the agronomist

I think I officially cast my lot with organic and sustainable agriculture as a way of life today. That doesn’t mean I’m definitely going to be a farmer for the rest of my life. It just means I took a public stand for the methods and practices of organic farming over and against industrial farming. 

(The key word in that sentence is “public.”) 

Now, after reading this post, some may look skeptically on my use of the word “public,” as well as the melodramatic way I’m setting this whole scene up. That may be fair.

But it felt like a big deal to me. Here’s what happened. 


I have an old and venerable friend named Tyler. Tyler and I were catching up on that illustrious and noble web-interface known as The Facebook, and I mentioned to him my plans (!) to travel to New Zealand in August and volunteer through a program called WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) for about nine months. Upon hearing these plans, Tyler spoke of them to his uncle, whom he describes as an “Agronomist (someone who specalizes in farming and farming practices and gets paid alot of money).” (Note the capitalization.)

Now, what did Tyler’s uncle the Agronomist say about my plans? 

[H]e said that organic farming (which is what WWOOF practices) is difficult and unpredictable. he suggested the peace corps or that you get training elsewhere first.

Really? “Difficult and unpredictable”? No!

OK, OK. I’m getting ahead of myself… This is what I responded to Tyler over Facebook:


Do me a favor. I seriously want this done. OK?

Tell your uncle that LIFE is difficult and unpredictable. So why should we expect anything different from something so foundational to life itself–the bringing forth of FOOD (necessary to life!) from the earth?

It’s industrial farming that is unpredictable. It’s using chemicals and methods that were invented sometimes only 30 years ago–at most, 100 years ago (when nitrogen-fixation was applied to fertilizer by Bosch and Haber)–and whose consequences for long-term health and nutrition we know nothing about, not to mention the consequences for the earth that we know are dangerous and even deadly. 

I don’t want to be told how to farm by a “specialist” who “gets paid a lot of money.” I want to learn how to farm from my ancestors, who farmed the same way–organically!–for centuries before anything else was even possible. 

Thank you and good night.


You may be asking yourself, “Where’s the ‘public stand,’ Scott?”

Perhaps posting the whole response here makes it a little more public than the conversation with Tyler limited by the privacy of Facebook. However, I fully intend Tyler to pass my little message along to his uncle. And, knowing Tyler, I think he will. That means I will have taken a stand in the very public arena of Agronomy. A man with a capitalized title will have to come to terms with my convictions. 

How’s that for activism? Protestation? 


Rosa Parks


One response to “the agronomist

  1. Thomas Dixon

    Hey man, amen that life is difficult and predictable. Not that trying to make things more predictable–all else being equal–is bad, certainly when you have others to support. But sometimes it’s ok or good to take risks.

    Could you give us a nutshell definition of organic farming and how it differs from non-organic (=industrial?) farming? Thanks bro.

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