I went to a talk yesterday by an Agroecologist Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms in Virginia and was surprisingly entertained for a full couple of hours, when I assumed it would be a long dry lecture on how high input industrial agriculture is going to be the ruin of the human species future.
Rather than tell us things most people there well knew – the imbalance of the food system when 1 billion people go hungry and another billion eat unhealthy foods (when one third of food produced is wasted and soil fertility is in global decline). He showed us the many farcical truths we live by and by the end of the performance had successfully ridiculed the status quo – to the point where I personally felt stupid, as well as on behalf of all the people working hard to do the right thing but heading in completely the wrong direction.
Things we accept as a given –
* Life is mechanical / sterile / safe / hygienic / soil is inert / a commodity to be used not sustained
BUT THERE ARE MORE LIVING THINGS IN A HANDFUL OF SOIL THAN THERE ARE HUMAN BEINGS ON THE PLANET, AND WE ARE FUNDAMENTALLY DEPENDENT ON THE INVISIBLE WORLD OF SOIL.
* Monoculture = Efficiency / Single use capital intensive infrastructure = freedom
BIODIVERSITY and CROP ROTATION combined with modern PORTABLE INFRASTRUCTURE TO FARM THE NOOKS AND CRANNIES = fertile soil
* I teach nature, I’m smarter than nature = GM / protective cell walls /human genome project
BUT WE DON’T EVEN KNOW HOW TO GET RID OF PLASTIC? THERE ARE ENOUGH LAWNS AND PASTURES USED FOR HORSE GRAZING IN THE U.S. TO FEED ITS ENTIRE POPULATION. WE CANNOT SEGREGATE THE GOOD FROM THE BAD, THE WISDOM OF DNA IS SMARTER AND INTEGRAL TO THE WHOLE.
* Government knows best
BUT THEY PRESERVE WHAT IS / WHAT FALLS IN LINE WITH REGULATION WORKING AGAINST INNOVATION – EMBRACE THE WEIRDOS
* Farmers are idiots, we want people pushing buttons
WE NEED FARMERS, THERE IS A HUGE DISCONNECT, KIDS CAN’T TOUCH COWS ON SCHOOL FARM VISITS
* Food should not spoil / rot / = stabilise food, extend shelf-life
WORMS WOULDN’T EAT HALF THE FOOD WE EAT – HOW CAN WE FEED THE WORLD IF WE CAN’T EVEN FEED OURSELVES PROPERLY
* Cheap food policy is because we care
ABOUT THE VESTED INTERESTS OF AGRI-GIANTS – decline in nutrient density, and increase in externalised costs (when it should be fair prices and internalised costs)
* Freedom must be feared
WE ARE MOVING FROM THE AGE OF INFORMATION TO THE AGE OF REGENERATION – healthy and vibrant culture honouring life and death of all things
He did not preach about organics – his farm is not certified organic as he does not buy into complying with regulation. He did not deride eating meat, he simply thinks that vegetarianism is not the right response. The issue is the disconnect from what we are eating.
If anyone has the chance to go and see him talk, you definitely won’t be bored but enthralled. I always listen to someone speaking about their values more, when they look healthy and energetic themselves. He is a mesmerising speaker and knows what he is talking about from hands-on soil and dirt experience.