-Soil is a renewable resource, but that renewal must be constant. If we are constantly taking from the soil (our food) then we must make sure to replace that nutrients with something comparable.
-Row cropping is non-renewable, fields cannot regenerate their fertility fast enough for our industrial demands. Adding chemical fertilizers is short term fix, but after one or two generations (fifty years or so), food growing on overcropped fields is “empty”; meaning no nutritious value for the consumer. This is the state of most of our midwestern bread basket after being co-opted by big business.
-Tilling the soil destroys the delicate membrane of microorganisms (like fungi), which create a blanket of support to the soil in moisture retention, minerals, and the good bacteria we need in our digestive system to keep an active, healthy cultured stomach for breaking down and retaining nutrients in our diet.
For more on soil microbial health: <http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/06/healthy-soil-microbes-healthy-people/276710/>
-The land cannot keep up with commercial demand by continuing in these traditional row cropping, huge monoculture, systems; systems run by companies who receive massive subsidies from our tax dollars to produce large quantities of sub-par nutrition, which is then enriched chemically to keep us alive with some form of substance extracted from a lab.
The realities of soil fertility and what it takes to feed our soil to feed us: http://www.newfarm.org/depts/nf_classics/0905/soil.shtml
-Bacteria evolve faster than our ability to make antibiotics, and those same antibiotics weaken the systems we use them on, creating long term susceptibility to future infection; yet we continue to treat our meat animals and our crops with antibiotics, which then infiltrate the soil and kill all the good defense biology of the earth while we lose a slow war against evolution.
For information on transitioning towards renewable soil:
-Fertility takes time, not a quick fix chemical boost with short term gain at long term loss. Nature can be a beautifully productive machine on her own. When we start trying to fit her in a box, controlling every aspect, we soon realize how complex systems of nature really are and how little we really know. Our short sidedness and the ambition to get more out of nothing is impossible to sustain.
Good soil is better than gold, worth more too. Truly, take a moment to stop and think about what a real investment could be. We know all about savings in the bank, but what about investing in something as solid as our food system? How many of us really know where our nutrition comes from? I watched a viral video recently about six year olds in a classroom who didn’t even know what a tomato looks like!
Video Here: http://youtu.be/bGYs4KS_djg
How many children now have no connection to plants? Most people don’t even know about pollination for crops to keep food growing. What is the lifecycle of a food crop? What does it take to grow something? A lot, as we’re finding out here at Leafhopper Farm. It’s no secret that “farming” in the traditional sense, is a lot of sweat and tears, but planting can only really begin after there is a strong presence of fertile soil ready to produce. This farm certainly puts row cropping on the back burner, because those forms of farming are a low yield capitol investment.
Instead, the farm took the first year of time with the land and watched everything already happening. We observed water flow, sun location through all the seasons, mapped plants and animals as they grew around us. Always looking at what was already in place and why. It helped us know where to put the pond to catch as much runoff as possible, where swales would slow water and encourage it back into the ground to keep plants with deeper roots well hydrated through hot summer months.
Planting a veggie garden means annual amending and regenerating of soil. There are plenty of vegetable beds being built here at Leafhopper, but they are located near natural fertilizing producers like chickens and the sheep who come through after harvest and clean up the beds while depositing their nutrients back onto the ground. Our swales will be planted with perennials to keep the soil intact. We won’t have huge harvests of one thing, but huge harvests of divers plant and animals which act to support one another, like any intact natural cycle that regenerates when allowed its own space and pace.
Timing is essential. You cannot rush growth, or you risk implosion due to unstable foundations bedded in weak fertility. Overgrazing and fertilization with nitrogen rich chemicals leave the land in a worse off place, worn out and stripped bare. Animals that once supported the fertility of the land are now sequestered to feedlots where their fecal matter becomes a smelly hazard. We also taint that once brilliant natural fertilizer by treating the cows with antibiotics, which kill good bacteria in the cows, and later in the soil. How strange to think that only one hundred years ago we knew how important animals were in the tending of agricultural land, yet now in the twenty-first century, we are struggling to marry technology with the natural world for greater yields sooner. How big can we grow that tomato? Would it not be smarter to ask, how can I ensure that a tomato can grow here for the future generations?