corn export amount is achieved with the subsidies and trade agreements like NAFTA.

Can we live without subsidies?

“In 1984 New Zealand’s Labor government took the dramatic step of ending all farm subsidies, which then consisted of 30 separate production payments and export incentives. This was a truly striking policy action, because New Zealand’s economy is roughly five times more dependent on farming than is the U.S. economy, measured by either output or employment. Subsidies in New Zealand accounted for more than 30 percent of the value of production before reform, somewhat higher than U.S. subsidies today.

new zealandSince 1984, the value of farm output in New Zealand has soared 40 percent in constant dollar terms since the mid-1980s. Agriculture’s share of New Zealand’s economic output has risen slightly, from a pre-reform 14 percent to 17 percent today. Since subsidies were removed, productivity in the industry has averaged 6 percent growth annually, compared with just 1 percent before reform.

If New Zealand Can, We Can, and Should

Aren’t CRP payments subsidies? No they are infrastructure investments – a 100 years of industrialized agriculture has degraded our soil and water. Instead of bailing out the banks we are buying out the farmers from counter-productive use of the land. Pasture land covers the soil year round, grows with the rainfall, not irrigation and is maintained and fertilized by birds, bees and livestock. New Zealand offered their farmers an exit payment, only 1% chose to leave the land.

Return the prairies to the prairie and let the buffalo roam, God Damn It!

 

How To Make $150,000 Annually On A 1.5 Acre Farm

My across the aisle farmers’ market neighbor brought her vegies to the Saturday Houston Farmers’ Market from Wharton 10 miles past our farm on the Southwest freeway. Her answer to, “was it worth it? “Most Saturdays I make over a $1,000 and if I don’t make at least $500 a market I drop it.”

I asked my fellow LLU teacher Ms Permaculture, another vegie pusher, what was her favorite market success story? “The guy who made $250,000 on a half-acre vacant lot in San Francisco, selling specialty greens to restaurants.”

My adjacent vendor always showed up late, bitched at the market manager for not having a space under the car-park canopy, then proceeded to sell out of salad greens in an hour and a half.

Of course my personal success story that convinced me that the only way to make a buck, or several bucks, was Nina Planck’s book Real Food. Her family in Louden, Virginia grossed $375,000 by trucking organic vegies to 17 farmers’ markets a week in the Metro DC area. $375,000 divided by 17 = $500/market, as an architect that was one more data point than I needed to launch my ‘Roadkill Sausage’ career in a Houston parking lot.

Today’s hero Jean-Martin Fortier interned on a farm in New Mexico and when the Santa Fe arugula dealer took home one to two thousand dollars on Saturday afternoon, Fortier was hooked. If he had worked for a Clovis, NM. farmer it would have been a different story.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BH0NkN6zHs://URBANFARM-JM-CSThere are many ways to make money living off the grid, but organic farmer Jean-Martin Fortier may have found the best one – and it’s bringing in $150,000 each year.

Fortier and his wife take in that much annually on an acre and a half farm where they raise everything from tomatoes to broccoli, using what they call “biologically intensive” practices and unique farming methods to harvest more vegetables than is normal on such a small piece of land. And they do it all without a tractor.

Fortier is this week’s guest on Off The Grid Radio, and he gives us an overview of his Quebec farm – a farm that has drawn worldwide attention and resulted in him writing a book.

He also tells us:

  • How his method can be duplicated on any off-grid homestead.
  • Why he chose not to use a tractor or any heavy machinery.
  • How he grows vegetables, in such large quantities, in a cold climate.
  • What he learned on a trip to New Mexico that inspired him to try his methods.
  • Why he believes his method – and not Big Ag – is the secret to feeding the world.

Fortier’s story is incredible and inspiring, even if you don’t plan on copying his methods. Listen as this organic farm expert shares his methods that are changing how we think about farming!

 

MAKE A SIX FIGURE INCOME WITH 50 GOATS ON 5 ACRES

goats_1Yes, a Six-Figure Income Means You’re Affluent

Only 47% of working age Americans have full time jobs.

There are 250,000,000 work age (16-64) persons in the US of A but only 117 million have jobs. There were 761,700 Farm jobs in 2014 earning on average $20,090 per year or $9.66 per hour.

farmer income

The above chart indicates that there are somewhere around 2 million farmers (principal operators) whatever the number, none of them made any money or came close to a six figure income

The real question is whether $100,000 or $200,000 in annual income makes a person affluent. Households making $100,000 or more constituted the top 24.7 percent of American households in 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. To put it differently, they’re better off than three quarters of the country. Those making $200,000 or more were in the top 5.6% of households in 2014. The threshold income for membership in the infamous One Percent, according to the calculations of Thomas Piketty and Emanuel Saez, was $423,090 including capital gains and $387,810 excluding them in 2014.

But are these people affluent? Heck yeah! The median household income in the U.S. in 2014 was $53,657. If you’re making twice that, or more, you are doing quite well from the perspective of your fellow citizens in what happens to be one of the richest nations on earth. And yes, a tax break that chiefly benefits you and others like you is in fact a subsidy for the affluent. http://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-06-03/yes-a-six-figure-income-means-you-re-affluent

The big, big question is how in the hell can you make a six figure income with 50 goals on 5 aces? Short answer move to the city.

Mark Spitznagel is Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Universa Investments. Spitznagel is the author of The Dao of Capital: Austrian Investing in a Distorted World and was the Senior Economic Advisor to Rand Paul.Mark Spitznagel (born March 5, 1971) is an American hedge fund manager, derivatives and commodities trader, author, and sustainable farmer. Spitznagel is known for his pioneering “tailhedging” and frequently bearish “Austrian”-based stock and commodities trading, his hugely profitable billion dollar derivatives bet on the stock market crash of 2008, and for having allegedly caused the stock market crash of 2010.

Spitznagel “gained credibility in the investment world by predicting two market routs in the past decade, first in 2000 and then in 2008,”[14] as well as predicting the “2000s commodities boom.”[5] He is considered “one of Wall Street’s most bearish”[15] as well as “biggest and boldest investors.”[16]

Mark Spitznagel built, owns, and operates Idyll Farms, a pasture-based goat farm and creamery that produces award-winning artisanal farmstead chèvre. (The word Idyll is “a song describing pastoral life,” as well as a reference to Siegfried Idyll.[1]) Idyll Farms cheeses received three awards at the World Championship Cheese Contest (including Best of Class) in 2016, multiple and repeat awards—which included the broad all milk cheese category—at the American Cheese Society North American Competition in 2013 and 2014 (the farm’s first two years of production),[85] as well as a “Best Artisanal Cheese” from Food & Wine magazine in 2016.[86]

In starting his farm in 2010, Spitznagel has said he wanted to “capture the terroir” of his native region,[87] as well as “feel engaged with something real, something tangible, and he wanted his kids to have that connection too.”[1] In discussing his life as both financier and farmer, Spitznagel has said “What’s going on in the financial world really shouldn’t matter that much. It’s the tail wagging the dog. What matters is making things, making real things, tangible things people can use.

detroithero spitznagel

Mark Spitznagel is Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Universa Investments. Spitznagel is the author of The Dao of Capital: Austrian Investing in a Distorted World and was the Senior Economic Advisor to Rand Paul.

Spitznagel is a billionaire, a one per-center for sure, from Michigan who likes dairy goats and is my inspiration for moving to the city. Here he is pictured with his girls grazing on the inner city neighborhood of Broadmoor, Detroit. Money not being a problem, in 2010 Mark built this award winning dairy. outside of Ann Arbor.

IdyllFarmsView

Shelby Ann Brown and I built our 100 square meter dairy in Kendleton, Texas, 50 miles south west of Houston. We received our Grade ‘A’ Raw Dairy certificate in 2003 and only started to earn an income above the $20,090 average, when we took our raw goat’s milk products to Houston on Saturday mornings.

dawn parlorJLD_0005Our licence was for On-the Farm sales only but sunny weekend customers who made the 50-mile trek to our farm generated less than $200/week. Desperation was the mother of Earth Mother Farms and the visitation to eight farmers’ markets a week, averaging $500 per market.

original-united-dairy-farmersCarl Linder, in my home town, Cincinnati, got his start on the path to one percent riches with his United Dairy Farmers store. Since rural America has been depopulated, since Teddy Roosevelt banned the sale of raw milk in 1912, the only way to make a six figure income with 50 goats on 5 acres, is move the dairy to the city.

Continue reading MAKE A SIX FIGURE INCOME WITH 50 GOATS ON 5 ACRES

Feeling the Bern Up on the Farm

ny state bernie

Bernie won New York in all the rural counties. Teachout a shinning star preaching the organic farming breakup Big Ag philosophy did well against Cuomo in 2014 and is running for Congress in 2016.

howard b

Howard Graham Buffett serving meals in Sierra Leone in 2007. He spends up to 200 days a year on the road, doing foundation work. (Jeannie O’Donnell / The Howard G. Buffett Foundation)

Howard, Warren Buffett’s farmer son, is one man, a rich one man, working in all 54 African countries developing sustainable farming on the continent with the biggest problems in hunger, poverty, soil, infrastructure, economics and politics. Howard’s dad is bridge buddies with Bill Gates who is also saving Africa. There is hope in 2016 that the Bern fires up the base like Teddy Roosevelt and FDR, while the well informed Buffett Gates partnership puts their money where it’s needed – like not in Panama.

“USAID and others have been at this for decades,” he said. “By now, according to projections, we should have ended hunger. So my point is, what we’re doing isn’t working.”

“Don’t get me wrong,” Buffett told me. “I’m a farmer. I know what I can get from improved seed. I know what I get from fertilizer. They’re huge. But technology can’t build organic matter. It can’t create topsoil. It can’t magically protect water quality. It’s a quick fix, and Africa needs a long-term solution.”

Instead of a green revolution for Africa, Buffett favors what he calls a “brown revolution,” or, to quote the distinguished agricultural ecologist Sir Gordon Conway, a “doubly green revolution”—a focus on environmentally sustainable agriculture that minimizes erosion, preserves and regenerates soil, and makes the land more resilient, while also increasing yields. In contrast to the green revolution, the brown revolution is a tortoise-like approach: Its impact is gradual. Over the past decade, patiently, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to identify and promote practical, low-cost methods of conservation farming—cover crops, no-till farming, locally bred seed varieties—that improve African soil quality and crop yields without chemical fertilizers and costly imported seeds. “If you take a place like Africa,” Buffett told me, “where they have the most degraded soils in the world, very limited nutrients, ground that is farmed to death—literally to the point where you have to move on and farm another piece of ground—and all you’re doing is throwing on synthetic fertilizer, it’s like trying to put an oxygen mask on a cadaver and expecting it’s going to start breathing again.”

The foundation owns and operates four research farms—4,400 acres in Decatur, 1,000 acres in Nebraska, 3,900 acres in the high desert of southeast Arizona, and the farm in South Africa, spanning 9,200 acres—where scientists from Texas A&M, Penn State, and Purdue are conducting experiments on how best to grow crops in places with little water and poor soil. In South Africa, the foundation is testing 14 different cover crops—among them cowpea, lablab, and pigeon pea—to learn which ones best reduce erosion and improve soil fertility. In Arizona, the foundation replicates the conditions faced by poor African farmers: drought, little or no fertilizer, oxen tilling the land. Tests are under way to measure the precise relationship between water and crop yields. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/05/how-warren-buffetts-son-would-feed-the-world/476385/

lakeview-first

An upstate Penn Yan, New York farm family is mastering the art of growing organic grain. They want to share their knowledge with the world.

For more than 20 years, the Martens family—Klaas, Mary-Howell, and their son Peter—has pioneered organic and sustainable farming on their farms and accompanying feed mill, Lakeview Organic Grain. Customers throughout the Northeast know them for their grains, regional farmers prize their organic feed, and celebrity chef Dan Barber uses their rotating crops in his seasonal risotto. The Martens farm is a living lab where they study how their soil can best support such non-indigenous crops as kiwis. Mary-Howell Martens, Klaas’s wife, promotes their agricultural techniques on a USDA advisory committee.

As they began paying closer attention to their soil, they introduced a greater variety of crops to their fields. The first time they planted organic crops, 10-foot-tall velvetleaf weeds appeared in their fields. But every year after that, the weeds weakened, finally succumbing to a fungal disease that they had cleverly encouraged. While the weeds withered in the Martens’ fields, they still flourished in neighboring farms. According to an agricultural researcher at Cornell, the Martens farm was the only one where conditions were created that favored the crops over the weeds.

 

Their quiet victory over velvetleaf was just one among many successes that helped to wear down their neighbors’ skepticism about sustainable practices. They were the first farm in their area to grow organic crops. Today, they are surrounded by 20 other organic farms.

Free Trade Begins Down On the Farm

whiskey prohibition Prohibition

The prohibition of alcohol lasted only 13 years, while the prohibition of raw milk has been enforced in the United States for more than a century. The ratification of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution–which banned the manufacture, transportation and sale of intoxicating liquors–ushered in a period in American history known as Prohibition. The result of a widespread temperance movement during the first decade of the 20th century, Prohibition was difficult to enforce, despite the passage of companion legislation known as the Volstead Act. The increase of the illegal production and sale of liquor (known as “bootlegging”), the proliferation of speakeasies (illegal drinking spots) and the accompanying rise in gang violence and other crimes led to waning support for Prohibition by the end of the 1920s. In early 1933, Congress adopted a resolution proposing a 21st Amendment to the Constitution that would repeal the 18th. It was ratified by the end of that year, bringing the Prohibition era to a close.

MtRushmore_TR_close

In the 1890s, Nathan Straus, co-owner of Macy’s department store in New York, was already building a reputation as a philanthropist. In the winter of 1892, he distributed 1.5 million buckets of coal to impoverished New Yorkers so they could heat their homes. The following year, he organized a series of shelters that provided beds and breakfasts to the city’s homeless population. In 1893, he tackled the problem of unsafe milk.

Straus had been reading up on Pasteur’s work and the theoretical benefits of pasteurization. He knew that nearly 10% of all children born in New York City died by the age of five -and despite all the recent improvements in milk quality, he still suspected that milk was to blame for many of the deaths. His reasoning was simple: Milk spoiled quicker in the heat of the summer, and the city’s childhood mortality rate increased at the same time. He figured there had to be a connection between the two. In 1907, the reform-minded president Teddy Roosevelt ordered his Public Health Service to look into the pros and cons of pasteurized milk. In 1908 the Service issued its report: Pasteurization, they found, did not affect the taste, quality, nutrition or digestibility of milk, but it did “prevent much sickness and save many lives.”

roquefort

French Roquefort, a famous blue cheese, which is required by European law to be made from raw sheep’s milk.

According to the regulations in the European Union all raw milk products are “legal” and considered “safe for human consumption”, and can be sold without any price, variety or quantity restrictions. However, raw milk and products made with raw milk must be labeled to indicate this. Also, European countries are free to add certain requirements. Usually special sanitary regulations and frequent quality tests (at least once per month) are mandatory.

Today, no one would suggest making the sale of whiskey illegal. Marijuana will soon be legal nationally, sooner if Bernie gets elected. However, milk, “nature’s most perfect product” is the best restraint-of-trade example, for why Free Trade Begins Down On the Farm.  The universal pasteurization requirement industrializes the production of all dairy products manufactured in the US and imported from other countries. European countries especially France treat their citizens’ freedom of food choice with respect and appreciation. The ‘frogs’ wouldn’t think of cooking their wine, their milk and certainly not their cheese.

farmer income

Family farming hasn’t made money since World War One. The individual dairy farmer sells cow’s milk to Big Dairy Inc. for $1/gal. or $1.05/gal. if it’s a Jersey. A report by the Agricultural Credit Association forecasts a $12/cow annual net profit with a 1,500 head dairy operation. Thirty head of cattle is above average for the small farmer. Like Bernie says the individual farmer is an endangered species with barely over two million left down on the farm. Is it any wonder that 56.6% had less than $10,000 in sales, that half had a primary job other than farming?

NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement are big deals for Big Dairy Inc and Monsanto. Factory farms can crank out tons of UHT milk, that has a shelf-life to infinity and beyond. As the world’s biggest ag-exporter Free Trade Agreements force our partners to accepting Monsanto’s GMO patented seeds.

Free Trade Down On the Farm could begin tomorrow with a stroke of Obama’s magic ‘directive’ pen, permitting the sale of labelled raw milk just like they do in gay Paree.

 

“You have to go where the customers are,”

nina8

“The Great Commerce of every Civilized Society is that carried on between the Inhabitants of the Town and those of the Country.– Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, 1776, (pg. 473)

My wife, Shelby Ann Brown and I, discovered, by forsaking our lives as Inhabitants of the Town, to become farmers, goat farmers, but farmers none the less, and live lives, like those of the Country, that everything Adam Smith said about agriculture in his seminal work the “Wealth of Nations,” was just as applicable in 1998 and 2008 as it was in 1776.

As Oogwei said to Shifu, in Kung Fu Panda, “There are no accidents, only reasons,” and God, my higher power and most assuredly Shelby, hadn’t dragged us to the most eastern tip of the Texas Panhandle in the summer of ’98, for no good reason.

Follett, Texas, the home of Shelby’s ancestors, was at the crossroads of history, in the American West. The Spanish conquistador Coronado, in 1500 came north from Mexico, through New Mexico and West Texas, then hung a right at the Canadian River. Two hundred fifty miles later, after enduring 27 mph average daily wind velocities, ambushes by the Native American crowd and not spotting a single solitary bush or tree along the way, Coronado threw up his gauntlet, and declared the Texas-Oklahoma “High Plains” to be the “inland desert of the Americas.” He then turned his expedition around and marched back the same 1,500-mile way he had come.

After the Civil War, Colonel George Custer came to Follett and lost his scalp while trying to massacre those pesky Native Americans, the pioneer cowboy-farmers solved the problem themselves by setting the prairie grass on fire, starving the buffalo and forcing the Native Americans to follow their food chain farther west.

The pioneers then established their own food distribution system by retracing Coronado’s steps with huge cattle drives, from south Texas north to Abilene and Dodge City. The prairie grass had scratched the belly of Coronado’s horse, but after a few trips, the cowboys over grazed the prairie to the nub. The citizens of Dodge were forced to lay off, both Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson, who later moved on to Tucson to make the original, “OK Corral.”

Shelby’s mom, dad, aunts and uncles had long ago abandoned the place, haunted by childhood memories, of being at ground zero, for the 1937 ‘Dust Bowl.’ Therefore, in the summer of ’98, Shelby and I pretty much had the place to ourselves. There was circumstantial evidence, with Christian radio, heard on all FM/AM frequencies, as well as in the grocery store, that not everybody’s higher power had left town.

Our game plan was to raise Black Boer Goat breeding stock and sell the goats for an average price of $500 apiece. This contrasted with the market price of $60 for an ordinary meat goat. The theory was, selling each of the two kids, from 120 adult nanny goats, would get us a $10,000 monthly income and achieve our goal of replacing our former urban professional salaries.

“The inhabitants of the town draw from the country the rude produce which constitutes both the materials of their work and the fund of their subsistence: and they pay for this rude produce by sending back to the country a certain portion of it manufactured and prepared for immediate use.”

After two years, we former inhabitants of the town had received less than a $1,000 portion of it manufactured and prepared for immediate use,” from the sale of our rude produce, Black Boer Goat breeding stock. I therefore dusted off Ted Levitt, the Father of Marketing’s Market Myopia axiom, “know what business you are in,” showed it to Shelby and she moved the goats and us back to Houston. Coronado’s past life regression chant of, “I told you so,” was audibly visible in the extended side mirrors of our, dually-diesel, F-350, crew-cab, truck.

Shelby went back to work to support the 15-acre homestead in Follett, 650 miles from our new 18 acres, farm-to-market, location, 50 miles southwest of Houston. I laid around the ratty old trailer-house all day, reading Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations” and rethinking just how farmers were supposed to make money in the food business.

Adopting the philosophy – “if you want to learn something, teach it,” – I taught Goat Farming 101: Urban Income, Rural Lifestyle, six times a year for six years, averaging 25 farmer ‘wannabes’ each session. BUT! It wasn’t until the sixth year, May 2006 to be exact, that I was able to stand in front of the class and honestly say, that yes; it is possible to have a rural lifestyle and earn an urban income of $10,000/month, from only fifty goats on five acres. AND! It took two years in Follett, plus six more years in Houston, Shelby’s $300,000 net worth, another $100,000 on MasterCard to figure out how those of the Country could make money selling rude produce to the inhabitants of the Town.

Architects are trained to use the iterative process (a fancy way to say, try and try again) for problem-solving, and once again I took Shelby’s money, to this time, buy 44 Nubian billy goats, for ‘Eid,’ the Moslem holiday, where traditional ‘Allah fearing’ families sacrifice a lamb or goat. This time was supposed to be different and it was, this time Shelby bought dinner for the entire Palestinian community of Houston. BUT, the silver-lining behind this iteration of “The Great Commerce of every Civilized Society carried on between the Inhabitants of the Town and those of the Country, was the discovery that Mrs. Kettler, the owner of those Nubian bad boys, had been selling raw goat’s milk to David Keresh’s Branch Davidians, in Waco as well as the citizens of Dallas, a two-hour drive away, for $7 a gallon.

The apple had fallen from the tree, the way for those of the Country to make a six figure income was to sell their rude produce to the Inhabitants of the town for at least $12 a gallon. Shelby liked that idea and went all the way to Tennessee to bring back four pregnant Saanen nannies, built a $30,000 dairy, TB tested our 100 ruminants to comply with every Texas Department of Health regulation in order to obtain the Grade ‘A’ raw dairy license, that Mrs.Kettler and others sold their raw milk without. No sooner than we were up and running, we noticed that the Houstonians were not coming to the farm for milk more than three times, at most. Why? Too far. Mother Necessity, made us take our rude produce to the farmers’ markets in Houston and thus, we became farmers, manufacturers and merchants. The parking lot of 2100 Richmond Avenue became our friend because we could sell everything we had to sell in two hours, while educating the public on why they had to pay ten times as much money for our rude produce as the store bought milk.

You can raise six lambs, six goats or one cow; on one acre of good pasture land. You can raise the lambs, the goats, the cow plus 100 chickens on an organically composted acre through the use of multi-species and rotational intensive grazing techniques. That four legged Nubian maiden can produce 2,000 pounds of milk in a years’ worth of ruminating around that little old acre of a pasture. At an average per pound price of say $2.50 a pound, the farmer if he sells direct to the consumer, gets to take $5,000/yr. back home, to his wife and kids.

Now, I know what you are saying, “tegory, that can’t be true, you are just making that, up.” I know it is difficult, and if I threw in the additional 2,000lbs. of sheep’s milk Greek feta, another 2,100 lbs. of cow’s milk at $1.19/lb and 100 chickens at $4/lb, the total $15,700 per acre, per year, would be just too big a number, for you to swallow, but it’s true.

When I showed my proposal to Prof. Jefferson Wang’s Zhengzhou University MBA class they were more than somewhat skeptical that any Chinese mother would pay a jin more than 2.5RMB (35 cents) for a liter of milk and there wasn’t a snowballs chance in Hainan they were going to pay anywhere near my suggested price of 40RMB ($5.85) per liter. I told them that there wasn’t a snowballs chance, even in Detroit, that Americans were going to pay $30,000 for a fully loaded, Buick sedan (the most popular car in China).

How do you get the Chinese mother to pay 40 RMB/liter for milk, when she currently wouldn’t give you a ‘jin’ more than 2.5 RMB/liter? Easy, repair the link between the dairy and the single child mother. An internet billionaire (Netease) is raising 10,000 hogs on webcam because China consumes 55% of the world’s pork but they don’t trust the local supplier. The mother will buy the milk from New Zealand for her baby and drink made in China for herself.

The Chinese mother will pay, once she sees the quality in what she is buying. 2009 was also the year that China passed up Japan as the world buying leader in the luxury goods market. I experienced the buying power of the Chinese when I offered to buy lunch at the best restaurant in Gong Yi, a small city west of Zhengzhou. I changed my tune when the taxi driver told us that the BEST restaurant in this small burgh would cost 5,000 RMB. I asked my friend, now who would pay $750 for lunch in Beijing or Shanghai, let alone Gong Yi. “Rich Chinese don’t care about money,” was his reply. We don’t need to sell all the mothers in China on the health benefits of raw goat’s milk, only the well-educated 1%. The mother of a newborn, in Houston, who raided our refrigerator at 3am couldn’t afford to buy a $75 lunch, let alone a $750 one, but she left a $10 bill in the fridge door, for a half gallon of milk for her baby.

Exactly as Adam Smith said in 1776, “The Great Commerce of every Civilized Society Is that carried on between the Inhabitants of the Town and those of the Country, and by visiting eight markets a week, holding cheese-making and goat farming classes, that included farm visits, were we able to restore the customer relationship between the farmer and his community.”  America’s agricultural system is a complete failure, fiscally and morally bankrupt. Farming no longer provides revenue and wealth creation for the individual farmer, and he is forced to turn to crime, industrialized agriculture, which depletes soil quality and ends up being complicit in poisoning the nation’s food supply.

So why is our system of agriculture, the sole or the principal source of the revenue and wealth of every country,” broken? Why are we the most malnourished developed nation on earth? Why hasn’t the family farmer made any real money since WWI? Why are two-thirds of Americans obese? Why are Romney’s 47% poor in health and wealth? Because 99% of USA farmers left the country to be merchant-manufacturer-inhabitants of the Town. Actually they took the town with them on their way to the big city.