Sunday, June 30, 2013

Farming: Garden of Eden or Hell On Earth?

Many cultures have a prehistoric tradition of origin in a
Garden of Plenty
 Yet modern day agriculture involves daily drudgery for low pay:
a Hell On Earth
 How did this come about?
And why is it called "Progress"???

Michael Pollan writes in Botany of Desire "an American farmer today grows enough food each year to feed a hundred people, Yet that achievement - that power over nature - has come at a price. The modern industrial farmer cannot grow that much food without large quantities chemical fertilizers, pesticides, machinery, and fuel. This expensive set of 'inputs,' as they're called, saddles the farmer with debt, jeopardizes his health, erodes his soil and ruins its fertility, pollutes the groundwater, and compromises the safety of the food we eat."

The farm workers' lot is far worse than that of farm owners:
Out of 2.5 million workers on America’s farms it is estimated that up to 500,000 are children.
What are their lives like?
"Farmworker women ‘have it all,’ but not in the good kind of way,” says Levy Schroeder, director of Health & Safety Programs at AFOP. “They work in one of the most dangerous and lowest paid jobs—earning even less than their poorly paid male colleagues. They are also responsible for the care of their families and households, often rising first to prepare breakfasts and lunches, followed by 10- to 12-hour days in the field, and then dinner preparation, laundry, and seeing to any other needs of their families.”

Can we bring farming back to Eden? Bill Mollison tells us we can!
"Mollison developed permaculture after spending decades in the rainforests and deserts of Australia studying ecosystems. He observed that plants naturally group themselves in mutually beneficial communities. He used this idea to develop a different approach to agriculture and community design, one that seeks to place the right elements together so they sustain and support each other."
Mollison: "Catch the water off your roof. Grow your own food. Make your own energy. It’s insanely easy to do all that. It takes you less time to grow your food than to walk down to the supermarket to buy it. Ask any good organic gardener who mulches how much time he spends on his garden and he’ll say, 'Oh, a few minutes every week.'"
"if you’re an optimist, you could say (permaculture design) is an attempt to actually create a Garden of Eden."

How can we begin to learn to apply permaculture design and get more of our food from a modern day Garden of Eden?
The volunteer opportunities at local community gardens are a start:

Smiling Hogshead Ranch, Long Island City

Enjoy the Summer and its bounty!