This is the World Organic News for the week ending 4th of May 2020.
Jon Moore reporting!
Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!
Back in 2007/8 when the financial crash hit government funding in the US, yes and everywhere else too, but this is a US story for the moment, so the US cut funding to NCAT and especially to their ATTRA program which I think stands for Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural America? Of something like that. I’d used this site for years as a resource for sustainable ag articles, ideas and techniques. Anyway their funding was chopped about and they started charging a couple of dollars for each download. The other day at work I thought I remembered a resource on organic asparagus. A quick google wang had me there.
With the current COVID woo hah, NCAT has waived their fees. That’s right, their PDF downloads are now gratus. And they cover a huge range of topics from starting an agricultural enterprise through to specific pests and diseases. The pests and diseases are, naturally enough, US specific but many of us face similar if not the same pests and diseases no matter where we live. I would recommend a really deep dive into this site. Link in the show notes!
Now to the heresy.
As you know, World Organic News is dedicated to the best ways to decarbonise the air and recarbonise the soil. The best way we’ve discovered to achieve the latter aim is by no-dig gardening and no-till cropping.
Equally, long term listeners will know of deep affection for and adherence to the philosophy and practices of Masanobu Fukuoka.
Here comes the heresy. Fukuoka began his grain rotations from ploughed rice paddies. He may never have ploughed them again but he began with ploughed paddies. So what? I hear you say.
Well at this interesting time, living through what appears to be a Black Swan event but one that’s been predicted for at least 100 years, we have large numbers of individuals and families looking to start their gardening adventures. In much the same way the “hippies”of the back to the land movement went back to double digging gardens because that’s what their grandparents did, many people have started digging for COVID Victory gardens.
I received a message on the World Organic News Facebook page where I’m giving away my How To No-Dig gardening book. The message said something like, this book is too late for me, I’ve already dug my garden. To which I replied. No dramas, you can move over to No-Dig as you harvest through the season.
We have a chance, listeners, to change the world for the better. I know of several gardens dug over the past month which will be transitioned to no-dig by next summer. Sometimes it is easier to dig than to bring together materials to build a no-dig. People are frightened, they fall back on certainties. Of course, anyone who’s practiced no-dig methods knows they are superior. Less work, less stress, more harvests.
Here we bump up against the inertia of established systems. With this inertia comes the fear of peers. I read of a No-Dig gardener who grows in an allotment. Has been for five years. And every year she’s taken aside by “wiser” and “more experienced growers” who point out that she is wasting space and productivity by putting pathways through her space and not touching the growing areas with a shovel. At the end of each season she still produces more food but the “efficiency” infection has reached as far down the culture as the allotment. The evidence is clear, the workload is less, the output is greater yet there are none so blind as those who will not see. How we overcome this by means other than example is beyond me.
This is a problem at the agricultural level too. No-till, regeneratively grazed properties stand as islands amongst more conventional growers in each district. The fear of looking stupid by following “green” or “alternative” production methods is greater than the evidence of people’s eyes. In Episode 117 Mark Rathbone discussed using biodynamic methods for first animal production in his father’s time and now vegetable production in his. How the soil became healthy and deep and yet he is like an island in a sea of chemical producers.
There is hope in this time as new people come to see the advantages of growing for themselves.
There’s a pic from Facebook I’ve added to the show notes on worldorganicnews.com episode 212. This pic shows the difference between four food production systems from paddock to plate.
- Home garden
- Farmers Market
- Food Delivery Service
I’ll take these in reverse order.
Food delivery services have six steps to get food from the paddock to the plate. Going a little like this:
At each step of this process, a bottleneck, say a plant closure due to a viral infection, causes the system to back up and the plate to remain empty. If we add in the greenhouse gases associated with just transport there’s an awful lot of downsides to the consumer convenience of eating without having to cook much.
In the Supermarket model not much changes:
- Packaging and distribution
Some cooking may be required but not necessarily so. Instead of having the food delivered directly to the home, the consumer has to drive to and from the supermarket. All the disadvantages, supply bottleneck wise and GHG wise still apply.
The Farmer’s Market is not so much better. The biggest difference being the total amount of transportation involved. Food tends not to be shipped across continents to farmer’s markets but are derived locally. So an improvement. The steps involved are:
Not surprisingly the simplest system is the Home Garden.
I understand it’s not possible in all locations to grow everything you might want to consume. Tea and coffee are difficult in temperate regions. And as John Seymour said, we can live without these but would we want to? Realising we will never, probably, be self sufficient means we can focus on those things we can grow and no matter where we live, we can grow something.
Let’s shorten our supply lines, feed ourselves, our neighbours or communities. We may not overgrow the system but we can create a viable alternative.
As I’ve mentioned for the past few episodes, there’s a link to a Udemy course in the show notes entitled “Growing a No-Dig Garden” if you’d like some more formal assistance in your gardening. You can also send people to Episode 207 where I discuss growing a quick response garden to get yours happening swiftly.
Remember in this unusual time, if we put in the ground work now, we can all:
Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!
Thank you all for listening and I’ll be back next week.
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