Despommier is a professor of public health at Columbia University. He created the “vertical farm” concept with help from graduate students in a class on how the environment and human health interact. The idea was a hit with one New York politician who envisioned vertical farms on Manhattan’s skyline. He even thought the city could get the funding to build a pilot project. Can you imagine financially-strapped cities using taxpayer money to build vertical farms?

The price tag for a 30-story vertical farm to feed 50,000 people is estimated to be hundreds of millions of dollars, although the concept is fairly simple according to Despommier, “Stack up ‘high-tech’ greenhouses on top of each other and locate these ‘super’ indoor farms inside the urban landscape.”

Hydroponic and aeroponic farming already play roles in agriculture, but does it make sense to stop farming on the horizontal plane in rural America and move food production to the cities? Yet, ideas like this persist and get far more attention than the thoughts of real farmers about the future of agriculture.

One thing missing from the book The Vertical Farm is what becomes of our farm and ranch families? It appears as though they would be replaced by farm technicians in lab coats who work for the government, very-large corporations or urban co-ops.

America’s farmers and ranchers are hardworking, successful and adapt to change. They adapt to changing consumer preferences and shifts in weather or climate patterns. They are determined to meet the demands placed on them to supply food, fiber and energy. Let’s leave the future of farming in their hands.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Stewart Truelsen is a regular contributor to the Focus on Agriculture series and is author of a new book marking the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 90th anniversary, Forward Farm Bureau.