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Posts Tagged ‘agriculture’

Back when I first saw Food, Inc., I was surprised and excited to see them interview Joel Salatin about sustainable farming practices. It served as a great introduction to the work that Joel is doing on his farm, to all of the people who are more apt to watch a movie than read a book (and believe me, I love Joel’s books!). But now? Now they’re doing a seventy-minute documentary just about Polyface Farm and Salatin’s family.

They’ve invested $50k into the project thus far, and need another $95k to finish. Sustainable agriculture is growing more prevalent in the cultural eye; there are enough people out there to get this important project finished. This system can work. This system does work. So ;et’s continue to educate. Let’s continue to grow.

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I was reading Sharon’s post about the homeschool project she did with her children regarding looking at fairly “sustainable” cultures that are out there, and what they look like. In the end, they created a list regarding “indigeny”, the idea of “being local to your place”. I’ve read a bit here and there regarding the “peak oil” idea and “climate change”, and I’m not sure that I believe all of it. Not the hype, anyway. Do I think there will be an end to oil? Well, yes. It’s not a renewable resource.

Do I think it will result in a change to the way we live? Yes. But I also think our culture bears the need to change, even without the idea of “peak oil”. All we do is consume. All we think about is in terms of the economy. What happened to living? Truly living, to create and to care, rather than to produce and consume?

Ah. Before I go too far along with my soap box, I’ll offer you the list she and her children ended up with:

1. People mostly stay in one place for generations, and there is a pass down economy.  That is, in Ladakh, 90% of the population owns land – but no one buys it.  At one point, one man observes that he (now elderly) has seen 7 generations live in his house.  Because people stay, they can’t afford to degrade the region, nor can they afford to radically overpopulate it, unless there are available ecological niches being created.

2. People live in extended families, rather than nuclear ones.  This was the first thing the kids noticed about the Ladakh film – and the thing that Isaiah said he liked best, that the kids all lived with their grandparents.  There are many hands around to do the work.

3. The technologies the culture evolves are low input, and simple.  If the culture survives into the modern era, they must evolve powerful prohibitions against using other technologies.  These prohibitions must be part of the cultural identity of the group.

4. The identity of the group is both positive and negative.  That is, they must teach their children compelling stories about who they are and why it is good to be part of that culture.  They also must describe themselves against people who are not part of that culture – that doesn’t have to be a hostile definition, but “We don’t watch television because we don’t believe it is good for us” or “We don’t do this because it is part of our faith” must be part of it.  A purely affirmative self-definition that doesn’t say “no” to things seems not to be sufficient.

5. Children spend much of their time in their community and integrated into it – which some places do a lot of schooling and some a little, no successful indigenous culture sends its kids away from them all day.  Nor do they primarily educate their children to do jobs not needed in the truly local economy.  Immersion is the name of the game.

6. The local economy serves most subsistence needs.  That doesn’t mean trade or money don’t exist, but the more one moves primarily into the formal economy, the harder it is to keep up.  A portion, probably the largest portion of each household’s human resources are dedicated to subsistence activities.  This means that the people doing subsistence work are not alone in it, and the subsistence work is viewed as primary, rather than relegated to the inferior territory of household labor.

7. There is a high value placed on getting along, accomodating others, working together, sharing and resolving conflicts.  Traditions are built around these customs of sharing, and evolve for the management of common resources (despite the constant iteration of the “Tragedy of the Commons” commons are often extremely well managed).

8. People eat a truly local diet as their primary foodstuffs.  They eat what grows well and naturally in their regions, including foraging wild foods and growing in ways that do not deplete the soil.  Their crops and animals are not generally optimized – ie, they aren’t necessarily the biggest or best, but the best adapted to their particular circumstances.

9. It isn’t just food that is localized – architecture responds to local conditions, community practices respond to local conditions, and to evolving local conditions.  One of the reasons most indigenous cultures are so often thought to be “backwards” is that when confronted with modernity, their carefully evolved structures don’t work very well.  What serves beautifully in a harsh environment where little imported food is available looks scant and strange in a culture where the markets are full.  What keeps one warmer than average in a cold climate with only a small fire for heat seems drafty and weird when you can just turn the thermostat to 70.  As we evolve back from modernity, and deal with climate change, our local will change – what we need is broad resilience.

10. The culture creates minimal waste, and focuses much of it resources on making full use of what comes easily – rather than forcing what doesn’t come easily into a mold that doesn’t work.  Waste is shocking and disturbing to people.

11. The culture has a long tradition of music, art, literature/storytelling and spiritual/religious production, as well as other projects that bring beauty and joy.  That is, it isn’t just focused on subsistence activities, but has pleasures that are available to all, that are participatory and fulfill human needs for good stories, song, beauty, uplift and a sense of connection to something greater.

12. Having contiguity with your past is considered desirable, not bad.  Modernity reduces the past to a few heroic tales, and makes the past literally uninhabitable to the present.  Thus, those who came before us know nothing of value, and the ways of the past are archaic and foolish.  Sustainable cultures on the other hand, focus on the ways that the present future and past are linked to one another.

Now not every culture does these things perfectly – but we thought that some of these characteristics might provide a set of guidelines for the project of indigeny – and of creating a collection of indigenous cultures that can compete with the bright lights of modernity.
Indigeny Part I: Becoming Native to Your Place (Casaubon’s Book)

“Making the past literally uninhabitable to the present.” It’s like, the rallying cry of industrialism.

Just sayin’.

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I have to admit, the title makes me chuckle. But I love this piece of Wendell Berry’s poetry that I found today:

“Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

– Wendell Berry

The guy is an obscure sort of genius, in my opinion. Best line?

As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.

Just sayin’.

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The main barrier standing between ourselves and a local-food culture is not price, but attitude. The most difficult requirements are patience and a pinch of restraint — virtues that are hardly the property of the wealthy. These virtues seem to find precious little shelter, in fact, in any modern quarter of this nation founded by Puritans. Furthermore, we apply them selectively: browbeating our teenagers with the message that they should wait for sex, for example. Only if they wait to experience intercourse under the ideal circumstances (the story goes), will they know its true value. “Blah blah blah,” hears the teenager: words issuing from a mouth that can’t even wait for the right time to eat tomatoes, but instead consumes tasteless ones all winter to satisfy a craving for everything now. We’re raising our children on the definition of promiscuity if we feed them a casual, indiscriminate mingling of foods from every season plucked from the supermarket, ignoring how our sustenance is cheapened by wholesale desires.”
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (Barbara Kingsolver)

When I first read that nigh upon a year ago, it struck a nerve. Obviously the author is skeptical about the concept of Biblical abstinence, yet applies it wholeheartedly to the idea of food. I got to thinking. The entire idea permeates our culture. We wonder why so many of our youth live lives of mediocrity, or fall away into “lusts of the world” as soon as they are old enough to get out from underneath their parents’ thumb. Kingsolver sums it up well: “We’re raising our children on the definition of promiscuity.” It’s everywhere. I don’t care if you want to look at the lack of sexual restraint, our convenience food diets, or most blatantly in the news these days: our economy – it’s everywhere. And we do apply it selectively. The question is: should we? Can our economy survive it? Can our souls?

Some Christians, on the Left and on the Right, would tell us that economic matters are of paramount concern right now. They would assert that we’ve no time for the “luxury” of “culture war” discussions about “abstinence” or divorce or “gender roles” or other such matters. Instead, they tell us, we should concentrate on tax cuts or economic stimulus projects or Wall Street bailouts or home ownership.

They’re wrong.

They’re wrong not only because the family is, ultimately, more important than the marketplace, but also because the two are interconnected. They’re wrong also because, as Marxists and hyper-capitalists both correctly grasp (though wrongly apply), man as an economic being cannot be abstracted from other aspects of life.

A time of economic crisis is, therefore, a time for the Church to reconsider—and re-imagine—her priorities. The first step is to recognize that one of the roots of the family crisis all around us—in the pews we sit in or preach to every week—is the wallet in our own back pocket.
Love, Sex & Mammon: Hard Times, Hard Truths, and the Economics of the Christian Family (Touchstone Magazine)

I know of pastors who ardently preach on tithing (which I believe to be a Biblical principle) and on giving to the church, but who otherwise never touch on the idea of money. I know of pastors who hardly touch the subject at all for fear of sounding like they “just preach about money”. But come on, people. It is central to our issue! How we spend our money shows where our priorities lie. When it comes down to it, it’s the old adage: actions speak louder than words. We cannot continue to live as if our morals and our money are not interconnected!

Our culture is living the life of Esau right now. We’re selling our inheritance, the future of our culture, for the sake of a bowl of stew. We want the houses we couldn’t afford in the first place, we want the shiny cars so that others will think well of us, we want the manicured lawns that show our affluence – and we don’t care that there won’t be anything left for the next generation.

I’ve found myself almost wishing that the dollar would bottom out and our economy would have to change. Then I catch myself and guiltily point out that there must be something wrong with me for wanting that to happen. But then tonight I read this:

Do I want Obama to fail? Aren’t I, as a Christian, required to pray for our president? I do pray for him. But I don’t pray for his success, where his success means implementing policies which harm the country’s security, kill babies, increase poverty, and decrease freedom. The Alinskyite game playing is pathetic, trying to divide us with “have you beat your wife lately?” questions designed to “catch” conservatives in being “disloyal” to the President. Are you now, or have you ever been, a fan of Rush Limbaugh? Grow up! I’m not hoping for economic failure. I’m experiencing economic failure, and I’m hoping to return to economic success.

Think of it as praying the alcoholic in your family will hit rock bottom sooner, rather than later. It’s time to stop enabling the entitlement mentality. It’s time to let go of our co-dependency and desire to be liked. It’s time for an intervention.
Going John Galt (Pursuing Holiness)

Let’s hit rock bottom.

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I find the correlation of tax dollars –> subsidies –> HFCS –> consumers to be interesting. Basically, the government is taking our money and sinking it into investing it into a system that increases farmer reliance on the government itself  [gee, that’s handy]. In turn, because we’re producing so much of it, we’ve got to get rid of it somehow. Let’s stuff it into all sorts of places that it has no business to be. Of course, the Corn Refiners’ Association lauds the concept of eating it “in moderation”. But we stick it in everything, because we’ve got so much of it. You can’t eat it in moderation if you’re consuming a typical American diet! So, then we turn around and face lots of healthcare issues that could have been prevented by healthy diet. What do these healthcare issues entail? Greater strain on the healthcare system. Greater cost for the healthcare system. Which means… guess what? The government gets to skife up even more tax dollars to try to fix.

I do love our government. 😉

On a less serious note, we have this spoof of the pro-HFCS ads that the Corn Refiners Association has been throwing out there. One commenter aptly called them passive-aggressive, and I have to say that I agree. They try to label anyone with a bent against HFCS as an uninformed sheep. If being a sheep means that you want to eat something that actually bears some form of resemblance to its natural created form… then by all means, call me a sheep.

And, since they can tell you all of the nitty-gritty nutritional and biological effects in much more detail (and accuracy) than I ever could, I point the skeptics toward an article put out by the Weston A. Price Foundation entitled The Double Danger of High Fructose Corn Syrup.

Oh, and then there’s that recent study that they’ve published that shows how they’ve found mercury in HFCS-sweetened food products. Yep. When they tested certain samples, they found mercury in things like Campbell’s Tomato Soup, Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup, and Heinz Ketchup. I don’t know about you, but these are some of things that we actually… have used. Of course, the CRA is attempting to discredit the study by saying that it is “outdated” and that manufacturers have been using mercury-free HFCS methods for years now. Oh really? Then why is a study conducted in the later part of 2008 finding mercury in foods using HFCS? Why is it even on the shelves? Why are we marketing these items to the population that is most at-risk for mercury damage, mainly – children. I’m really rather curious.

I should really quit ranting before I get into my dislike for AgriBusiness (forget the “culture” in agriculture, folks – we’ve thrown culture out the window like yesterday’s news), the FDA (yeah, their campaign against raw milk with the claim that pasteurization is the only way to safety, is just so incredibly endearing), and our power-hungry federal government… oh, wait. I just came dangerously close to it, didn’t I?

Time to get back to being the responsible in-line young adult and go read my college textbooks.

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Brief Commentary

How will the massive and ever-growing government debt in America be paid off? Certainly not by production and taxation. We are beyond that possibility. Certainly not by cutting spending to any meaningful degree. So-much-money is the lifeblood of bureaucracy and the political machine. Only when it is too late will government spending be cut to the bone, as it should be, and then it will be ….. too late.
~ Herrick Kimball, “Emerging Crisis, Population Shift, and the Rural Remnant

I can’t say that I agree with everything in Herrick’s recent blog entry, but I do agree with the above paragraph. It’s not that I’m trying to be pessimistic, it’s just that… I have little faith in our government and the road it continues to trundle down? Yes, let’s call it that. This used to make me panicky, in a way. I looked around and saw how myself and most of the people that I knew, were still very dependent on our industrial culture. But now? Something has changed. I can’t truly pinpoint it. It’s not that we’re necessarily any better prepared. In fact, err… we’re not. It’s not that I don’t think it’s moving distinctly closer on the horizon. But I’ve got a strange peace about it. God is in control. It doesn’t mean that the consequences for our country’s actions aren’t coming. It means that even if they are, we’re still in His hands.

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