On this episode, Jason Bradford, who is an author, activist, farmer, and teacher, talks about the energy intensity of our modern industrial agriculture system.
We must eat. But the land sacrifices so that we may live; the land ethic asks that we live in ways that show we are responsible citizens of the land community; and the law of reciprocity asks what we are giving back in return for that gift of life.
In the 11 years I have been farming, all I can claim credit for is making the conditions right (and sometimes, admittedly, very wrong) for food and flowers to grow.
Perhaps as we move forward in this turbulent century, there is a place for soil-less agriculture to provide more than just expensive micro-greens. But where is the ecology in soil-less agriculture? This is what concerns me. Soil is a breathing, squirming, thriving, living thing.
Soils are, after all, the structural foundation for any food production system. So when we first undertake an agroecological approach to farming, we are literally building a sustainable food system from the ground up.
It made sense to me that that letting land “rest” would help rejuvenate it; in the wild, a plot of barren land will quickly be covered by a profusion of different species, which cover the ground, protect it from erosion by rain, bloom with many different flowers, bring many different pollinators, which feed different birds.
The good news is that we now have a better understanding of the platform (i.e. systems approach with a soil foundation) that we need to use. It will solve the economic and environmental problems of agriculture as well as the needs for nutrient dense food by our growing population.
Healthy soil is so important for life on earth yet so poorly understood or appreciated. Science and technology brought us the “green revolution”; chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, supersized tractors, genetically modified crops adapted to life drenched with agricultural chemicals. What is rarely apparent to most agricultural specialists is the damage this is causing the soil, basically turning it into ‘dirt’.
If you never thought ‘dirt’ could be interesting or ultra important, UNU’s Robert Blasiak recommends a fascinating book demonstrating how soil management has impacted the rise and fall of civilizations.
This is one of the most exciting developments I’ve heard about in a long time. Farmers who want to stop using chemicals can get support in the switch—and stay profitable during the transition.
But it might be the soil where our food is grown, rather than the food itself, that offers us the real medicine.