Tag: Agriculture

Fight for the trees.

An update to yesterday’s post.

In the recent post Sing for the trees, Pedantry of the blog Wibble left this comment:

 don’t consider myself an envious type, but I have to admit to being jealous of your location there, Paul. Deer in the back garden! Amazing. I guess I’m lucky to see the odd squirrel. But (as usual) I digress…

Trees… yes. Were I King of the Earth my first edict would be to make it illegal to chop down any more trees anywhere for any reason, and to reward true reforestation efforts (while banning old-forest lumbering dressed up as ‘reforestation’).

As I’m not, the extent of my singing for the trees is limited to pledges on such worthy projects as Who Bombed Judi Bari? (less than subtle hint: just 39 hours to go, as I write).

Your first image above is wonderful, and is a terrific, healing counterpoint to the images I see elsewhere, such as in the clip below, of what we’re doing to our home, out of sight of most people. Thank you.

That comment also included this video:

I thought readers would be interested in learning more by visiting the Kickstarter Campaign page and just possibly offering whatever pledge you can afford.

The importance of this campaign was underlined by the fact that just last Wednesday my daughter Maija, son-in-law Marius, and grandson Morten visited the Redwood Forest as part of their holiday with us in Oregon.  Here are three of their pictures taken just two days ago.

Life-giving Redwoods.
Life-giving Redwoods.

oooo

That need lots of loving.
That need lots of loving.

oooo

From young and old alike.
From young and old alike.

oooo

So do whatever you can, please!  There are just 26 hours to go at the time of posting this: 9:10 am PDT.

Thanks to Pedantry for bringing this to the attention of LfD readers and followers.

Common-sense from HRH The Prince of Wales

Reinforcing my long-time respect for Prince Charles.

HRH The Prince of Wales, more familiarly known as Prince Charles, is a man I have longed admired and respected.

Many years ago, I worked as a volunteer teacher/mentor with what was then known as The Prince’s Youth Business Trust (PYBT).  Later, it became incorporated into The Prince’s Trust.  The PYBT enjoyed passionate and active support from HRH, and with good cause.  Essentially, the PYBT offered socially-disadvantaged youngsters, who had very little chance of getting a job, the opportunity to be mentored on the skills of being an entrepreneur.  Many of those youngsters went on to get decent jobs and many others started their own businesses, some with considerable success.  Simply because thinking like an entrepreneur is impossible if you don’t have faith in your own abilities.  That self-confidence shows in so many walks of life, especially when one is going through a job interview!

The Prince has also long been known for his concerns over the way we treat our planet, going right back to the days when it was regarded rather quaint by the mainstream media.  But as Wikipedia reveals, “He has long championed organic farming and sought to raise world awareness of the dangers facing the natural environment, such as climate change. As an environmentalist, he has received numerous awards and recognition from environmental groups around the world.”

So it was lovely, but no great surprise, to see how well a recent speech was received on the subject of Regional Food Security given at Langenburg Castle in Baden-Wurttenberg, Germany.  The full text is available on The Prince of Wales website.  Let me give you a taste (whoops, pun unintended!) of what The Prince said,

Prinz Charles Langenburg

Ladies and Gentlemen, if I may say so, this is a very important conference. I am sure what you have heard so far about the problems we face and the obstacles to tackling them has given you a clear context in which to be able to consider what comes next this afternoon.

The aim here is to think through how we might create a much more local model of food production and distribution. But also, how that might fit with producing healthy food using far more sustainable methods and how we might do all of this without damaging business. Indeed, how this could improve business.

As you have heard, the urgency for this comes from the fact that there is not sufficient resilience in the system as it currently stands. It may appear that things are well. Big global corporations may appear to be prospering out of operating on a global monocultural scale but, as I hope you have seen, if you drill down into what is actually happening, things are not so healthy. Our present approach is rapidly mining resilience out of our food system and threatening to leave it ever more vulnerable to the various external shocks that are becoming more varied, extreme and frequent.

Some of the stories about food that have been making the news are simply disgraceful, if not downright madness.  Take this one: Meat scrap leftovers now being reprocessed into ice cream: The dismal future of food!

Or try this one: GMO feed turns pig stomachs to mush! Shocking photos reveal severe damage caused by GM soy and corn.

So see the relevance of The Prince’s speech as he continued:

The drive to make food cheaper for consumers and to earn companies bigger profits is sucking real value out of the food production system – value that is critical to its sustainability. I am talking here about obvious things like the vitality of the soil and local eco-systems, the quality and availability of fresh water and so on, but also about less obvious things, like local employment and people’s health. It is, as I fear you know only too well, a complex business.

The aggressive search for cheaper food has been described as a “drive to the bottom”, which I am afraid is taking the farmers with it. They are being driven into the ground by the prices they are forced to expect for their produce and this has led to some very worrying short cuts. The recent horsemeat scandals are surely just one example, revealing a disturbing situation where even the biggest retailers seem not to know where their supplies are coming from. And it has also led to a very destructive effect on farming. We are losing farmers fast. Young people do not want to go into such an unrewarding profession. In the U.K., I have been warning of this for some time and recently set up apprenticeship schemes to try to alleviate the problem; but the fact remains that at the moment the average age of British farmers is fifty-eight, and rising.

One more extract from the speech:

In the U.K., as elsewhere – but particularly I think in the U.S. – the consequences of this are ever more apparent in the deteriorating state of our public health. We all know that Type 2 Diabetes and other obesity-related conditions are rapidly on the increase. The public bill for dealing with these is already massive and I am told it could become completely unaffordable if we do not see a shift in emphasis. And, of course, it will be cities that carry the heaviest part of that burden. It is a peculiar trend.

Am I alone, ladies and gentlemen, in wondering how it is that those who are farming according to organic, or agro-ecological principles – in other words, sustainably, for the long-term, by operating in a way that reduces pollution and contamination of the natural environment to a minimum and maximizes the health of soil, biodiverse ecosystems and humanity – are then penalized? They find that their produce is considered too expensive and too “niche market” to be available to everyone. How is it, then, that systems of farming which do precisely the opposite – with increasingly dire and damaging effects on both the terrestrial and marine environments, not to mention long-term human health – are able to sell their products in mass markets at prices that in no way reflect the immense and damaging cost to the environment and human health? A cost that then has to be paid for over and over again elsewhere – chiefly, in all probability, by our unfortunate children and grandchildren, whose welfare I happen to care about. Surely this is a truly perverse situation which, you would have thought, could be turned on its head to make genuinely sustainably-produced food accessible to everyone, and the polluter to pay the real costs for the side effects of industrialized food? It is to be wondered at how this state of affairs persists – and yet to suggest standing it on its head and transforming the situation is to invite the predictable chorus of vitriolic accusations that you are anti-science, anti-progress, out of touch with commercial pressures and not living in the “real world.”

The full speech may be read here, and please do!

Well done, Sir!  As someone once said, “We are what we eat!

The dirt beneath our feet.

A film about dirt that opens eyes!

dirt-splsh

I have mentioned the website of the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia before.  It’s a fabulous resource for many aspects of moving towards a more sustainable lifestyle, and not just for Australians.

A few days ago, their regular posting included a link to this:

Dirt: The Movie

DIRT! The Movie — directed and produced by Bill Benenson and Gene Rosow — takes you inside the wonders of the soil. It tells the story of Earth’s most valuable and underappreciated source of fertility — from its miraculous beginning to its crippling degradation. The opening scenes of the film dive into the wonderment of the soil. Made from the same elements as the stars, plants and animals, and us, “dirt is very much alive.” Though, in modern industrial pursuits and clamor for both profit and natural resources, our human connection to and respect for soil has been disrupted. “Drought, climate change, even war are all directly related to the way we are treating dirt.”

DIRT! the Movie — narrated by Jaime Lee Curtis — brings to life the environmental, economic, social and political impact that the soil has. It shares the stories of experts from all over the world who study and are able to harness the beauty and power of a respectful and mutually beneficial relationship with soil.

DIRT! the Movie is simply a movie about dirt. The real change lies in our notion of what dirt is. The movie teaches us: “When humans arrived 2 million years ago, everything changed for dirt. And from that moment on, the fate of dirt and humans has been intimately linked.” But more than the film and the lessons that it teaches, DIRT the Movie is a call to action.

Here’s the trailer to the film.

And here’s the movie’s website.

The link to the film on the PRI Australia’s website is here: Dirt: The Movie.

So plan on sitting down somewhere and enjoying a full-length film about dirt.  It will hold you spellbound.

To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body, but the soul.  Alfred Austin

Food, growing your own!

The powerful story about how food could change

Yesterday, I referred to a piece on the Chris Martenson blog about Joel Salatin, proprietor of Polyface Farms.  I want to stay with the theme of food, and the growing thereof, as this is yet another critically important aspect of how we all have to change our attitudes and behaviours in the face of a growing ecological disaster.

I’m using a recent item presented by Rob Hopkins of Transition UK fame.  The link to the full piece is here but I am presenting some extracts and further links in this article.

A while ago I was sent a book called ‘SPIN farming basics: how to grow commercially on under an acre’ by Wally Satzewich and Roxanne Christensen.  The book describes itself as a “step-by-step learning guide to the sub-acre production system that makes it possible to gross $50,000+ from a half-acre”.  SPIN, which stands for ‘SmallPlot Intensive’ (their website is here), has the feel of an important, big, and timely idea, and it is one that fits into Transition beautifully.  So what is it?

At the moment, when contemplating urban food production, the models that are used tend to be allotments, community gardens, planting productive trees or forest gardens, private gardens or even, perhaps, rooftop gardens.  Commercial urban market gardens tend to be thought of as needing to be on a larger scale and requiring significant infrastructure.  SPIN is based on the idea of ‘patchwork farming’, of seeing unused areas of urban land as having the potential to be worked commercially, viewed through the eyes of a commercial grower rather than someone growing for a hobby.  This is a profound shift of emphasis and one that I find very exciting.  Here is a short talk by SPIN farmer Paula Sobie of City Harvest which gives her take on what SPIN farming is:

Let me quote how that article from Rob concludes,

‘SPIN farming basics’ is just one of the books that SPIN produce.  It isn’t a step-by-step growing guide, rather it is an overview book on how to run such an operation.  I have no way of gauging whether their figures are accurate and how they might translate into the UK context.  I’m also not sure what they do about slugs.   There is also, I guess, a distant danger that should this really take off it might edge out more egalitarian forms of urban land use, such as allotments and community gardens.  But even if they are only half right  about their potential yields, it is still an impressive approach, and it calls for a powerful shift in focus for urban growers.  In the wake of the recent riots in a number of English cities, I am struck by the potential of this approach to shift thinking about how to create viable social enterprises and a sense of purpose for young people.  It has certainly got my brain ticking over pretty rapidly.

As the authors put it, “once you put on SPIN glasses, you start seeing dollar signs all over vacant and underutilised patches of land”.  As economic contraction worsens, and peak oil starts to bite, this form of land use will become the norm, as it has done every time in history that societies have faced similar sets of circumstances.  The obstacle to getting started has always been how to make this stuff viable.  That obstacle, thanks to the work of the SPIN folks, would appear to no longer exist, or at least to be greatly diminished.   If you don’t do it someone else will, and they likely won’t do it in a way rooted in social justice, community benefit, food security and Transition.  This is an important window in time to get moving on this.

This is a revolutionary text, an incendiary call to rethink urban land use in a way that ticks everyone’s boxes.  I can’t recommend it too highly.

It is rather hard to tell from the SPIN website which of the books they offer is this one… so for the last time ever, here is a link to the book on Amazon…. it is quite pricey, but one to get and share with as many people as you can…

The SPIN Farming website is chock full of fantastic ideas, advice and guidance.  Website is here. From which you will understand,

THINKING OF FARMING? THINK AGAIN.

There’s a new way to farm. It’s called SPIN, and it is causing people to re-think not only how to farm, but what it means to be a farmer today.

  • Some practice SPIN in their backyards in the city. Others do it on front lawns in the suburbs.
  • Some do it part-time, others full-time.
  • Some are young and just starting out, while others are older and on their third or fourth careers.
  • Some have more money than they know what to do with, and others have less than they need.
  • Some are convinced the world is doomed, while others are trying to save it.

What unites them all is a calling to farm.

If you want to follow your calling, follow the system that shows you how to make money farming.

It’s one of the many beams from that wonderful rainbow just over the horizon!

 

Food

We are what we eat!

There are a few sayings that I would have loved to have authored!  ‘We are what we eat‘, is one of them.  ‘The world reflects back what we think about most‘, is another.

But anyway, this article is not about sayings, it’s about food.  And to get straight to the point, I’m going to republish something that recently appeared on the Chris Martenson blog.

Joel Salatin, proprietor of Polyface Farms and highly-visible champion of sustainable farming, thinks modern humans have become so far removed from a natural connection to the food they eat that we no longer have a true understanding of what “normal” food is.

The rise of Big Ag and factory farming over the past century has conditioned us to treat food mechanically (as something to be recoded and retooled) vs. biologically. And we don’t realize that for all our industrialization and optimization, we’re actually getting less yield and less nutrition than natural-based processes can offer.

Whether we like it or not, the arrival of Peak Oil is going to force us to realize that our heavily-energy intensive practices can’t continue at their current scale. And with world population still increasing exponentially, we’ll need to find other, more sustainable ways of growing our food.

“What we view today as “normal,” I argue, is simply not normal. Just think about if you wanted to go to town 120 years ago. If you wanted to go to town, you actually had to go out and hook up a horse. That horse had to eat something, which means you had to have a patch of grass somewhere to feed that horse, which meant you had to take care of some perennial in order to feed that horse in order to go to town. And so throughout history, you had these kinds of what I call ‘inherent boundaries,’ or brakes, on how much a single human could abuse the ecology.

And today, during this period of cheap energy, we’ve been able to extricate ourselves from that entire umbilical, if you will, and just run willy-nilly as if there is no constraint or restraint. And now we are starting to see some of the outcome of that boundless, untied progression. And so the chances are, the way to bet, is that in the future we are going to see more food localization, we are going to see more energy localization, we are going to see more personal responsibility in ecological lifestyle decisions, because it’s going to be forced on us to survive economically. We are going to have to start taking some accounting of these ecological principles.”

Joel, his family, and the team at Polyface Farms dedicate themselves to developing environmentally, emotionally, and economically-enhanced food prototypes and advocate for duplicating their production around the world.

In this interview, Chris and Joel explore what constitutes truly sustainable agriculture and the reasons why our current system has departed so far from it, as well as practical steps individuals can take to increase their own personal resiliency around the food they eat (in short: “find your kitchen,” source your food locally, and grow some yourself).

There’s a recording of the interview and a transcript, both of them from here.  Want to know more about Joel Salatin? Keep reading!

Joel Salatin, Polyface Farms

Joel Salatin is one of the most visible and influential leaders in the organic food and sustainable farming movement. His family owns and managesPolyface Farms, which has been featured prominently in such modern food movement works as The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and the film documentary Food, Inc. Joel’s unconventional but highly innovative farming practices are inspiring millions to increase their nutritional and community resiliency by seeking out local sources of chemical-free food raised using natural process-based farming practices. These practices have been documented in the many books he has authored, including You Can Farm: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Start & Succeed in a Farming Enterprise (1998), The Sheer Ecstacy of Being a Lunatic Farmer (2010), and the upcoming Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World (available for pre-order).

And if you think this is exciting and a powerful reminder of the speed at which the ‘New World’ is coming to us, then stop by tomorrow and read a recent article from Rob Hopkins from Transition Culture – will blow your mind away!