“The tractors had lights shining, for there is no day and night for a tractor and the disks turn the earth in the darkness and they glitter in the daylight. And when a horse stops work and goes into the barn there is life and a vitality left, there is a breathing and a warmth…and the heat and smell of life. But when the motor of a tractor stops, it is as dead as the ore it came from. Then…the tractor man drives home to town, perhaps twenty miles away, and he need not come back for weeks or months, for the tractor is dead. And this is easy and efficient. So easy that the wonder goes out of work, so efficient that the wonder goes out of land and the working of it, and with the wonder the deep understanding and the relation.”
The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
This is something that I’ve been pondering over the last few days. Does an understanding of the land have to be mutually exclusive to the mechanisation of agriculture? Could traditional agriculture feed 7 billion people – and would we be willing to go back to more labour intensive methods of production? Have we reached a point where industrial agriculture is the only way?