How can we grow more food locally? Pam Warhurst of Incredible Edible Todmorden speaks in Bath

Pam Warhurst Transition Culture
Transition Bath recently posted this film of an excellent talk they hosted from an event called ‘How Can We Grow More Food Locally?’ (which had a great poster – see left). The talk was part of a wider series of ‘Transition Talks’, the next one being called ‘Does money make the world go round?’ which features Mark Boyle (‘the Moneyless Man’) and Molly Scott Cato. Here’s the talk…. very inspiring.

Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five

(28 April 2011)

Australia’s “Grain and Graze” Farming Method Provides Peak Oil and Climate Change Resiliency

K. McDonald, big picture agriculture
There is a 2008 report out of Australia worth featuring on this blog due to its big picture view of optimal farming methods in a program named “Grain and Graze” which plans for resiliency as both peak oil and climate change advance. Nature’s way includes animals in good land management, and advocates of vegetarianism often miss this point. The more natural farming methods do incorporate animals to help enrich the soils and provide protein for food, too.

I have chosen this excerpt from the study:

In any farming system it pays to take a longterm view. Performance can vary significantly from year to year. Systems that can survive poor years (in terms of production, market prices or increased input costs) as well as returning sound profits in better years may be good options even if they don’t deliver the spectacular returns offered by other systems in a big year. There is value in the adage that slow and steady wins the race.


Mixed farming enterprises are, by nature, more resilient than monocultures, offering farmers a greater array of choices in dealing with market and climate variation. There are also important synergies between different enterprises. For example, using stock to break down heavy stubbles or graze out weeds saves on pasture and costs less than tillage or spraying. Weeds that are resistant to herbicides are still highly susceptible to sheep and, with the rise in resistance, grazing is becoming an increasingly important part of the strategy for controlling weeds in following crops….

(20 April 2011)
Thanks to enthusiastic EB reader Luane Todd for suggesting both this article and the one below. You can download the report here.-KS

Organic agriculture: deeply rooted in science and ecology

Eliot Coleman, Grist
Organic farming is often falsely represented as being unscientific. However, despite the popular assumption that it sprang full born from the delusions of 60s hippies, it has a more extensive, and scientifically respectable, provenance. If you look back at the first flush of notoriety in the 1940s, the names most often mentioned, Sir Albert Howard and J. I. Rodale, rather than being the initiators, were actually just popularizers of a groundswell of ideas that had begun to develop some 50 years earlier in the 1890s.

A growing coterie of farmers, landlords, scientists, and rural philosophers in both England and Germany had begun questioning the wisdom of the chemically based agriculture that had grown so prominent from its tiny beginning in the 1840s. Advances in biological sciences during the late 19th century, such as those that explained the workings of nitrogen fixation, mycorrhizal association, and soil microbial life supported their case. Those new sciences set the stage for a deeper understanding of natural processes, and offered inspiration as to how a modern biologically based agriculture might be formulated.

These new agriculturists were convinced that the thinking behind industrial agriculture was based upon the mistaken premise that nature is inadequate and needs to be replaced with human systems. They contended that by virtue of that mistake, industrial agriculture has to continually devise new crutches to solve the problems it creates (increasing the quantities of chemicals, stronger pesticides, fungicides, miticides, nematicides, soil sterilization, etc.) It wouldn’t be the first time in the history of science that a theory based on a false premise appeared to be momentarily valid. Temporary functioning is not proof of concept. For example, if we had a book of the long discredited geocentric astronomy of Ptolemy, which was based on the sun revolving around the earth, we could still locate Jupiter in the sky tonight thanks to the many crutches devised by the Ptolemaists to prop up their misconceived system. As organic agriculture has become more prominent, the orthodoxy of chemical agriculture has found itself up against its own Galileo. It will be interesting to see who recants…
(21 April 2011)

Effects of input management and crop diversity on non-renewable energy use efficiency of cropping systems in the Canadian Prairie

R.P. Zentnera, P. Basnyata, S.A. Brandtb, A.G. Thomasc, D. Ulrichb, C.A. Campbelld, C.N. Nagye, B. Frickf, R. Lemkec, S.S. Malhig and M.R. Fernandez, European Journal of Agronomy
From the Soil Association:
A study by Canadian scientists has found that diversified organic farm systems cut energy use by up to one-half. The research compared energy use on high-input conventional farms with reduced input conservation farming systems and organic systems. It found that total energy use was highest on the farms using high levels of inputs such as nitrogen fertiliser and pesticides, while energy use was 50% lower under organic management. According to the team, most of the energy savings came from the absence of conventional fertilisers on the organic farms.

The team kept detailed records of energy use for the three different systems across three crop rotations. In addition to the absolute levels of energy used, the research also calculated each system’s energy use efficiency, measured in terms of the amount of grain plus forage produced for each unit of energy input. Organic systems also came out highest on this this key performance metric, with 8.8 units of food energy harvested for each unit of energy needed to produce the crop. In comparison, on conventional, high-input farms, each unit of energy used in production yielded 7.1 units of food energy.
(December 2010)
Follow the url above for the abstract and to download the pdf of the report. -KS