April 13, 2009

A Farm for the Future

This is a pretty amazing film. I found it at the Post Carbon Institute

"Filmmaker Rebecca Hosking investigates how to transform her family's farm in Devon (U.K.) into a low-energy farm for the future. This video features excerpts from an interview with Post Carbon Senior Fellow Richard Heinberg".

One of Heinberg's quotes " Our energy dependence is equivalent to 22 billion slaves".

I`ll be looking forward to a part 2 of this in a few years time: I sure hope there is one, and that feeding people is one of the top 3 achievements: carbon neutrality and ecological health, being the other 2.

Permaculture gardens and tree farms are lovely and if one is lucky enough to have the land to feed yourself, is the best way to do that ecologically - But they can't feed the biilions on the planet, unless complete global redistribution of land, infastructure costs and somehow skill aquision is transfered to 10 - 50% of the population. I don`t see that happening before the real food-fuel crises. Permaculture takes long, laborious, minimal return, years of work and money (trees/shrubs are not cheap) to get established. While many incredible examples of permaculture design thrive, very few can feed more than a few families. Harvesting is particulary laborious. Most people could not afford to farm like this.

I believe plowing has a place in food production and but it can be reduced to once in a long while with long rotations, cover crops and diversity, with pastures brought into the rotation with grains and vegetables. This does requires power.

I think its folly to dismiss the horse. I`d suggest finding Eric and Anne Nordell`s excellent series of articles in the Small Farmers Journal on sustainable large market horse gardening. You`ll have to buy the back issues, but you can, and you won`t be disapointed!

As well there are electric tractors, conversions and new ones and I think they deserve far more attention.

On market gardens a biodiesel walk behind tractors may be an option for transition if materials are available for making the fuel locally without competeing for food or land resources (waste grease, for e.g.)

In Canada we have a lot of large beef farms too and the acreage for is vast and the hay making energy intensive, as is the grain production that goes into fattening up the steers at feedlots. I propose the government purchase these large acreages, close to towns and cities across the country and redistribute this land in 5 - 100 acre lots (depending upon the farming proposal) to farming potentates. We`ll need organic agriculture departments not threatened with closure, and mentoring with farmers and, yes, permaculture designers.

you have a 500 acre farm endowed with hedgerows and woodlot, a small scale intensive agriculture could thrive - each independent, yet interconnected. Trade becomes real goods - use of my horses to plow in exchange for grazing on the harvested market garden...or I grow you mangles and you give me the wool. What a lovely world!

But it won;t come to that until....it comes to that (when there are no more desk jobs, or waitress or call centers. We`d have to give people land, say title is earned after proving production of so much food with said amount of carbon debt.

That is what I think Rebecca Hosking should do to transform her family's farm in Devon into a low-energy farm for the future. Bring in the community of people it would take to do just that.


Mr. H said...

That was one of the best videos I have seen in a long time, especially the forest gardening segments...our idea of paradise. We have been working towards achieving our own forest garden and find this type of information to be most inspirational.

Thank you,


anne said...

Yes, I agree - what a sweet paradise. Would you also agree though Mike that to create a food system with these principles would require 10 - 50 % population engaged in the work as well as a revolutionary redistribution of land; IE If this is a solution to peak oil how do we achvieve it

Patrick said...

I was having problems with my Internet connection, so I could only watch about the first half, but I think I get the idea.

While I agree with everything I saw in the video, and everything you say, it seems so out of reach. Without a doubt, on a personal level, this is really what everyone should be trying to achieve in order to gain personal food independence.

I don't see the Canadian government redistributing land in that way, or the money for such an undertaking being made available. Also, again on a personal level, it's hard for anyone reading this blog to take concrete steps in this direction.

What can one person, or a small group of people do, in order to take steps in this or another positive direction in a real life situation? What kind of real planning can we do or real direction can we take?

If, like I have on my blog, you explain to people what heirloom varieties are, or how to do plant breeding and selection, people can take this on. If you tell people to buy this or that product, or avoid others, they can do this too.

You can also tell people to lobby their government officials for things, but in the form of democracy we seemed to be trapped in at the moment, this seems of limited use.

You can't however suggest people go out and buy 50 acres and a horse, and start farming. No one can do anything with this.

anne said...

Hi Patrick,

On the blog I seem to spend more of my mulling about on things that get in the way of the vision - rather than the vision. This is because I want to see it happen, believe that there is a minute possibility and like all wee things (think seedling) have that ability to happen.
I write about transgenics, nano, corporate control, etc, because its a big black hulk in the way of the vision. "If we know the evil can't we slay it"? ...is my approach. I guess the extent and powerful grip of fear and security folks have prevents real action tho. A vision also provides solace and insight and courage.
This helps me act, maybe it does to others too.
Encouraging people to farm, learn and preserve that lovely repetoire of skill and knowledge, collect the tools: How can this be anything but constructive?
So why not fifty acres and a horse - would feed a few people. Not many, you are right, tree gardens, solar tractors and onfarm biofuel to the list. What could possibly be your objection?

I figure a need for awareness and education on the situation is important: I disagree with you that everyone knows about the obstacles. This isn't the case; I've had tremendous feedback from friends family and comments within the blog that backs this.

I guess if we can agree that the goal is to feed the local population from our own soils, whilst preserving the carbon cycle, even capturing excess and engaging in sustainable practices, we can start somewhere.

More hands on the land, the service and educational structure and land redistribution. The food crisis will probably have to intensify but I do think its possible to legislate that. The will of the people is powerful when roused.
And its just one radical idea but I'm sticking with it for now:
We have much land in Canada, much of it held by the "Crown" - that is the people, since we don't owe the queen, we need to advocate the availability of farmland for young trained farmers. I suggest sales of Crown Land (forestry lease and grazing licenced say) and use these funds to purchase retiring farmers lands close to towns and cities. And Stimilate the economy with schools and manufacture (tools and, skills technology) for the way forward.
It could form a good part of a new economy.

An alternative that is practical and realizale is indeed lacking. The private model of land ownership on organic farms doesn't always work well and I've seen great alternatives.

We are in for a real shake-up on many levels. We have come to our carrying capacity. The dangers out there are as important to know as the having the seed in hand to carry through to the next generation.

Mr. H said...


I do not think it would be possible for a forest garden system to feed everyone at this point in history...too many people, not enough motivation or skills.

The only system that I think might work on a mass scale is the community garden system much like they have been forced to have in Cuba. I do not see that happening until it is forced upon us as well...a total ecomomic collapse would perhaps inspire people.

I agree that many more people would have to be involved in farming, much more than the small amount we have today. So until then I will keep planting, growing and learning and maybe one day my skills will be advantageous to others.

I also agree that we need to expose those that are using greed to destroy this planet and its food system for their own benefit.

Keep up the good work,


Patrick said...

Hi Anne,

I don't think we disagree on very much here, and you certainly know much more about the situation in Canada than I do.

When I said people knew about the issues already, I wasn't thinking about nanotech specifically. I certainly agree there's a lot more work on getting information out on this still to be done. Of course there are lots of other things as well.

I do think an awful lot of people by now understand the role of carbon in modern farming and food systems, as well as having a basic understanding of GMOs.

I'm still trying to put together in my own head what steps real people who live under typical circumstances can take to help move the most important issues forward, but I accept that may not be what you are necessarily trying to do.

Keep up the good work!

anne said...

Thanks Mike.

We can all just do our best to move closer to a sustainable food system. There isn't a one size fits all design.

You are doing a fabulous job outlining the nitty gritty of food sovereignty on your great blog.