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 A Small Farm Future: Excerpt

Culture Crisis

This is the crisis of modernist culture – the ability to create ourselves as individuals and protect ourselves from the vicissitudes of the non-symbolic world, set against the ability to alienate ourselves as individuals and offload the consequences of our self-creation onto other people (including future people) and the non-symbolic world. In view of the other crises we face, the only convincing way I can see of transcending this crisis is to start making ourselves as individuals in less materialised ways that are more engaged with the Creation, the non-symbolic world, around us. The small farm future I describe is the most convincing form I can see that transcendence taking.

One reason the prospect of a small farm future sits awkwardly with modern culture is that it flouts a sense of progress. Small-scale agriculture was what people did in the past, but we’ve now progressed beyond it. It’s hard to shake off this view because when we think about history through the lens of modernity we tend to use spatial metaphors with binary moral overtones. We move forwards, upwards or onwards, we lift people up out of poverty, we support progressive ideas and we don’t look back – but when we do, we see backward societies where a lot of people farmed.

In one sense, such objections are easily dealt with. A small farm future needn’t be the same as a small farm past. We don’t have to go back. But that’s not quite good enough, because the culture of modernity involves a sense of radical rupture with the past, and a wholly new destiny for humanity – a destiny that’s regarded as better than everything that went before it, largely because people quit farming, left the countryside and got busy with their modernist life projects.

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Coming Famine?

QUESTION: I just want to be prepared. How long is the famine supposed to happen? 1-2 years? More?

SD

ANSWER: These lockdowns have already set in motion a reduction in the food supply. In the United States, there were temporary shortages of certain foods. You can see plenty of videos where farms lost 100% of their crops because they could not get the food into the supply chain. The greatest problem we have is that many farmers were hurt by the COVID-19 restrictions. The same was taking place in Australia. Then there have been climate issues with great floods in China.

We see that food prices should rise between 2022 into 2024 more aggressively but this should be from shortages. There is a 17.2-year cycle in famine. This is what has emerged from our database which extends back to 2200BC. There are times when famine results in war. The last major famine, for example, in North Korea (1994-1998) killing at least 600,000 from starvation. This next famine will begin in 2022 and will extend into 2028/2029 in varying parts of the world. Therefore, it is not consistent with one particular area. However, this attempt for the Great Reset is also pushing the crisis in reducing the food supply at a time when we should be stockpiling it.

The Easiest, Most Abundant Food to Grow – Gardening in a Cold Climate

The Easiest, Most Abundant Food to Grow – Gardening in a Cold Climate

In this video I share the easiest and most abundant foods to grow in your garden in a colder climate.

If you are gardening across the Northern states of the United States, Canada, Western Europe or similar climates then this information is very applicable to you. However, I also have grow many of these foods in Southern state of Florida and have seen abundant gardens in Southern California growing many of these foods. I share about 40 plants to grow and I focus on two main criteria – easy and abundant. These are foods that are great for beginner gardeners and are likely to produce a large amount of food. I also cover some information on preserving the bounty, which is an absolute key to success in climates where a shorter growing season exists. By applying this knowledge you can decrease your trips to the grocery store drastically and eat the healthiest and most delicious fresh food around! Make sure to share with your neighbors.

Get more tips for growing food in this guide.

See my new video, Beginner Gardening Tips for a Successful Garden, as well.

Ancient Gardens of the North America

Ancient Gardens of the North America

Native Americans, like many other ancient civilisations, were clued in on the inner-workings of nature. They found ways to harmonise with it, taking advantage of biological cycles and utilising astute observation to make abundance seem almost fortuitous. But, it wasn’t all luck. Sometimes colonisers simply didn’t (and still don’t) recognise the guiding hand behind these highly productive, innately cooperative systems that were in place when they arrived. We continue to pay a price for that oversight today, and our payments may have only just begun.

One of the reasons permaculture is such an appealing methodology for creating sustainable homes, gardens, and lifestyles in the modern world is that it so often harkens back to ancient techniques, adopting the logic behind them whilst imbuing them with today’s technological advancements. In this interplay between bygone ingenuity and mechanical diggers, wells of inspiration spring forth for innovative design that keeps us comfortable and, at the same time, emboldens nature to put forth its best work on our behalf.

With that in mind, perhaps now—amidst Pacific Coast wildfires, cues of hurricanes in the Atlantic, and a pandemic putting the brakes on consume-it-all capitalism—is a good time to revisit what was happening in the gardens of North America a few hundred years ago, before colonisation. Maybe we don’t want to live exactly that way today, minus the internet and all that good stuff, but maybe there are some answers for today’s problems that were overlooked back then.

Chinampas

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The LWA Response to the National Food Strategy

THE LWA RESPONSE TO THE NATIONAL FOOD STRATEGY

‘Another food system is possible and urgent, but this won’t get us there’

‘Be bolder, go further’

A few weeks ago, Part 1 of the National Food Strategy (NFS) was released. Rebecca Laughton, a grower and campaigns coordinator for Landworkers Alliance, and co-author of the Peoples’ Food Policy is on the advisory panel. However, she was not allowed to share the report with us for comment in advance of its release, nor was she given time to discuss and debate the content, as would be expected of an Advisory Panel.The need for a National Food Strategy is pressing. A NFS should be a collectively determined vision and set of policies designed to get there. It should be drawn from the lived experiences of a cross section of civil society. When compared to the People’s Food Policy, produced by LWA in collaboration with many other unions, organisations and NGOs on a limited budget, the democratic mandate, vision and strength of proposals is disappointing. As it stands the NFS is not a strategy; it’s a synthesis of information collected by Henry Dimbleby – an entrepreneur who owns LEON’s restaurants. He has met with a wide range of people and read a huge array of documents, but we’ve ended up with an essay of Henry’s thoughts on the food system, rather than a democratic roadmap for our food system.

Reclaiming our food system

The report begins with a damning critique of the health impacts of the industrial food system and makes some brave recommendations to a government that has historically left food to the market. It states that “The single most important force that shapes our food environment is the free market,” and makes the case for intervention to correct market failures. It calls for regulation to protect public health, defends taxation (the sugar tax) and other interventions.

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On the efficiency of my scythe

On the efficiency of my scythe

The time is nearly upon us when the feature-length version of my musings here will be released upon an unsuspecting world – A Small Farm Future (the book) will be available from 15 October in the UK and 21 October in the US. Various launch events are in the offing, and I’ll be gearing the blog for a while to come to riffing on various themes from the book. So watch this space…

Meanwhile, I have one final bit of outstanding business to attend to before turning my attention to the book – though in many ways this post serves as well as anything as an introduction to its themes. Whereas my last couple of posts addressed the politics of an agrarian localist future, this one addresses farm scales, styles and technologies in such a future. Again, it comes in the form of a critical engagement with a specific individual, in this case grower and small-scale farmer Seth Cooper, who I debated with a little while ago online. I promised I’d respond further to some of his points, hence the present post. Apologies if my excerpting of his comments and interpolation of replies seems combative (I’m going to try to stop doing this kind of thing!) – hopefully it will also be illuminating, and my thanks to Seth for drawing out this discussion.

Our debate focused in large part on the kind of tools and equipment appropriate to farming, small farming in particular, so I’m going to go with that in this post – but hopefully it’ll work obliquely as an entry into wider issues. Even more specifically, we talked about the virtues or otherwise of the scythe.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Building Bioregional Food Systems Post-COVID 19: The Northeast Healthy Soil Network & the power of regional food system reform consortium work

COVID-19 has reminded us, perhaps as never before, that we need an overhaul, not only of our health care system, but our food system as well. [1]  As a steady stream of studies and articles point out, a priority of future] food system policy should be to support the emergence of local and regional, diversified, healthy food and farming systems, derived from fertile, carbon-rich soils.

Over the course of 2019, I helped to coordinate a network of food system stakeholders in the Northeast, as a researcher at the Tufts Global Development and Environment Institute.[2] This network, now called the Northeast Healthy Soil Network (NEHSN), held a symposium in late February, right before the coronavirus pandemic put an end to most public gatherings in the US. This growing network of Northeast farmers, farm organizations, food system nonprofits, agricultural research labs and state governments has come together to discuss how we can channel badly needed funds and resources to regenerative farmers in the Northeast region who are promoting biodiversity, holistic livestock management, and other healthy soil management[3] practices on their farms.


The agricultural policy strategies proposed by NEHSN members[4] parallel those of many other farmers across the nation’s various regions. They are aimed at agricultural subsidy reform, proposing that our food system should incentivize not a small handful of specific crops, but rather the production of a wider variety of foods and crops, which would not only feed greater numbers of Americans with affordable, nutritious food, but also engender healthy ecosystem services such as soil erosion prevention, water conservation, watershed cleanup, and biodiversity. An incentive payment system for healthy soil farm management could become the first government-backed fund stream for this healthier system of farming.[5]

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Food Shortages to Reduce the Population Brought to you by the COVID Triumvirate

This is a photo of the food line beside the Brooklyn Bridge approach in New York City that prevailed between 1930 and 1935. Never before in history have Americans had to cue in line for food since this orchestrated pandemic by Gates, Fauci, and Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum. Food prices are also rising because of this dynamic trio because they have deliberately shut down food production. Farmers have been unable to get their food to market because of the lockdowns and social distancing.

Today, there are food lines once again because of this dynamic trio, the COVID Triumvirate, composed of Gates, Fauci, & Schwab. Food lines have appeared around the country from Miami to New York City. Farmers were already being pushed into bankruptcies in 2019. That is only getting worse because this COVID Triumvirate also wants to end meat production to reduce CO2 (the World Economic Forum is pushing hard to end meat production).

Why Permaculture?

Why Permaculture?

It’s been several years since I first stumbled upon permaculture, and several years minus a couple of months since I started doing my best to practice it.  Many people have a similar story, and my guess is, like me, they’ve been asked dozens, possibly hundreds, of times what permaculture is.  But, it’s been a rarity—if it has ever happened at all—that someone asks me why permaculture. That might actually be more notable.

When permaculture came into my life, my wife Emma and I were on a trip through Central and South America, hopping from farm to farm on work-trades to both stretch our budget while traveling and learn a bit about growing our own food. We cared about the environment, so we’d guessed organic farms were the way to go. It only took a matter of weeks to begin hearing the term permaculture as byword. We borrowed some books and were soon engrossed in the practice.

Our life has radically changed for the better. We’ve become stronger people, physically and mentally. We’ve become more capable, able to grow and preserve our own food and to build our own home, while consistently adding to the toolbox: forage wild mushrooms, make an earthen pizza oven, design a grey water system, start a social business… The world, from twenty feet away to the entire global construct, looks totally different, and while it may sometimes be scary, there always seems to be identifiable, simple steps for us to take, right now.

Why Permaculture?

 The grand appeal of permaculture over basic organic gardening is that it is so much more. We had aspirations of living on a piece of land and growing a lot of our own food, but there were so many more ambitions beyond that.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Nature’s store of wisdom: The value of open-pollinated seeds

Over the decades, seed saving gardeners have maintained many of these heritage varieties but very few are commercially available. One reason is that selling such seeds isn’t very profitable – you can’t make much money with something that is widely available for free: most heritage and some modern varieties are ‘open pollinated’ so anyone is free to save the seeds for the next growing season. Contrast that with most of the varieties that you buy in a supermarket or on a farmers’ market. You could save the seeds, but even if they were to germinate, don’t expect the crop to look anything like the produce you initially bought. Most modern varieties are hybrids, which means their seeds are either sterile or the offspring are not ‘true to seed’.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

A Call for Community-Based Seed Diversity During the COVID-19 Pandemic

A Call for Community-Based Seed Diversity During the COVID-19 Pandemic

With every passing day without further action, community seed diversity and access—and therefore food security—is being placed at increasing risk.

How our food choices cut into forests and put us closer to viruses

How our food choices cut into forests and put us closer to viruses

As the global population has doubled to 7.8 billion in about 50 years, industrial agriculture has increased the output from fields and farms to feed humanity. One of the negative outcomes of this transformation has been the extreme simplification of ecological systems, with complex multi-functional landscapes converted to vast swaths of monocultures.

From cattle farming to oil palm plantations, industrial agriculture remains the greatest driver of deforestation, particularly in the tropics. And as agricultural activities expand and intensify, ecosystems lose plants, wildlife and other biodiversity.

The permanent transformation of forested landscapes for commodity crops currently drives more than a quarter of all global deforestation. This includes soy, palm oil, beef cattle, coffee, cocoa, sugar and other key ingredients of our increasingly simplified and highly processed diets.

The erosion of the forest frontier has also increased our exposure to infectious diseases, such as Ebolamalaria and other zoonotic diseases. Spillover incidents would be far less prevalent without human encroachment into the forest.

We need to examine our global food system: Is it doing its job, or is it contributing to forest destruction and biodiversity loss — and putting human life at risk?

What are we eating?

The food most associated with biodiversity loss also tends to also be connected to unhealthy diets across the globe. Fifty years after the Green Revolution — the transition to intensive, high yielding food production reliant on a limited number of crop and livestock species — nearly 800 million people still go to bed hungry; one in three is malnourished; and up to two billion people suffer some sort of micronutrient deficiency and associated health impacts, such as stunting or wasting.

Forest cut down for an agricultural field
A large soy field cuts into the forest in Brazil. (Shutterstock)

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The return of home-grown cereals

Our daily bread was for centuries the product of a community-oriented and collaborative food system.

The Book of Exodus recounts the tale of the Hebrew slaves, who in their haste, fleeing for their lives from Pharoah’s Egypt, had no time for their bread to rise and so carried it upon their backs. Now, Jewish communities around the world remember that story, recalling their time in bondage, by eating unleavened bread during the Passover festival.

Bread is intrinsic to cultural knowledge for people the world over. In Britain, even relatively recently, bringing in the harvest would have been a community enterprise, different members of the village taking on roles from cutting or reaping to putting the sheaves into stooks to dry.

Sustainable grain

Bread can be so much more than a pillowy, processed loaf of sliced white, a vehicle for sandwich fillings. Fresh bread can be a revelation: richly satisfying, full of nutrition and bursting with flavour, inviting you to slather a slice with something at least as tasty. As part of a regenerative food network, it can speak volumes on cultural sharing, economic fairness and the joy of breaking bread together.

I’ve been involved in the Welsh Grain Forum with miller Anne Parry at Felin Ganol watermill for some years. We’re working with farmers, millers and bakers to help get good home-grown food into more Welsh kitchens. We’re seeing a move back to collaborative food systems with modern ecological approaches and on a more regional, and we believe, a more resilient, reliable and relatable scale.

Right up until World War II, Wales was covered in cereals. Grains were grown right across the country. Old reference maps show Wales pockmarked with many small arable fields (detailed in brown).

Anne says that in her village of Llanrhystud there would, at one time, have been four grain mills. Now, hers is the only one.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How Low Flows Due to Irrigation are Destroying Oregon’s Deschutes River

How Low Flows Due to Irrigation are Destroying Oregon’s Deschutes River

The majority of water removed from the Deschutes is used to grow irrigated pasture and hay for livestock not crops consumed directly by humans.  Photo by George Wuerthner

The recent article “Low Flows On Deschutes” highlights why irrigation is a significant threat to our river’s ecological integrity.

According to the report, flows on a portion of the Deschutes dropped to 60 CFS leaving many parts of the river channel dry. To put this into perspective, historically, before irrigators took our water from us,  the river ran at 1000-1200 CFS year-round.  As a spring-fed river, the Deschutes supported outstanding fisheries.

Huge trout caught out of the Deschutes near the turn of the century before irrigation destroyed the river.

This tragedy continues because the public is not standing up for its rights. We, the people, own the water in the river, not the irrigators. We allow the irrigators to take water from the river without any compensation to the public, and regardless of the damage done to aquatic ecosystems. This system was devised by irrigators to serve irrigators a century ago.

Isn’t it time for us to enter the modern age? Using water in the desert to grow hay for livestock is just a crazy waste of a valuable resource. Keeping water in the river would provide for greater recreational use. And maintaining viable flows would protect aquatic life like spotted frogs, trout, and salmon, not to mention all the other water-dependent species like eagles, mink, otter, and the rest.

Despite the claims to “water rights” the actual water in all state rivers belongs to  Oregon citizens as affirmed by the Oregon Supreme Court.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

My Permaculture Design Mistakes

My Permaculture Design Mistakes

Wrong Turns in the Right Direction

Like anyone, I find it much more inspiring to talk about gardening and building successes. That rhubarb we planted last year has gone nuts!  Emma and I have probably foraged 15 kilos of chanterelle mushrooms so far this summer, so much that we are having to give them away despite the fact that I eat mushrooms on toast just about every morning (unless I’m having tofu scramble with chanterelles). We just passed our framing inspection for the cabin we are building! Good things are happening, no doubt, but life isn’t always beautifully blooming roses.

In short, in permaculture, we are all fallible (even the fabled Geoff Lawton, as you will learn by the end of this). Of course, for the most part, we share our successes, and for the most part, that’s also what we want to read about: successes. We want to know what works! But, like any good craft, sometimes it’s the lessons that we learn from our slip-ups that make us wiser in the long-run. At least, at the beginning of this list, that is what I’m going to say. Believe me, this is no exhaustive catalogue of minuscule catastrophes but rather a brief accounting of the ones that are currently unfixed and on my mind.

I want to share them because sometimes, when things go awry, we feel like no one else struggles, as if all other permaculturalists are out there making the right moves, relaxed supine atop a stack of butternut squash. Well, that just isn’t so. To grow a garden, to build a home, to manage water, to raise animals, to live off-grid… they are all replete with repairs, reconfigurations, and re-imagining. Part of the process is often not getting it right. At least, that’s what I like to tell myself, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. Here goes:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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