Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Where We're Headed

Gardening has always been alluring to me. There's just something about nurturing the earth, getting your hands good and dirty, pruning and training, and finally harvesting a fresh product from a plant that you grew! 

For that reason, I began reading a book today about building better soil for better crops. Within the first chapter I was struck with the magnificence of soil itself. That thought thread led me to deeply ponder some of the statements made within that chapter. I've pasted one of them below for your consideration as well: 

"As farmers and scientists were placing less emphasis on soil organic matter during the last half of the 20th century, farm machinery was getting larger. ...[This was] creating severe compaction and sometimes leaving the soil in a cloddy condition, requiring more harrowing than otherwise would be needed. Soils were left bare and very susceptible to wind and water erosion. ...

 A new logic developed that most soil-related problems could be dealt with by increasing external inputs. This is a reactive way of dealing with soil issues—you react after seeing a “problem” in the field. If a soil is deficient in some nutrient, you buy a fertilizer and spread it on the soil. If a soil doesn’t store enough rainfall, all you need is irrigation. If a soil becomes too compacted and water or roots can’t easily penetrate, you use an implement, such as a subsoiler, to tear it open. If a plant disease or insect infestation occurs, you apply a pesticide.

Are low nutrient status; poor water-holding capacity; soil compaction; susceptibility to erosion; and disease, nematode, or insect damage really individual and unrelated problems? Perhaps they are better viewed as symptoms of a deeper, underlying problem. The ability to tell the difference between what is the underlying problem and what is only a symptom of a problem is essential to deciding on the best course of action. For example, if you are hitting your head against a wall and you get a headache—is the problem the headache and aspirin the best remedy? Clearly, the real problem is your behavior, not the headache, and the best solution is to stop banging your head against the wall!"

That idea spun off others in my mind... I recently finished reading The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs by famous farmer Joel Salatin. In this, his 10th book, he proposes that the natural default position of this awe-inspiring earth is not broken, but whole; constantly refreshing and renewing itself, if we but follow and encourage the patterns set in nature. 

All day this has been going over and over in my head... 
  • Perhaps the way we nurture and care for the pieces of earth that we touch can determine whether or not they are whole, forgiving, welcoming, flourishing, fruitful, and lush. 
  • Perhaps the way we use or abuse the earth can also determine whether or not it is raped, degraded, ugly, bare, wounded, and dying. 
  • Perhaps our job as inhabitants and caretakers of this planet is simply to nurture and caress and aid the processes already created to replenish the earth.
  • Perhaps we've been given a big brain and opposing thumbs in order to nurture and massage the earth rather than "commandeer" it.

We can, by changing the way we care for the earth (whether it be our house-plant, our lawn, our garden, our pasture, or our ranch), change the direction the Earth is headed. There's an old Chinese proverb that says: 

"If we don't change our direction, we'll end up where we're headed."

Many people say we're headed for desertification, limited food sources, and not enough land to produce enough food to feed the world... Is that our main problem? Is Aspirin our best remedy? I submit that the real problem is our behavior, and the best solution is to change our actions and follow a path that will heal land, nurture animals, and feed the world!

Supporting local, sustainable, dedicated farms is one of the best ways to perpetuate this already blooming change. When people say "yes" to grass fed, sustainably raised, pastured, non, GMO products offered by local farmers, they are sending a message. That message goes to friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, doctors, scientists, - you name it- . That message is shouting "We care about our health. We care about the Earth. We care about the future."

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