Dec 16, 2011

Land Stewardship vs Extraction

Note: Sometimes you have to just put a thought out there to see what comes back. Some will understand what you are saying, some will want to debate the issue, others will go on the attack for thinking at all.This was a post on Linked-in that made for good conversation.

Co-opted Permaculture. You can see it coming... You work on a community garden, you build the plant systems, and start to make some progress, all on your own, left alone, creating natural...

...captial, building soil, making an empty lot green and then, someone notices. In the midst of your work, unfinished, someone wants you to train their community to grow food. Then a youth organizer sees you as a new resource (or distraction) and you are asked to run a weekly youth garden club. You know, the older folks need some better food choices, can you donate your food to the senior center? No organization offers to help with what you need or donate part of their grant money. Extraction is everywhere. Are you surprised? Did you think you weren't part of the community? Be aware, you will be part of their agenda at your cost.

As successful project will put you on the radar. What you have to offer is much more than a passing distraction. Keep good planning documents and integrate the community into your system. Take full advantage of every opportunity to show the ecological solutions permaculture has to offer.
Keep building natural capital and human resources for shared benefits.

Do not just give things away, not time, not produce, not seeds, unless you fully interact with the recipients and find reciprocal resources. That is stealing from the soil and it has a value that must be replaced. Its best to trade or sell your resource to sustain the system you so tirelessly worked to develop. Encourage everyone to be part of your nutrient cycle and build their natural capital too. Be responsible for how your resources are being used by others. Your ego will inflate at the cost of your ecology, so return the rewards to the soil. Focus the yield on increased natural capital and a community of sustainable systems. Its not yours to give away, it belongs to the ecological occupants. Permaculture Policy: Obtain a Yield

There is a CSA farm not far from me. The farmer has been asked many times to have people glean the unpicked or over ripe produce from his fields. For orphans and widows this is an ethically required service. What his attitude is however, is that the loss of nutrient services in the exported produce for which the land is not compensated is an ecological loss he cannot sustain. Even though he does all the right s things organically, like rotating and using only 10 acres around his 40 each year, limiting cultivation to one pass per season, and extensive cover cropping, he still has to import 10 tons er acre of composted manure onto his fields.

My point being, there are limits to what the land can provide, and by NOT limiting consumption of the land, gardening consumes organic matter, you deplete the natural capital beyond viable levels of production. The soil will be depleted in 3 seasons and yields will crash. Your first priority is the Earth. Deplete the Earth and you rob yourself, others, and the future generations of their sustenance.

Famine will be the result of over-harvesting the soils in fields and community gardens. Like the farm above, 75% of the land is left fallow each year so that 25% can be farmed. Does anyone else do that? To be honest, its a great ego booster to give away the produce, but the cost of the food from a community garden is not sustainable in the soil or economics. The Food Shelf is better off buying the food from organic growers who can produce more in less space at a lower cost to land and wallet. Better yet, the Food Shelf should have its own garden employing and teaching the recipients to grow their own food and be self sufficient. If you are giving away your produce, you are responsible for returning the fertility and OM to the land, or too few or the wrong people are gardening.
How many tons of rich soil does it take to make a ton of food, say black beans? We know that most of the structure comes from photosynthesis (ala carbon, fructose and glucose to sucrose and starch), and then micro and macro soil nutrients, and nitrogen. This is all held in place by organic material. It takes a huge amount of organic material to make soil humus. The produce on the land is the distilled and concentrated collection of all these micro resources, especially calcium and potassium. This material, in it raw form, is what keeps the soil alive. It is the decomposition of the fresh organic material in its infinitesimal volume compared to the land that supports the soil ecology. It allows for diversity of organisms from the best source of stored energy, the fruit. Whereas the green matter is cellulose and lignin, the produce is starch and protein. That is why we eat it. Removing this mineral and nutrient dense material has consequences. Besides reducing erosion and leaching, leaving it in the farm field diminishes the need to transport compost and makes more available for those who need it. Like city gardens where the people live. Land stewardship must come first for future generations. Its not life boating. 

I share a great deal with my community and they with me, but my soil is fragile and I am the steward for now. I am living what I espouse to the best of my ability and through doing that have come to many conclusions which replace erroneous assumptions. I do look forward with great concern, but first look down to see where I am and assess what lies between me and the horizon. I have been disillusioned by my eight year agrarian journey, but who needs illusions, I choose reality and the actual.

My context for what I believe is from our oak savannah homestead on which we have three gardens, an orchard, 16 bee hives, three ponds, broad water catchment systems, and geothermal heating. As far as "impermeable walls", I also have a classroom with 12 drafting tables where I teach the permaculture homestead design process with a 1400 temperate climate plant database. All of the above is open to those wishing to learn and discover with me the mechanisms for a truly viable agrarian lifestyle.

Abundance comes from cooperation as opposed to extraction and we will not create abundance without an ecological paradigm shift. Thanks for the conversation.

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Permaculture and Polyculture Consulting and Design

Permaculture and Polyculture Consulting and Design
Getting to know your property, the plants you have and those you can grow, is a fulfilling endeavor. With most I am the steward of the land. I give them good soil biology and they do the rest. If I group them in cohesive plant communities, they respond with greater yields. If I encourage the micro-organisms (Fungus and bacteria) , the roots obsorb more nutrients making a pest and disease resistant plant. A stronger plant that gives us more organic food and takes less energy.

A Ten Acre Farm Transformed to an Edible Forest Garden

A Ten Acre Farm Transformed to an Edible Forest Garden
Self Renewing Fertility, Soil Building, Water Catchment, Tea Trail Swale, Erosion Control and Native American Medicinals