Who wants to live next to a CAFO?


The Des Moines Register had a blog post recently from a writer who discusses coming back to Iowa to visit his family, and being dismayed at all the confinement buildings dotting the landscape.  I don’t blame him, it makes me sad too.  We drive up to LeMars (north of Sioux City) on occasion to visit some friends, and the trips west along 380 to Hwy 20 and then to LeMars is dotted with an incredible amount confinement operations.  In some places they are just barely outside the towns.  

There is one town along the way, Remsen, where we stop to gas up and take a potty break and the smell from the buildings just down the road almost makes me vomit.  It’s incredible.  I don’t know why anyone would want to work in those, live by those or subject the world to them.  The smell is incredible.  

When my parents first moved to Arkansas they lived downwind from a chicken processing plant.  That place smelled ripe, but it had nothing on a fragrant confinement building, especially when the weather is kind of warm. To this author, as someone who lives in Iowa, and has for 20+ of my 31 years, the uptick in CAFOs in the recent 15 years is dismaying to me too.  It makes me sick to think how my state is being polluted by these places, just in the name of a few bucks and some cheap, sick meat.  

You know, Iowa is a great agriculture states.  The soil is so fertile that you can grow practically anything, but our farmers have prostituted themselves to the large grain and meat cartels.  It’s sad.  75-100 years ago every farm in Iowa would have multitudes of animals, grow 30, 40 or 50 different crops and be nice pleasant places to live.  Not to mention the vibrant small towns dotting the landscape. 

Now?  Not so much.  Most farmers grow corn and beans on rotation and if they have any animals they are stuck in one of those stinky buildings.  We have small towns that are shells of their former selves, most with vacant downtown districts, and we’ve all allowed it to happen.  We’ve supported it by shopping for food based on price, instead of how the person grows the food.  We’ve done it by driving to the big town with the MegaMart to do our shopping instead of the local grocer.  We’ve been an accomplice to it when we eat all this junk food that’s derived from corn, which encourages more corn plantings.  We’ve told these CAFO operators that we don’t care what happens to the world around us as long as we can get ground chuck for $1.99 a pound.  We’ve all supported it by making farmers think their jobs aren’t important, even though without them we’d all be in a world of hurt.  Wouldn’t we? 

I’ve been eating local, organic, growing my own and being active about this for a while for a multitude of reasons.  If you’re reading this I think it’s time you take a look in the mirror and think about what you see looking back at you.  Is it time that you left your dollars do your voting?  Farmer’s Market season is coming up and it’s a great time to tell the industrial ag companies to shove it.  It’s a great feeling, and each time you spend that dollar you’ll be helping to bring back the old Iowa (or whatever state you’re in).  If we keep it up long enough, hopefully it will work.    


5 responses to “Who wants to live next to a CAFO?

  1. When I look in the mirror, I can say with complete honesty that I like what I see. No, I’m not narcissistic … much :), but I do feel good about the positive changes I’ve made with my family’s diet over the past two years, and at first, it was really tough to get out of the mindset of processed food being the only thing to eat. It’s taken a long time, but wow, what a ride!

    Keep up the good fight! I think we’ll prevail eventually – be it by choice or by force due to Peak Oil and climate change, people will end up going more local and growing their own. I hope we all take the opportunity to choose, but I know that’s being optimistic :).

    • Stop eating freaking pork then if you’re going to bitch about it. Good luck with the organic pork as well. Sorry to break it to you people who have no idea..a couple outdoor organic hogs are going to smell just as bad as confinement pigs. Except with outdoor pigs your shit runs into the waterways.

      • Thanks for the comment Miller. I disagree with you about the smell though. Hogs with the appropriate amount of bedding and not confined haven’t smelled bad in my experience. I’ve only noticed bad smelling pigs when they are kept in a muddy hold with no bedding. I guess we just have different noses.

  2. It’s been interesting to watch my brother develop. He currently works at a CAFO in northeastern Iowa, but wants to own his own business and raise animals closer to organic (but being a young man, having a difficult time putting together the financial resources to achieve that dream, so works to learn what can, and what not to do. He has a respect for animals and a desire to have a diverse farm uncommon to others I’ve encountered in the farming community of this generation). Currently he’s planning to join the police force in our former home town..as means to pursue opportunities with the DNR and conservation (apparently, they attend the same academy, but the police force will pay for it). Looks to be quite a journey.

  3. I had read that article (I’m pretty sure it was the same one; your link is no longer active, FYI). What I thought was really interesting were the responses – so many commenters were really angry at him for saying what he said. Too dangerous, I suppose, too threatening. It’s so important, though, to hear Iowans challenge the status quo – it’s so easy to frame the conversation as outsiders vs. Iowa. I haven’t bought $1.99 chuck for a long, long time, and I don’t plan to again. I’d rather just give up the chuck altogether if need be.

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