One of the challenges of fences and trees are that they are difficult to mow around; this reason, more than anything else it seems, determines the pattern of the rural countryside. People generally have unmanaged woodlots scattered among vast fields with roads criss-crossing them and houses and barns dotting them. This has so many invisible problems. The unmanaged woodlots become harbors for pestilent deer and squirrels, are not very productive of edible crops (about all they are good for is cordwood and sometimes lumber), and because they are like little islands they hardly prevent erosion or build soil fertility. The fields are extremely vast and barren in the winter usually, allowing for erosion and leaching of nutrients into the groundwater.
I have a vision of a what I think is a much more productive and environmentally benign agriculture, one that involves all three “platforms” if you will of land-based food growing. It involves managed tree production (for fruit, nuts, and wood), pasture-based herbivore production (for meat, milk, fiber, and leather), and a limited amount of field-based vegetable and grain production sort of all mixed together. The problem with this system is that it is difficult to keep tidy and under control because most agricultural machinery is built strictly for field use. Not so with the little Grillo two-wheeled tractors, that I think are mainly used in vineyards and Olive orchards in Italy where they are designed and built. Fortunately, vineyard/orchard type machines overlap with my tree and pasture garden farming vision.
A key advantages of the Grillo and the double-action cutter bars, aside from being very efficient (acres of hay and mulch are mown with mere pints of gasoline) is that the cutter bar is IN FRONT of the tires. The herbage is standing tall before it is cut without being smashed down first. Another advantage is that the footprint of the tractor occupies about half the width of the cutter bar. The cutter bar extends to the sides like the head of a hammerhead shark. This means it conveniently slips under fences wires, even very low ones. The handlebars can be offset to the left or the right helping to ensure the driver doesn’t get shocked by the fence, too. And these tractors can stop and reverse almost instantly, do “zero-turns,” and are light enough that you can drag them with your arms if you need to. Four wheeled tractors and haybines and mowing machines are simply not this agile. I do realize that the being a walk-behind machine sort of limits the total capacity of what can be done in a day, but I almost think that is an advantage, keeping things on a more human scale and providing meaningful exercise (I consider working out at a gym, where pointless motion is made, to be meaningless exercise).
All around me farmers complain that their children will not keep up farming, or only a few of them will. What perplexes me is why they complain about this, because the way THEY CHOOSE TO FARM more or less determines that their children will have no work to do on the farm. Machinery use and human labor are pretty much inversely related to each other, so the more developed the machinery is, the less work there is to do. By keeping machines small and somewhat limited in their total capacity, you are giving people something to do. And it isn’t just make-work. The small scale and nimbleness of small machines makes it much easier to use every square foot of property. It allows the growing of plants that are much more productive in nutrition per acre (fruit/nut trees and garden plants) than low-labor-input and low-nutrition field crops, like corn.
Nutrition research continues to find that we are better off eating less food from field crops (grains) and more vegetables, meat, nuts, and dairy. And people are constantly discussing how AI and robotics are going to create the “problem” of people not having meaningful work to do. I can tell you one thing, living things relate better to living things than non-living things relate to living things. This was made clear by the Terminator films. Arnold Schwarzenegger prepared for the role by blindfolding himself and operating machines in the most mechanized manner he could, because his character was a machine after all. He had to purge his humanness to fit the role, and he did a convincing job. It was clear enough that he related to machines far better than to people. He could operate any firearm, vehicle, motorcycle, etc. better than any human could ever hope to. He related to machines effectively. Yet his relations to humans were, well, a bit more awkward.
“I need your clothes, your boots, and your motorcycle,” says the Terminator in a most un-relatatble manner. This appraoch may work with machines, but with living things it will result in conflict. It might work with some rough motorcycle dude better than most because the Terminator could just beat the crap out of him and take his stuff, but this approach taken will a dairy cow will make her hold up her milk. You can’t beat the milk out of a cow! A Terminator would find that it would be forced to inject her with oxytocin to hormonally force letdown every milking, which will make it not worthwhile, because the shot costs about what a few gallons of milk is worth. A living human soon learns that one must relate to a dairy cow in almost a cat-like manner. You have to give her a certain about of respect, and let her think to a degree she is in control, and you must treat her well. Now, it is possible, I suppose, that AI will eventually produce robots that can learn to relate to living things better than the Terminator did, but if they ever do, it will certainly be the very last thing they will learn. Presently, they can’t even walk straight, so it will be a while.
In the mean time I think a shift away from urbanism and industrial-commercial labor and back to agrarianism and agricultural labor (where you relate to living things) may provide the solution to the robotics induced labor crisis, the growing global population, so called “climate change,” and the obesity pandemic. Gotta think big!