Episode 30: Small Farms, Permaculture & Natural Farming

This is the World Organic News Podcast for the week ending 29th of August 2016.

Jon Moore reporting!

This week we focus on an unlikely post: What Happens When You Stop Using Crop Protection from the website: Food Insight, subtitled: Your Nutrition and Food Safety Resource.

Now this post grabbed my attention this week because it gives an insight into the belly of the beast or, in more polite terms, illuminates the depth and size of the inertia we need to overcome in order to return our farming and food systems to both sustainability and carbon neutrality.

I quote from the post:

A new study from a European farm organization highlights just how important crop protection tools – like insecticides, herbicides and fungicides – are to farmers.

The report found that if regulations were to limit the crop protection products available in Europe, food supplies will be put at risk and unemployment will rise, costing the economy billions.

The Secretary General of Copa & Cogeca, the group that commissioned the study, said, “Many crop protection products are being steadily phased out, which is pressurizing not only European farmers livelihoods but also the environment, employment and the economy.”

The study found that without crop protection tools, UK farmers would see a 10-20 percent decline in yields of wheat, barley, and sugar beet, potato and oilseed rape. Costs for growing these crops would increase 15 percent a hectare.

And here’s the fear mongering dagger to the heart of the governments around the globe part:

That means higher food costs for all of us.

End quote.

Let’s deconstruct this, shall we? 

Crop protection. Sounds a wonderful thing. Nature is out there, red in tooth and claw, just waiting to destroy “our” crops. Who wouldn’t want to protect these crops? Probably humanity denying tree huggers presumably. And those tree huggers are winning! With the slow but steady removal of individual chemicals, crops are at risk. When crops are at risk, farmers livelihoods are too and then we won’t have enough food. Food shortages equal food price rises equals food riots!

The question: Are we running a sustainable food production system when we have to douse our paddocks and fields in poisons? Isn’t being asked. The unspoken assumption is: We can only feed the world through chemical agriculture. 

The post: Small Farms Are Feeding The World from Colin Todhunter provides evidence to the contrary. In the same way we need to redesign our energy systems, we need to redesign our food production systems. 

Permaculture, allotment gardening, Natural Farming are all possible variations for a new system. Great but few minds have been applied to this question. Bill Mollison, David Holmgren, Masanobu Fukuoka amongst them. Huge numbers of thoughtful minds have been sucked into the chemical farming paradigm through funding and a denigration of the organic/peasant/smallholder/self sufficient/homesteading paradigm. 

What this post from Food Insight highlights for me is how far we have to go. We need, as advocates, small area farmers, organic gardeners, food consumers (read humans) is to get organised. We are by nature individualists who just get on and do our thing, collective action is not always our forte. 

Yet if we see the bigger picture, we can form coalitions with others. Food and energy are so interconnected that changing one system will, necessarily change the other. So keep growing your own, keep talking to anyone who will listen, find your tribe and we can, we must, bring change for the better. We may just be our last, best hope!

There are links to the Food Insight post and to Colin Todhunter’s piece as well as wikipedia links to Permaculture, Natural Farming and Mollison, Holmgren and Fukuoka as starting points for those interested in further reading.

And that brings us to the end of this week’s podcast.

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Thank you for listening and I’ll be back in a week.

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