Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A 50-year Crystal Ball and some pictures

"We live off of what comes out of the soil, not what's in the bank," said Wes Jackson, president of the Land Institute. "If we squander the ecological capital of the soil, the capital on paper won't much matter."

No doubt the thought of looking 50 years into the future is daunting, and hardly a concern of many. But a few have and are, and why? Because for too long we have focused on short sightedness and the quick fix to develop and maintain our way(s) of life. Wes Jackson at the Land Institute proposes the way to deal with the agriculture issues of our day is a 50-year farm bill,

While many would argue that the decline in land stewardship and practical farming began with the industrial revolution, I believe a more in depth look is needed. Beginning in the late 1700's after America was founded, our leaders and our government realized that these United States possessed something of great value, our farmland. To that extent they have been exploiting our farmers ever since, for the sole purposes of expanding economically. To reverse the trend we would in deed need to heed Mr. Jackson's plan. A major issue is soil and water conservation and how to increase organic matter in the topsoil.

One of my favorite parts of the article is this quote. "The proposals we’re discussing would increase employment opportunities in agriculture — sustainable farming will require more eyes per acre, and replacing fossil-fuel energy with human energy and ecological knowledge makes good economic sense." It does, and I believe it begins with the land. But do people know how to farm, or has the disconnect disconnected even more people.

Here is another snippet from the article that give a brief allbeit detailed over view of the 50-year Farm Bill.
The farm bills we’ve had largely address exports, commodity problems, subsidies and food programs. They all involve here-and-now concerns. A 50-year farm bill represents a vision that stresses the need to protect soil from erosion, cut the wastefulness of water, cut fossil-fuel dependence, eliminate toxins in soil and water, manage carefully the nitrogen of the soil, reduce dead zones, restore an agrarian way of life, and preserve farmland from development.

The idea for a 50-year Farm Bill could and would accomplish these goals. They would need to. I believe the ideas my wife and I have for our farm would incorporate many of these. We hope to have a grass based dairy with some chickens, pigs, and beef cows. We would like to try farming with horses rather than machines. (I actually talked with one farmer from Washington who tried and tried to do that, but it takes quite the doing!) The idea with grass based for us to returning to land stewardship and management. In a grass based operation these are key. I am still learning but there are many great publications out there on them including Grass-Fed Beef.

Another central theme to Jackson's idea is that if we can't become sustainable in agriculture, it is highly unlikely that we can in any other faucet of society. That is a sobering, yet true statement. Our country was founded on agricultural principles of hard work, dedication and sacrifice. To revitalize and reinvigorate the agricultural sector we must heed Jackson's plan. We must begin to work on cooperation with nature rather than trying to dominate it. And we must begin now!

And now for some recent pictures of the snow here!

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