RESTORATIVE FARMING AND THE REAL GREEN REVOLUTIONby Kenny Ausubel
Agriculture as it is practiced by "agribusiness" today is the single most destructive human activity against the environment. If we do not redirect agriculture, we can forget preserving the earth. In addition, by the year 2000, just one percent of farms will grow fifty percent of our food. This centralization of agribusiness undermines global food security and national sovereignty. What do we do? What would a positive scenario of global agriculture look like?
The practices for ecological agriculture are already present. Systems such as permaculture, bio-intensive, biodynamic and many indigenous methods are capable of producing yields comparable or actually higher then chemical agriculture while restoring the soil, water and land. These systems are knowledge-intensive rather than technology-intensive, meaning that they also create jobs. Creating jobs is an essential component of any healthy future economy, and food is the biggest business in the world.
In just the last ten years, over 2,000 farmers markets have sprung up across the U.S. They indicate the desire of the public to have direct access to fresh health food, as well as a direct connection to farmers and the soil. Similarly, Community-Supported Agriculture projects (CSA's) are already spreading rapidly as citizens come together to contract with a farmer for fresh produce over a season. These budding community institutions underscore the need to decentralize agriculture and produce much more food locally for community food self- reliance. While access to markets and a cash economy are important as well, community food security is equally important.
We will also be reexamining what crops we grow, both from the point of view of nutrition and the health of the soil. As current trends indicate, people are enthusiastic about "new" varieties of foods, which are mainly the rich heritage of heirloom vegetables and fruits that people have cultivated and passed down through countless generations. Most of these also contain a higher nutritional value as well as delicious flavors that are now inspiring respected chefs to highlight them in great recipes and meals. Meanwhile, brilliant farmers and gardeners have been documenting which crops are more or less impactful on the soil, and we will increasingly see these ecological and nutritional considerations in our future farming.
Human beings face one of the greatest challenges ever. How do we learn to feed ourselves while living lightly on the land? The future, already in the making today, is a restorative agriculture which restores the soil, water, nutrition, community, jobs and economy. Restorative farming also restores the human spirit in harmony with the natural world. What a great adventure we are undertaking.
Kenny Ausubel, is the author of Seeds of Change - The Living Treasure: The Passionate Story of the Growing Movement to Restore Biodiversity and Revolutionize the Way We Think About Food (Harper San Francisco, 1994).
His next book on the Bioneers will be out in Spring, 1997. (Reprint, The GreenMoney Journal, West 608 Glass Avenue, Spokane, WA 99205. (509) 328- 1741. Summer, 1996 edition)
Copyright © 1996. The Light Party.
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