Patronize a Farmer, Save the World

My apologies to the show Heroes for my choice of title. I never saw the show but the marketing still found me. Give that marketing firm a raise!

I read a lot of Ambrose Evans-Pritchard’s work as I read economics information on “the internets”. You know, a man has to have a hobby. I read about global economics for fun. Seriously, if you pay close attention you’ll be in stitches. If it helps, begin by understanding that the world’s financial experts are all idiots. Pretenders. They have no real insight into the future they rarely grasp the present and they learn nothing from the past. But, since they have some prestigious degree, they think they can tell us how to improve – even save! –  the world with (…get this…) interest rates. LOL! I guess if all you have is a hammer…

Anyway. Mr. Evans-Pritchard published an article about dirt. Well, he published an article about a published article about dirt. And I think it’s worth reading. Kind of a validation that I’m moving in the right direction…but not fast enough. Further, he points out that we, as humans, have a tendency to prefer instant gratification over delayed…or even deferred. I mean, we could have acorns for the next 50 years but I need an oak board now. I could avoid diabetes and keep my feet but I really like pie. We could have savings but there is so much cool stuff to buy. We could have had cedars in Lebanon but we needed a desert. We are a short-sighted species. Ripping the soil gives us an immediate boost in fertility…though at the expense of future fertility. “Well, we’ll figure out tomorrow when it comes.”

Now that I have agreed with him let’s look closer at what Mr. Evans-Pritchard actually wrote. I mean, I kind of just picked out the points that make me feel vindicated as I initially skimmed the article. How does he really feel? I think he’s a little confuzzled. How about this quote?

It comes as China and emerging Asia switch to an animal protein diet, replicating the pattern seen in Japan and Korea as they became rich. As a rule of thumb it takes 4kg-8kg of grains in animal feed to produce 1kg of meat.

What kind of meat requires 8-16 pounds of grain per pound to produce!? It doesn’t take any grain to produce 2.2 pounds of beef. Or lamb. Or goat. What about fish? It takes 3 pounds of grain to make a pound of pork on a production hog floor but you can reduce or eliminate that if you park your piggies under oak trees, chestnut trees and apple trees. They also do well on alfalfa and a healthy dose of cow manure. I mean, his article is essentially about how modern row cropping is destroying the earth and goes on, in the quote above, to say that we can only feed animals with additional row cropping. And that, we have established, is bad. So we have to do more row cropping to feed the world grains. And that, we have established, is bad.

But why not just let the cows eat grass? Make beef the new chicken. Close up shop on all those Arkansas chicken houses and twelve-thousand sow farrowing operations in Manitoba. I am suggesting the issue at hand isn’t simply the lost of soil biota brought on by tillage and chemical death but, instead, our continuing use of the wrong paradigm. Stop taking feed to cows. Take the cows to the feed. Ta-da! Stop buying eggs at the store. Keep a few hens and feed them kitchen scraps. Ta-da! Use tree crops instead of annual crops. Make our Coca-Cola with high-fructose chestnut syrup! Ta-da! Just give your HOA the bird and get some chickens. See how easy?

The UNCCD is aiming for a global deal to achieve “zero net land degradation” from 2015, mostly by replanting forests. The body’s environment chief Veerle Vanderweerde says it is not going well. “We know what to do to restore degraded land. It’s not impossible but it takes time, money, dedication, and political will, and there is not a lot political will.”

Where to begin? Political will? I think that means use of force. As in, “we have the guns so you do what we say.” Remember this passage?

Yacouba Sawadogo, “the man who stopped the desert”, began to revive the ancient zai technique thirty years [ago] to stop soil erosion on his little farm in Burkina Faso. It involved digging small holes and filling them with compost and tree seeds to catch the seasonal rains, recreating a woodland of 20 hectares in the arid Sahel. Sadly, local officials then expropriated the land.

So much for political will. Time? Money? Dedication? Whose? If we elect some bonehead to fix our problems…well, I don’t have high hopes that our problems will get fixed. In fact, I have centuries of evidence that our problems become worse as governments become more involved. I don’t need regulation forcing me to set aside forested land as magical and protected so we can have a “net zero land degradation.” We need massively net negative land degradation. And this is something we can do on our own. No guns election required! Stop ripping soil and leaving it bare and exposed for 6-7 months each year. Instead, grow cover crops, graze livestock, rotate polyculture crops through. If you have the time, Gabe Brown has a lot to teach us on this topic. He talks about “speeding up biological time” and says, “Feeding 9 billion people will be not be any problem whatsoever if we change our production model and focus on soil.” I feel he backs up that bold claim.

We need the freedom to do the things that were traditionally done before 1950 but leveraging modern technology and new ideas. I need to be free to combine livestock, wildlife, trees, people and time in a carbon-sequestering, soil-building, sustainable and profitable mix. The money will suddenly appear so Mr. Elected Bonehead can have his pound of flesh. Check out Mark Sheppard’s book for a real life example of regenerative forested agriculture. (I could list any number of books that illustrate this well but Mark Sheppard is high on my list. I mean, who can resist a guy who has the …stuff… to lecture for two and a half hours then pull out a guitar to sing a song at the audience?)

Back to the point, there is no need for political will to do this. We don’t have to elect leaders to point guns at us so we will behave. We already know what to do. If you don’t I hope you are sitting down for this. It’s utterly profound. Stop looking at “them“. Stop blaming “them“. What are you doing? How are you saving the world? Where do you buy your food? What system do you vote for each day? We don’t need people signing petitions against industrial ag. What a waste. We need consumers educating themselves…involving themselves. Just go – you yourself – and purchase products from farmers who care about soil health. Farmers who don’t saturate their fields with chemical death. Farmers who enhance life by composting and growing food and building healthy soil. We need agricultural pioneers finding ways to do more with less in spite of existing government regulations and writing narcissistic little blogs like mine about what goes right and what goes wrong. Farmers, not legislators, need your support.

If you are not a farmer (and most people aren’t), find a farm that looks and smells good. Don’t worry about the ugly buildings or the beat-up jalopy in the driveway. Learn what healthy animals look like. Learn what healthy grass looks like (it doesn’t look like a lawn). Look at tree health. Smell the air. Feel the soil. Then invest in the farmer by buying his produce so he can continue to grow.

Patronize a farmer, save the world.

I have a few afterthoughts that really don’t belong in this posting. Don’t worry about peak oil. Peak oil will bring modern industrial agricultural practices to an immediate halt. But not before peak phosphorus brings modern ag to a halt. Unless the lack of humus in our soils enables a drought that brings modern ag to a halt first. There are alternatives. In case you haven’t seen this (how could you have missed it?) I give you this short presentation. May it change your whole life…and through you, the world. Please watch this video. (BTW, note his confession that, as a government agent, he advised his country to shoot 40,000 elephants to “save” the ecology. Made the problem worse.)

I also have to add, if you live near us and are interested in partnering with us in saving the world we can offer you excellent quality and value. If you are inclined to vote, please vote for us.

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9 thoughts on “Patronize a Farmer, Save the World

    • I had not run into his work before. He is also calling the individual to action in your link. Thanks for sharing.

      “Despite the derision and neglect, traditional farms worldwide which typically are small, mixed, and low-input – the basis of agroecology – still supply 50% of the world’s food, and are the world’s biggest employers. In short, worldwide, small, mixed, skills-intensive farming is still the norm. Another 20% of our food comes from fishing, hunting, and people’s back gardens. So the big industrial monocultures that are supposed to represent the future, and swallow up such vast tranches of private investment and public money, and the lion’s share of the research grants, in practice supply only 30% of our food. Those who seek to build on traditional farming are commonly written off as “idealists”. In truth they are the realists; promoting the kind of farming that, demonstrably, can meet the world’s needs. The hype behind high-capital, high-input, zero-labour industrial agriculture is pure ideology. There is nothing behind it except the dogma of neoliberalism, and a seriously old-fashioned faith in the omniscience of science and the omnipotence of high tech. Morally and indeed intellectually, the oligarchic emperors have no clothes. Once people at large begin to realize this, the palace walls must surely crumble.”

      But he also seems to be saying, “Money is the problem when it is in your hands. Money is the solution when it is in my hands.” That’s where we part company.

      • But he also seems to be saying, “Money is the problem when it is in your hands. Money is the solution when it is in my hands.” Is he? I didn’t read it at all like that.

        • You know, I initially wrote a very lengthy response and critique of the link you posted but I don’t think all of that is necessary. It is better for me to simply say a couple of things. First, I don’t know everything. Second, I really do appreciate you sharing that link with me. Second second, I may be missing something in British sarcasm. Third, I like his beard. It makes mine look shabby. Fourth, I like a lot of what he says in this article (click on the link). But in that article he is against building houses…the very thing he complains that people aren’t doing in the article you linked to! In fact, in the link you sent, he suggests that home builders are somehow wealthy BECAUSE they aren’t building homes. I just thought his arguments were…well…about as well thought out as my own…which is to say, not well.

          Now, to back up my earlier statement. Reading his post he clearly doesn’t think much of free markets. The good (bad) news is that we don’t have free markets. That aside, he clearly doesn’t like rich people or oligarchs (very rich businessmen) or money but he does pander for money for his non-profit. So why is it that money is bad when some people have it (to fund research or whatever) but good when he has it (to fund farming or whatever)? Further, what self-respecting farmer is willing to accept a hand out?

          I am a farmer. I don’t want your charity. I want to offer equitable trade. I want to meet you. I want you to say, “Wow! Those eggs were awesome! Look, I took a picture of my eggs cooking in the skillet!” or “OMG! That goat meat was the greatest! Everybody wanted more!” or “Here is a picture I took as I cooked those leg quarters! We devoured them. It was shameful…they were so good!” That literally happens all the time…but not often enough.

          He’s right about where change begins. It begins with us. And the “we” group is the group that does all the living and dying and eating and medicating and polluting…in spite of the contrary propaganda. It is important that we focus on “us” and not on “them”…whoever “them” is.

          Forget about the rich and the poor. There will always be those who have more or less than others. But we’ll all be hungry if we don’t make some simple changes. Change you, the consumer, can drive.

          Feel empowered. Go patronize a farmer and save the world!

          • Some of the people can be all right part of the time. But all of the people can’t be all right all of the time. I think Abraham Lincoln said that
            “I’ll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours” I said that (and got served a warrant in France).

  1. Love those first two paragraphs about global economics wise men. Here is the quote from Fiddler “and it won’t make one bit of difference, if you answer right or wrong, when you’re rich they think you really know.”

    Mostly when anyone says “feed the world” I throw up. (but I will check out the video)

    I like Sheppard’s book and his talks.

    ‘Become a Farmer, Save the World’ might be closer to the truth but you’ve got to start somewhere.

    I like how you mix it up here, Chris, with the posts. It is not all how-to or narrating the days events. I like how you mix in global perspective, talk about the interior, religion… I guess it is just sharing. Open sharing. Thanks

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