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Olduvai III: Catacylsm
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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’.

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‘Dirt to Soil’ – How to make money in farming and save the planet

Gabe Brown, the author of Dirt to Soil, farms near Bismarck in the US state of North Dakota, not far from the Canadian border. Unusual weather events often spell bad news for farmers, but anyone hit by hailstorms and a severe blizzard in four consecutive years might be excused for being done with farming, once and for all. Brown didn’t give up, despite the “disaster years” as he calls the period from 1995 to 1998. “Today, I tell people that those four years of crop failure were hell to go through, but they turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to us, because they forced us to think outside the box, to not be afraid of failure and to work with nature instead of against it.”

There is little that Brown’s Ranch doesn’t produce: grains, beef, pork, poultry, eggs, vegetables, fruit and nuts – and the list is not comprehensive. To Brown, it’s not about increasing the yield, it is about maximising the profit per acre. One Family’s Journey into Regenerative Agriculture, is the subtitle to his book which summarises his insight that everything on the farm hinges on the health of its soils.

His farming success has turned Gabe Brown into something of a celebrity in regenerative farming circles, and by now he spends several months a year, off the farm giving talks and running seminars and workshops. Dirt to Soil, his first book, is in part a handbook that teaches farmers and gardeners how to heal the soil; but it also explains a lot of the soil science and explains why good soil is an integral part of a healthy ecosystem.

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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