I Believe we are entering a new era in agriculture that will in many ways take us on a giant step backward. I like to call it “Historic Sustainability.” While many folks are lamenting the conventional food supply, I believe the organic farming community is perfectly positioned to come to the rescue. The current 2,000-mile food infrastructure is in a state of self-destruction. When – not if – transportation prices skyrocket, our nation will be forced to rely on a local/regional food chain, just like our great-grandfathers did. The classic organic distribution model will be a key to the sustainability of our nation’s food supply, and we need to take a giant step backward and look at how our great-grandfathers made it work on a broad scale. It won’t be long before food will be the “gold standard,” and we need to feed the goose that lays the golden egg.
At the turn of the 20th Century, our country had a primarily rural population. The farmer’s paradigm was focused on how to provide a good living for the family and preserve the farm for future generations. Farmers used everything on the farm for the farm, and they even collected their own seeds in many cases. This was primarily a paradigm of sustainability, although it wasn’t recognized as such. It was simply the way that things had been done for generations. Rather than a “grocery store,” the “general store” carried all the necessary staples for the household kitchen. If it wasn’t on the shelf, on the local farm, or in the garden – you didn’t need it.
After WWII our nation’s population quickly changed to a primarily urban population, and the farmer’s paradigm shifted to a production-related focus. This era introduced the “Super-market” to meet the needs of the changing population.
Unfortunately, this era also ushered in the use of synthetic chemicals to increase and enhance production, along with the use of GMO seeds to the same end. Our nation’s agricultural community has sacrificed quality for production in a very dramatic and harmful way.
We need to take a huge lesson from our great-grandfathers. We have researched many of the farming journals from the turn of the 20th Century, and we have found that many of the farming methods our great-grandfathers used were designed to foster sustainability with simple common sense. Much of this has been thrown aside in the name of production since WWII. I remember my grandparents always planting winter squash in the corn. That’s the way their parents did it, and that’s the way their great-grandparents did it. In my research, I learned that there were multiple reasons for this practice.
- Raccoons, in particular, do not like the feel of the squash leaves on their feet,
- The squash plants naturally discourage weed growth,
- The squash does not “compete” heavily with the corn,
- And probably several more reasons we haven’t found yet.
There are countless historical examples such as this, and I believe we can learn most of what we need to know if we closely examine our agricultural history and glean the wisdom of past generations. There is nothing new under the sun.
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