But Public Enemy Number One on Pacelle’s list are the dozen or so companies that gamed the system and usurped the means of production in America. Fifty years ago, before the coming of giants, this country’s cows, pigs and poultry were mostly raised outdoors and sold, for whatever the spot market bore, at livestock auctions for cash. Then Tyson, Perdue and others set about gobbling up feed lots, van lines, slaughterhouses and hatcheries, ran them, top-down, via corporate committees, and turned farmers into wage slaves on their lands, owners of nothing but the mortgages on their barns. With the craven consent of the Department of Agriculture (then, as now, a revolving door for executives in the big-farm sector), they devoured smaller companies, corraled much of the nation’s livestock and began treating animals as production units, not living, feeling creatures with basic rights. Their motto: maximum profit for minimum input, meaning far fewer workers tending vastly larger stocks, and animals confined in tight, dark spaces for the ease and convenience of staff.
In addition, other elements conspire to take away from the harvest for which we worked so hard to produce. Despite the best application of modern agricultural practices, an unavoidable portion of what is grown rots in the fields prior to harvest time, or in the world’s storage bins afterwards. Every year, depending upon geographic location and intensity of El Niño events, crops suffer from too little water and wither on the spot, or are lost to severe flooding, hailstorms, tornados, earthquakes, hurricanes, cyclones, fires, and other destructive events of nature. Many of these phenomena are at best difficult to predict, and at worst are impossible to react to in time to prevent the losses associated with them. In sub-Saharan Africa, locusts remain an ever-present threat (42), and can devastate vast areas of farmland in a matter of days. Even after a bumper crop is realized, problems associated with processing and storage lessen the actual tonnage that is available to the consumer. A large portion of the harvest, regardless of the kind of plant or grain, is despoiled or a portion consumed by a variety of opportunistic life forms (., fungi, bacteria, insects, rodents) after being stored. While it is conceded that at present the abundance of cash crops is more than sufficient to meet the nutritional needs of the world’s human population, delivering them to world markets is driven largely by economics, not biological need. Thus, the poorest people – some billion – are forced to live in a constant state of starvation (43), with many thousands of deaths per year attributable to this wholly preventable predicament (44). Locating vertical farms near these human “hot spots” would greatly alleviate this problem.
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