Today it takes up to 10 calories of oil to produce one calorie of Food. Joel Salatin from the US, heralded as the worlds most successful farmer, was in Sydney recently where he gave an illuminating talk. By uncovering the inefficiencies of our chemical food system he offers us a better way to treat the land and ourselves. Inspired, I consider how these ideas can be applied on the household level in part 4.
Read previous posts in this series.... PART 1 PART 2 PART 3
Today's farming system is based on a concept that everything that is required by the farm must come from outside the farm. Fertiliser, seed, stock, is all bought in, requiring Energy to produce it, package it, market it and ship it around the world. This is the linear farm factory which sustains the world with food. Inputs go in one end and food comes out the other. It's a carbon hungry production line. Salatin points to his chest "Fertility is in-sourced... wellness comes from in here". At Polyface Farm they have examined how nature does this.
Nature runs a closed carbon loop. When we burn wood to make a fire, we are releasing the energy that the tree has stored in its timber. The timber is biomass; a Material that was once living that over the course of its life has stored energy from food and/or the sun in its tissues. This material represents a valuable source of potential energy. It's an "organic savings account". A properly managed farm is potentially abundant in this Resource. What Salatin trys to do is nurture a loop that keeps on cycling this wealth, the carbon, on the farm, ensuring that any leaks are as slow as possible.
Mainstream farming operations have bought into the concept that farming is a linear system, that it cannot be cyclical, that it cannot recycle its wastes into cheap on farm energy resources. "Our Waste stream is viewed as some sort of 'get it away from me!". Waste by definition describes materials that have been rejected. It implies a uselessness and a complete devaluing of those materials. However even those things that we reject are a resource to the next system. Why do birds flock over our council dumps? Because to them it is a banquet. Salatin advocates that we need to change the way we think about the concept of waste. "Cities could drive their own energy field if we could quit throwing it away". Consequently he describes that it is "evil" that we are squandering our resources.
What you can do: Make waste a thing of the past via:
- Start a compost pile, worm farm or invest in a bench-top compost system to breakdown your food wastes and make plant fertiliser.
- Only purchase good quality items that you really need. Ask yourself before you buy "Can I live without this?"
- Make or grow what you need from the resources you have. Turn those fabrics in the cupboard into a beautiful new outfit. Save the seeds from this seasons tomatoe crop to plant next season.
- Repair items that break down and always choose serviceable products with quality parts when a new purchase is required.
- Be creative, find new ways to reuse or re-purpose items that are damaged and can no longer serve their original purpose. Try weaving old clothes into a colourful new rug.
- Investigate using other peoples discarded items to fulfill your own needs. Scour road side throw outs for that new garden gate (old doors work well).
- Give away items you don't need to those who can use them. Donate to a charity or join Freecyle, the online forum for giving and receiving unwanted items.
- Make the most of our resources. If you have an item that you use only occasionally, consider offering it for rent at those times it's not in use. Rent out your caravan, ladder or canoe on a renting website such as Rentoid or Open Shed.