Bet the Farm!

Filed under:General — eric @ 3:28 am

Columbus, Ohio’s Center of Science and Industry claims to be among the country’s most highly respected science centers. Browsing through their website, they do look like a great educational resource for the people of Ohio. One of their exhibits, though, has been co-opted by industry to mis-educate the patrons. Bet the Farm is an on-line board game (requiring Flash) that states “successful farming today requires one thing above all else: making intelligent decisions.” In playing this game, you are a farmer who has to make a series of decisions about what to raise, how to raise it, and how to sell it. Random events add a bit of luck to the mix. So far, so good. From the very first question, though, it was clear whose agenda this educational experience was furthering. Crop and animal diversity was discouraged, preventative antibiotics, hormones, bio-engineered seed, and high levels of fertilizer, herbicide, and insecticide were encouraged. It was not even possible to choose organic methods. Choosing as few of the industrial options as it allows always leads to massive crop failure and financial ruin. It is possible to make a lot of money in the game, hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, but only if you are a good patron of the chemical companies. (It’s not that way in real life, of course.) The exhibit is sponsored by the “agricultural councils” of Ohio, and there is no evidence that natural farming was ever considered.

Play the game some, and if you agree with me, tell them what you think about mis-educating people about the intelligent way to farm.

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  1. I made $20,000 my first game with soybeans, lamb, and some hay. That was my best game until I turned my farm into a chemical dumping zone. Then I made hundreds of thousands of dollars, even with multiple bad events decimating my crops and livestock.

    Comment by Schlake — 11/11/2002 @ 4:22 am

  2. I’ve not played the game yet (I’m just too well supervised…) but for those who’ve had: a question. On one of those runs where you use a lot of “Green Revolution” chemicals and such and you made six figures, were the costs of the chemicals and chemical paraphenalia (appliction equipment, lisences, inspecions, cleanup costs when you inevitably spill the chemicals, etc.) factored into your yearly balance or did you just see “your” gross income. In Iowa, a heavily chemical laden state indeed, it appears that as soon as you start down the “Green Revolution” path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Ahem, I mean the costs are so much that you’ll need to increase yields, which means more chemicals, which means you need more money, more yields, etc. And before we know it the bulk of “family” farmers in the US are client farmers for Monsanto and ConAgra family of companies! The system works!

    Comment by Matt — 11/12/2002 @ 9:33 am

  3. I finally got a chance to play this game and to answer my question, yes production costs are figured in. I tried to make a “moderate” farm. Chickens (I thought I was getting a couple hundred, I got 23,000!), Wheat, and Soy. I used no till, moderate chem applications, precision farming, moderate buildings, manure reclamation, and I still ended up $50,000 in the hole. I think that the ruling hypothesis (provided by the sponsers) in the game is that you only have the opportunity to make a mega “green factory” farm. There is no way to show that little organic truck farms can also be profitable…

    Comment by Matt — 11/14/2002 @ 9:17 am

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