Will's Wisdom: We Broke Our Food System in Three Ways

Posted by Will Harris
Jul 5, 2021 8:12:00 AM


Over the last 75 years, we have broken our food production system in three ways. 

We industrialized, centralized, and commoditized agriculture [food production]. All three were different actions that produced three different results.


We used the tools of technology to turn the cyclical system of land management [farming] into a linear factory model. We broke all of the cycles of Nature [not just carbon, but all of them]. 


We took the work of adding value to farm products and moved it to distant, enormous centralized processing facilities. Centralization hurt both communities. Small rural communities became impoverished because they became irrelevant. Communities around centralized production facilities were overwhelmed with pollution, diminished resources, poor employee social conditions, and inadequate public services.


Previously, farmers who had a reputation for producing the “best of the best” would be paid a premium for having the highest quality product. In the last half century, we started commoditizing agricultural products, tying the price that farmers received for a product to meeting minimum standards rather than product quality. Minimum standards were based just above the poorest quality product that consumers would purchase. 

If a farmer spent money or time putting extra quality into production, this value could not be monetarily extracted from the commodity market. It was a race to the bottom for flavor, nutrients, and quality of agricultural products.

Pasture raised sheep in front of processing plant

Regenerative agriculture, and holistic land management, are central to our farm. But creating a resilient food system isn’t just about regenerative agriculture–it requires addressing all of the cycles that we have screwed up. 

Industrialization = Broken cycles of Nature

Centralization = Rural impoverishment 

Commoditization = Losing nutrients

Industrialization is just one of our screw ups in our food system. A farmer needs to be able to restart the cycles of Nature, process and distribute, and also monetize products.

Turkeys on pasture

As a farm, we are working toward building resiliency in every area:


Our holistic land management system works to restart all of the cycles of Nature that humankind has broken. All the cycles of Nature are essential. The carbon cycle is one among many, but I am very proud that we are the only farm that has scientific proof that our system has sequestered carbon


I am very proud of the fact that we are the largest private employer in our county, writing payroll checks for almost $100,000 per week, in one of the poorest counties in the USA.


I am very proud of the fact that our farm is vertically-integrated in the production, processing, value addition, order fulfilment, and shipping of beef, pork, lamb, poultry, and a lot of other stuff. We are able to raise our pasture-raised and grassfed livestock and sell these products directly to our customers. 

White Oak Pastures employee

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