Thursday, December 15, 2011

Shifting Agriculture Could Change Everything

My partner and I were talking about our future one day when she made a statement that still has me thinking weeks later. I was telling her about my plans for the not-quite-an-acre property, and how I plan to eke as much food from it as possible. She nodded and said, "Your job will be growing the food and mine will be preserving and cooking it" Now, obviously there will be more to it, but she has the essence of it right. With the core of our new roles put like that, I realized I can't take a break from learning all I can about agriculture.

John Michael Greer talks about two agricultures in his blog entry, Two Agricultures, Not One dated August 18th of last year. He talks about how the mega-farming as we know it today is an industrialized and chemicalized version of the intensive farming that fed our ancestors, and he also shares the opinion that intensive gardening is going to help us pad our food shortfall,
"A team of researchers at pioneering organic-gardening group Ecology Action found, on the basis of extensive tests, that it’s possible to feed one person year round on a spare but adequate vegetarian diet off less than 1000 square feet of intensively gardened soil... In the more troubled parts of the future ahead of us, some of us may have to do just that; a great many more of us will need to be able to garden in order to pad out potential irregularities in a food supply that’s desperately vulnerable, over the short term, to fluctuations in the price and availability of fertilizer feedstocks and fossil fuels. The victory gardens of past wars are likely to be a useful template for the survival gardens of the deindustrial future." 

I completely agree, and I've begun to see it already. All of that only frustrates me on another level, because here, I can hardly grow anything, facing north and being in shade. So on one hand, I could sit and whine about it, or I could shut up and DO something. Months ago, I chose the latter. So it has become my secondary job, if you will, to learn everything I can about growing as much as I can on very small acreage. Starting with the soil. I already knew that compost is better than any chemical fertilizer we can manufacture. It's better all round, for the plants and for the environment, and it goes hand-in-glove with the various micro-environments in one's garden. I've been learning exactly how earthworms break down plant matter, how plants use the nitrogen from the air and how the no-till method is better than churning up our soil every spring and fall. I've also learned quite a bit about why seaweed is a better fertilizer than one that relies on ever diminishing oil supplies. Did you know that plants require not only the big three (nitrogen, phosphorus and calcium), but also micro-nutrients? Without those micro-nutrients, the plant cannot grow to it's true potential, and the resulting food lacks in nutrients also. Hence the mystery of the tomato with less Vitamin C.

So, the answer then I think, is to go back to farming, or at least gardening, the way we used to. Those that can need to turn away from chemical fertilizers, away from row gardening, away from the way 90% of all gardening books tell us it should be done. We need to learn all we can about organic gardening, intensive gardening, square-foot gardening, composting, vermi-culture, soil tilth, extending the growing season no matter where we live, and the value of the old-style farmsteads. The inter-relations of soil, air, food, animals, trash and what our culture has done to our planet cannot be over stated. But in the end, we will all come to a point where we must put down the books, turn away from the computers and do something about it. More of us need to focus on food production in a way that will not poison ourselves and our environment. We need to get back to basics, we need to take that first step.

Once we take control back over our food, we can begin to take more control over our lives and hand less of ourselves to the government. Once we get back to basics, many of us will need less and be happier with less and realize the folly of our culture's demand for the latest, best and fastest gizmo of the week. (I write this while admitting I spend more time on my computer than I probably should) I also admit that getting back to basics will inevitably improve our health, give us clearer vision when we look at what's going on around us, and in many cases, shift our priorities.

This is only the tip of the iceberg, it's true. We all need to start thinking about what's coming and how we might each be responsible for changing our corner of the world.
What do you think?


farmgal said...

Love this post, it sums up a large part of why we have a small mixed farm and why we keep working to close all the loops between raising our own meat, and garden's and pastures etc.

Jacquelineand.... said...

Another good one! Read up on lasagne gardening, that's what we're going to.