Yesterday was a blistering 108 degrees in the mid-Willamette Valley, so I betook myself to the OSU Library to borrow some air-conditioned comfort.  While there, I decided to undertake a little project.  I located a bunch of farming books from pre-1959, and settled in to see what I could learn.


See, here’s the deal.  I know all about modern farming.  I have a degree in it.

I have a great appreciation for the advancements in science and knowledge that have augmented farm production in this day and age.  But the more I stop and think about industrial farming, the sadder I become.  There’s something just not quite right about a lot of our methods, and these old forgotten books are helping me put my finger on it.

I cracked open that book up there [Practical Poultry Management by James E. Rice and Harold E. Botsford, copyright 1956]  and was immediately struck by what I read on the first page.  Italics added by yours truly for emphasis.


Brooding is one of the poultryman’s most interesting types of work.  The thrill of placing chicks under brooders and watching them develop is well-nigh universal.

It is cheaper than buying pullets of the same age.  Furthermore, it is more fun.

To such as this, brooding chicks is a joy….

…the end result is likely to be satisfactory to both chicks and attendant.


Every single one of these books speaks of the joy of watching your animals grow healthy and strong.  Doesn’t it seem like that is missing in modern industrial agriculture? I promise you, no one at Tyson Food, Inc. is experiencing much fun or  joy in watching your Chicken McNuggets grow up.

Lest you think these books were written by kooks, I assure you…these are college textbooks published by eminent Cornell agriculture professors of the 1950’s.

Come over to my house and crack open some of my Animal Science textbooks from 2006.  You won’t see a single word about the joy or satisfaction of raising healthy animals.


This handsome book was published in 1895.  [Don’t try to buy it, it’ll set you back $150 these days]

Get a load of this quote!


It may be assumed, therefore, that we do not advocate the keeping of fowls in unhealthy places, and that unless there can be provided a reasonable amount of open space, a light, comfortable, dry and well ventilated house, it is much better to do without the birds altogether, and trust to buying eggs from those who have more favourable opportunities for keeping them. (Profitable Poultry Keeping, Stephen Beale, 1895)


So, you decide.  Which birds look like they are experiencing the more favourable opportunity?



I think it might be time for modern-day farmers to dust off those old textbooks and remember some of the values of the 1950’s.

And in the meantime: trust to buying your eggs [and meat] from those who have more favourable opportunities for keeping them.


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Filed under Project Start a Farm

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