Friday, 23 March 2007


On Thursday evening an organic farmer from the USA gave a talk about.......well, an organic outlook on life, is how I would put it. Most of what he said can be read on the website: I have taken the liberty of extracting some snippets from the website to reprint here.

I have also copied this photo from the website's collection. Imagine farming in these snowy conditions. Evidently he does it very successfully. Easier than our extreme heat, I reckon. These plastic houses are movable - check out the website.

"Organic pioneers wrote and spoke about their realization that the farm is not a factory, but rather a human-managed microcosm of the natural world. Whether in forest or prairie, soil fertility in the natural world is maintained and renewed by the recycling of all plant and animal residues which create the organic matter in the soil. This recycling is a biological process, which means that the most important contributors to soil fertility are alive, and they are neither farmers nor fertilizer salesmen. They are the population of living creatures in the soil—whose life processes make the plant-food potential of the soil accessible to plants--and their food is organic matter.
The idea of a living soil nourished with organic matter also helps cast light on the difference between a natural and a chemical approach to soil fertility. To better convey this difference, I like to borrow two words from the ecology movement and refer to "deep" organic farming and "shallow" organic farming.

Deep-organic farmers, after rejecting agricultural chemicals, look for better ways to farm. Inspired by the elegance of nature's systems, they try to mimic the patterns of the natural world's soil-plant economy. The deep-organic pioneers learned that farming in partnership with the natural processes of soil organisms also makes allowance for the unknowns. The living systems of a truly fertile soil contain all sorts of yet-to-be discovered benefits for plants--and consequently for livestock and the humans who consume them.

Shallow-organic farmers, on the other hand, after rejecting agricultural chemicals, look for quick-fix inputs. Trapped in a belief that the natural world is inadequate, they end up mimicking the patterns of chemical agriculture. The difference in approach is a difference in life views. The shallow view regards the natural world as consisting of mostly inadequate, usually malevolent systems that must be modified and improved.

The idea that we could ever substitute a few soluble elements for a whole living system is a lot like thinking an intravenous needle could deliver a delicious meal.

How did deep get turned into shallow and good food revert to mediocre? It is a logical result in a world blind to the elegance of natural systems. Humans think in terms of more milk rather than exceptional milk, cheaper eggs not better eggs."

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