Many people have a hard time relating to agriculture, rightly so—only 2% of the U.S. population is involved with the actual production aspect of the ag.  And, agriculture is very much a specific industry that cannot be easily compared to another.

Break graph hereAs a member of a family dairy farming business, I often find it hard to relate what I do to friends and the general public. But, after watching the documentary, “Food Inc.,” and spending a good bit of time thinking about the image that it creates, I think I have found an area to compare the progression of agriculture in the last 100 years to—and that is the public school system. Now, as I work through this comparison, follow along, as it is a building process.

As "Food Inc." depicts, the size of farming operations have increased significantly. Yet, in the same amount of time, the equivalent can be said about public schools. In both cases, we have taken animals that were in smaller barns, or on pastures, and children that went to one-room schoolhouses, and have built larger facilities for the integration of more units. 

Now, to draw a larger picture, we all know that smaller farms and school districts still exist—for apparent reasons, such as where they are located and community dynamics. They offer many idyllic qualities that are important, but also cost more to operate and lack some production and educational opportunities.  

So what are the real positives and negatives—of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) and large school districts? Efficiencies of scale relate to both: transportation, labor, heating and maintenance costs (just to name a few) are spread over larger numbers of children (and, likewise, over larger numbers of animals). In education—nutrition programs, health services, curriculum, testing procedures and extra-curricular activities can be consistently regulated. The same can be said for CAFOs—consistent feeding practices, animal handling, chore procedures (say milking on dairy farms), veterinary care, etc. Efficiencies of scale can reduce the rise of our school taxes and food costs.

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