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Jim Moore Counters Michael Pollan

Posted by struscott | November 7, 2009

Family farmers Jim Moore and John Roach are growing wheat without irrigation.

Indeed, his family has been growing wheat under dryland condition since the late 19th century. Moore’s grandfather started a 160-acre wheat farm in 1896, plowing the land with a team of 36 horses. Back then, the farm was able to produce between five and 10 bushels of wheat per acre.

Roach said the farm is now producing between 35 and 80 bushels per acre, all depending on the rain. The family farms in one of the driest agricultural regions in the country, and depends on Mother Nature – the rain – to provide what little water the crops receive.

Moore said he has tried a no-till approach, which means the soil is not disturbed by plowing, ripping or turning. A no-till approach is beneficial in locations where water is limited because it can increase the moisture content of the soil. But, Moore said, out of the five years he tried this approach, it failed four times. Moore said a no-till approach will not work without water.

Moore said trying new ideas is a must when working without water. A lot of tillage practice is done to find ways to save water. Moore said certain methods may work for some people but not everyone.

“Integrity, hard work, an open mind and a lifelong partner are the keys to success,” said Moore.

Moore compared Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which is the book freshmen campus-wide are reading for the Common Reading Program, with his experience in farming.

“To blame nutrition problems on the farming program is ludicrous,” said Moore. “It’s your own problem. You should take responsibility for yourself.”

Moore said Pollan is a very smart man because he can take a controversial subject, then write a book about it and make lots of money. Moore compared The Omnivore’s Dilemma to a comic book.

Moore said contrary to Pollan’s claims, the hunter and gather approach to food is not very environmentally friendly. Moore said Pollan probably burned more fuel going from place to place to gather food than the farmer who uses tractors.

Sustainability is another major theme in the book. Moore brought up the question of who a farm has to sustain to be considered sustainable.

“Our farm is sustainable, it has been here for 100 years and is more productive and the ground is in better shape now than it’s ever been,” said Moore.

by Whitney Parsons, CAHNRS Marketing and News intern