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Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil.To feed the world, to clean the air and water, we need to change what we do with our soils.This podcast looks at the many variants of regenerative food growing. How? Why? When?We must be the ChangeUnderground!


46 #worldorganicnews 2017 01 08


Australian Podcast Awards Click here

How organic farming will save us all – if we can throw away our antiquated notions of what it means | National Post




This is the World Organic News Podcast for the week ending 8th of January 2017.

Jon Moore reporting!


The week, indeed, this year begins with an article from the National Post entitled: How organic farming will save us all – if we can throw away our antiquated notions of what it means. And the title says it all. We live in times of minutely defined identity. Each of us is encouraged to define ourselves as some combination of words that describes our family status, sexual orientation, voting intentions, lifestyle and who knows what else. That people have bought into this way of seeing themselves means they must also place others within a category or combination of categories. Hence I quote from the article:


If there is a stereotype of the organic farmer it’s that they spend their days wrapped in droopy clothes made of hemp and burlap, becoming one with nature while foraging for chanterelles.

End quote.


The truth, of course, is much bigger than this. Yes there are organic farmers like those described but and I quote again from the article:



Yet the reality of many organic farmers couldn’t be further from the truth. For those serious about agriculture free of synthetic chemicals, farming is a complex system that requires endless days of laborious work, with the potential to yield lucrative results.

End Quote.


Indeed the business of organic farming is as much a cerebral one as it is physical. A knowledge of so many disciplines is required: agronomy, entomology, soil science, animal husbandry, meteorology, algebra, accounting, hydrology, history and I could go on but will spare you. Quite often these things are just within the lifetime of each organic farmer’s experiences, sometimes they need to be studied.


The author, Claudia McNelly goes on to use one farm as an example. Brent Preston gave up an office job to grow food or as he is quoted later in the piece, grow soil.



Well-managed, nutrient-dense soils are the guiding light to finding success in self-sustaining, organic agriculture. “It’s not just something that can be done for 10 years or 100 years until the soil is exhausted,” says Preston. “The goal is every year your soil is better than it was the year before.”


End quote.


Now we know, or should by now know, chemical based farming destroys soil health. Dead soil is just dirt and dirt blows away. The death of soil through chemical agriculture is, or usually is, a slow process. This is the deal with the devil I’ve discussed in earlier episodes. 1% soil loss of soil per year for increased short term returns. Unfortunately 1% per year is a compound interest situation. This means not much appears to be happening for five, ten maybe even twenty years but the bill will come due and these bills always come at the worst time. Drought, flood and/or fire seem to accompany these payments.


Cover crops, rotational grazing and cropping are all part of a system which grows soil. Again a lengthy quote:



For millenniums(sic), crop rotation – the practice of moving crops and livestock around to ensure too much of one nutrient is never depleted – was the go-to method for maintaining soil health. During the Middle Ages, three-field rotation – a system where one field is allowed to rest every crop cycle – took over. This was the standard method of farming until less than a century ago, when increased food production became the goal. This meant that all available farmland would be put to use to grow crops.

End quote.


This meant that all available farmland would be put to use to grow crops. This was the deal with the devil. Not only was monoculture encouraged as scientific, the use of a single variety across all locations was encouraged or, in some locales, mandated from above. Locally adapted varieties were lost, generations of selection tossed into the dustbin of history. We still have time to retrieve some of these species but we must act quickly. We can also start the process of selecting for local varieties by using open pollinated, non hybrid varieties ourselves. Each season selects for the next, evolution is relentless and uncaring. We can work with it or be steam rolled by it.


Above all, organic farming is about people. Organic farms tend to be smaller than say, corn or wheat farms yet they are far more profitable on a per acre basis. Once cereal subsidies are removed, they become more so.



Organic farms generate more money per acre than their conventional counterparts. Even though they are not as big, they are usually far more profitable. “The amount of money we generate per acre on the farm is many multiples per acre of what our neighbours produce growing cash crops,” says Preston. A well-run small-scale organic farm will generate somewhere in the neighbourhood of $40,000 gross sales per acre. Corn and soy, known as “cash-crops” generate an average of $300 per acre, according to a 2016 paper published by the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois.

End quote.


It is the huge number of acres planted to corn and soy which make them viable and which are destroying soil at an increasing pace across the globe.


In essence the difference between a broad acre monoculture and a small area organic farm is one of thought. Much more planning, thinking and pondering is required of the small area farmer than the broadacre ploughing enterprise. The latter may have fed the world during the 1960s and 1970s but it was the improvements in transportation world wide that did much more on that front. We have managed to grow more food than the world population needed since about 1850. Political indifference, poor transportation and wars are the reasons most people have starved. Ireland was, after all, exporting wheat to England as her citizens were starving to death during the potato famine.


Independant, small area farmers, Yeoman, if you like, have, throughout history been a troublesome, cantankerous class. A ballast against change, think of the lack of revolution in the UK in 1848, the cutting edge of revolution, the US war of independence and the manpower for classical Greek and Roman republican armies. These people are thinkers, they have to be to survive. Given the inane, mindless consumerism of our current “developed” world I would suggest we need cantankerous thinkers more than ever. Joel Salatin springs to mind. Our soils certainly need their care and attention. Take your position, even if you only grow a rosemary bush in a plant pot, you have made a statement. Annoy your representatives until we  see the end of subsidies for big ag and those funds redirected to farmer’s markets, school ag education programs and a world of shorter, safer food supply chains. Nothing changes until those in power are forced to change. Let’s make our local food producers the new celebrities! Just think how different our world can be.


And that brings us to the end of this week’s podcast.


If you’ve liked what you heard,could please follow the link in the show notes and vote for World Organic News in the Australian Podcast Awards Click here Thanks in advance.


Any suggestions, feedback or criticisms of the podcast or blog are most welcome. email me at


Thank you for listening and I'll be back in a week.





Australian Podcast Awards Click here

How organic farming will save us all – if we can throw away our antiquated notions of what it means | National Post

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