Monday 7 May 2012


Modern agriculture has been credited with boosting food production significantly over the past century.
There are as many good as there are bad methods by which this has been accomplished.
One of the greatest costs has been the disregard for natural ecosystems.
There has been the failure to recognize the importance of balanced systems in the continuation of land fertility.
And while organic farming bears the promise of restoring that balance, the fact is that the biological complexity is no longer available on typical arable land.
Organic farming is true to itself only so far. Eventually, the supply chain must be balanced by input from an external source. 
Of course, not all organic farms operate in the same way.

And while there is an element of bravado to clearing your own land, there is also 
disturbance, destruction, and death.
Invoking our own determination for the land precludes natural species and features from it.
We may consider the obvious benefits of some habitats and their inhabitants, but in order to use land to grow and to build on, there will be compromises.
There is the honest intent to impact our land as lightly as possible, but it will not be without casualties.
Before we decide to not farm at all, and live within the existing system,
it is worth working through the issue a little further.

I've heard people scoff at the idea of 'Forest Management' and 'Wildlife Management',
as if the forest and wildlife can manage very well on their own.
This would, of course, be true, if we hadn't interfered in the first place.
The most notable example is the suppression of fire.
In natural systems, fire comes through periodically.

Fire is a natural element of balance.
It strikes the balance where otherwise there would be none.
There is a forest that I know well.
It consists mostly of hemlocks, red oaks, and white pines.
The trees are massive. Truly an incredible stand of trees.
It stands because hemlock fell out of favour in the building industry.
You might say thanks to the stroke of luck that kept that forest tall.
Until you witness the undergrowth.
Under the dense canopy, the land has been stunted.
Only young impoverished hemlocks and some hardy bushes survive.
The land is long overdue for a fire.
There is no balance.

In some ways, human activity may supplant fire as a way to promote a natural course of change in wildland.
Good logging techniques foster the growth of a forest.
Leaving some trees and taking others helps allow new growth, and eases the spread of disease.
Clear cutting some areas creates transition zones that encourage productive wildlife habitat.
I understand that we cannot replicate the benefit of fire, but by using it as an example, we may create similar results.

The lofty goal is to create micro-systems where we choose which plants and trees are grown;
plants that are chosen to either produce food, or aid in the production.
The results are restricted only by our knowledge and awareness of symbiotic ecosystems.
The most important step is to grow plants that suit the environment well.
Those plants can be helped by using other plants,
which control pests, or soil alkalinity, fix nutrients, and so on.
Wherever possible, we choose actions that provide habitat and food sources for indigenous wildlife.
Standing dead trees are left, as they provide countless housing opportunities.
Brush from logging is placed in piles for housing.
Clearing allows wild berries and delicate plants to flourish.
We don't have all the angles covered, but we work hard to make positive choices.

I believe that if we take our time making space for the farm, we'll have the time to learn.
So far, we have kept our focus on very small areas of the property.
And though we may wish to be further along, it will pay to let our ideas and goals mature a little over time.
Every day, there is something new to learn about the interactions of a working ecosystem.
By incorporating what we witness into the farm, we may participate in the balance that sustains us all.

No comments:

Post a Comment