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Sustainability: To teach is to learn

Posted 2/13/2008 7:31pm by Leaf Myczack.

teach-[ME techen<OE taecan] vt.1. To impart knowledge or skill; to INSTRUCT.  2 To provide knowledge of; to cause to learn by example.

The Broadened Horizons sustainability-teaching-farm is, by the composite strengths of its staff members, a good learning environment for practical and sound ideas of how to achieve a greater measure of self-awarenes, self-reliance and sustainability. Because we take our mission to be worthwhile, we personally and communally strive to bring our best to all of our endeavors. As we journey through our days, we are often confronted with choices that seem to involve practicality and idealism. It is our goal to bring these two approaches closer together, where they can overlap more often than not.

Our determination to blend wisdom into our farm activities is most apparent in our land and water restoration program. By looking at a long-term time frame, we have, quite literally, planted the seedlings of a functioning biological framework for this resurrected plot of abused cattle farm. At the same time, our aggregate farm experience allows us to develop a greater role as co-creative partners. By reversing the process that drains the land of fertility, we actually do improve the soil’s ability to nurture life. It is taking land management beyond the contemporary context of resource extraction and habitat degradation, and using it to re-create a more viable and valuable biological ecosystem.

I have used much column space in this blog to offer rebuttal to the industrial-corporate farming paradigm. Common sense alone would indicate that chemical fertilizer and pesticide use is not sustainable, is simply a quick fix that leaves the underlying imbalance unresolved, and in the long run makes the problem worse. The only way we can have long-term, successful agriculture is to restore balance in the natural world. We need a balance between plant needs and soil fertility, between prey and predator, between give and take. When we lose this balance, we over-tax and under-nourish our life support system. If we insist on maintaining this imbalance, it can only result in eventual collapse.

Short-sighted “experts” vow to the public that quick fixes are good and the only real practical alternative. What they don’t acknowledge are the health-risks of stepping outside of the circle of sustainability. When our sustenance is no longer obtained in a natural way, our bodies will react accordingly.

For 15 years, we lived a rather stressful life aboard a small sailing vessel plying the Tennessee, Cumberland, and Tombigbee Rivers in the Southeast U.S. as citizen RiverKeepers. Stormy weather, commercial shipping, industrial pollution, poachers, hostile government officials, irate developers, and drunk boaters kept us on a constant high alert-like mental edge. Fresh food was sporadic, good drinking water scarce, and chemical exposure pervasive. We left our health threatening activist RiverKeeping life at the end of 2003 in order to restore our sacrificed mental and physical well being.

On Thanksgiving eve in 2006, a doctor friend who had given me blood tests and a physical, informed me over the phone, that I had been diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. Since that time, I have been going to the VA Hospital in Nashville to have my condition monitored. As my white blood cell count continued to climb, the VA began talking about treatment. I was told that there was no cure for this smouldering dis-ease, just chemotherapy to maybe slow it down.

For me as an organic-based, teacher / farmer, the chemical treatment is not something I would want to do to my body. My immune system is my soil. To consciously and deliberately build and strengthen the immune system (or farm soil) makes much more sense than attacking it with toxic chemicals. I asked a fireman friend if I should fight fire with fire? No, no he said, "you fight fire with water!"

I will be away from the farm until March 4th while I seek alternative treatment to restore the healthy balance within my blood, and within my body. I am not outwardly ill, and my vital signs and life force are strong. It seems a perfect synchronicity to learn to heal both farm and farmer by following the broad tenets of natural restoration.  

The “Notes from the Farm” blog will tentatively return on March 5th.

farmer leaf