Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Should Draft Horses Replace Tractors?

The question seems especially pertinent now, when we are constantly consumed with shock at the ever-increasing price of gas. Any vehicle-owning American is alarmed at the changes that oil could effect on individual lives, but how many wonder what it will do to our food supply?

Conventional farming relies almost 100% on oil. It runs the huge equipment over hundreds and sometimes thousands of acres. Its needed for processing. It transports the food thousands of miles and countless states away.

For those that think our food supply is better in the hands of a few large corporate farms, think about what that actually does to our economy. We can't support that forever. Do we really want to depend on something so volatile -- oil -- when it comes to "what's for dinner"? Granted, more power than ever to the alternative fuel research. But, maybe we have another option as well.

More and more small farms are returning to horse power. Why? Besides the romance of it, their reasons are very practical:

-Horses reproduce. Tractors don't.
-Horses fertilize, elminating another costly aspect of farming.
-Horses can feed themselves off the land. Hello? Cheap.
-Horses don't mind the weather.

It's sustainable, and in this day it's more important than ever to make a move towards sustainable food production. Dick Corteau, in his article "Horse Power" presents a very compelling argument for the place that horses have in our future. While he understands that they can't do what machinery can on large farms, he poses the question: why can't our farms decrease in size so we have more people working in agriculture?

In a business sense, horses makes work. It's the romantic ideal of having a relationship with your livelihood, though, that makes it last. :)

No comments: