The Democratic and Sacred Nature of Agriculture


Evaggelos Vallianatos

Abstract ‘Sustainable’ agriculture is a relative recent invention. It is a salvage operation designed to undo some of the harm of agribusiness, which nearly wiped out farming as a way of life. Sustainable agriculture tries to restore methods of farming and values that satisfy present needs for food without compromising the food for future generations. Sustainable farming, however, remains experimental and on the fringes of society and science. It includes all kinds of farming practiced by peasants, small-scale family farmers, organic farmers as well as large farmers. In what follows, I am showing, first, farming is or becomes sustainable when two things prevail: First, it is democratic, spread throughout the land in the form of family farming while the difference in size among farms is modest at best. Second, farming is sustainable when it draws its inspiration and methods not merely from the most advanced ecological science but from ancient agrarian cultures. I briefly highlight the case of ancient Greek farming as having the virtues of sustainability: that of equity and democracy. In our times, however, agribusiness and animal farming fail the criteria of sustainability.

Keywords: Democracy ! Industrialization ! Agribusiness ! Large farms ! Sustainability ! Sacred agriculture ! Organic farming ! Animal farms ! Nature

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Evaggelos Vallianatos is a Greek writer living in the US and writing on Greek history and ecopolitical issues. He is the author of This Land is Their Land and The Passion of the Greeks.