I just watched a wonderful episode of Australian Story and this time it was about Dr. Maarten Stapper, a soil scientist who has transformed the way many farmers see their land. He has given them the ability to understand that their soil degradation, ever increasing reliance on chemicals, reduced yields and poor quality grains are happening because they are killing their soils.
He explains that the earth has a skin from which all life grows and depends. Without soil life and a healthy skin, there is no life. When the soil crumbles and becomes saline and when chemicals are applied over and over again the skin begins to die and no amount of genetic modification of the crop is going to save the soil life beneath. It is a nice analogy, and I think it is his way of explaining his approach that is part of his success with farmers. It is all very well to have knowledge but being able to impart is just as important.
He goes on to say that what the soil needs is rejuvenating with the microbes and humus which occur naturally but have been so reduced in numbers over the years that they have become ineffective. It is simply returning the soils to their natural state and maintaining that state into the future. Dr. Stapper teaches farmers to not only apply but also to grow the microbes and make the humus they require. This is similar to some of the biodynamic methods, it seems to me.
The results are staggering. Moreover, farmers are becoming advocates of good, clean food and are taking a look at their whole lives and seeing in a new light. It was a wonderful example of the energy people with a passion can harness and a very good representation of an optimistic future available today, to all farmers worldwide and in fact to all of us.
This is not about organic certification and I don't think the word organic was used even once. It is viewed from the farmers' and his daughter's perspectives and is about Maarten Stapper, the man.
Worrying however was the fact that he worked for CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.... actually I never knew that before!) for many years but left when it became clear his views on biological farming were incompatible with the CSIRO.Increasingly, even here in clean, green Australia, funding comes from business. Now he travels Australia talking with farmer groups and inspiring hope and giving the power to provide clean, green, whole foods back to the farmers and away from the chemical companies.
I am sorry there are no photos but it seems impossible to use any of the images on the ABC TV website. Please go and have a look yourself.... Australian Story: Maarten Stapper