People all over the world take different approaches to farming. Two of the most apparent forms that we have seen throughout our travels are monoculture farming and sustainable, organic farming. Monoculture farming has been seen by almost anyone traveling the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Sustainable, organic agriculture is not common in the United States on a large scale. Most of the time sustainable, organic agriculture will only be on a garden scale for most families in the United States at this point in time. However, as we traveling in Central America we visited multiple farms that practiced organic and sustainable practices.
Monoculture farming is the most popular form of farming in the United States. It is almost impossible to drive around on the Eastern Shore of Maryland without seeing a monoculture like farm. Almost every farm that can be seen on the a Eastern Shore only had one crop on it, whether that crop is all corn, all soybean, or all of some other crop. These monoculture farms generally use chemicals in order to maintain the fields. The farmers don’t want other plants and pests to invade the fields so that the crops are not damaged or impeded upon. The American culture is largely about efficiency. Monoculture farms allow for extreme efficiency due to only having to buy and use one piece of equipment in order to harvest crops. The crops in a monoculture system all require the same amount of nutrients, water, and management techniques in order to thrive. Although these fields are extremely efficient they tend to be more susceptible to failure. If disease strikes a monoculture field the chance as of losing the entire field are much higher. This is due to the higher change of disease spreading and the higher chance of the entire crop suffering in the event of a drought.
Throughout our travels in Central America we saw a completely different type of farm: those that are sustainable and organic. These farms didn’t use any chemicals In order to maintain the crops, instead they used other plant species. The other plant species kept pests away and controlled the amount of weeds and unwanted plant species by taking up more room and sunlight. The use of other plants also allows for the farmer to gain profit from the harvest of any species and type of food. This use of other plants also allows he soil to not become depleted of nutrients. This was seen on Sylvano’s farm in Blue Creek, Belize as well as Chris Nesbit’s farm at Maya Mountain Research Farm. On a monoculture farm, using a single crop species depleted the nutrients because that species takes the same nutrients out of the ground over and over again and never puts them back in. Eventually the soil doesn’t have any more of that nutrient in the ground. However, a farm with multiple plant species contains species that will take multiple types of nutrients and the different species will replenish the nutrients that others take away. This system is a recycling of nutrients and allows the soil to remain healthy so the fields can be used for longer periods of time rather than being unusable after only a couple years of harvesting.
There’s a debate throughout the world of which type of farming is the best. However, many countries primarily have monoculture farming. Even driving along the roads through Belize and Guatemala most of the farms that could be seen primarily only had one crop: bananas, citrus, etc. Which form of farming is the best to use? Should we really be relying on monoculture farming if it depletes the soil and chemicals have to be used on our food when that can be avoided?