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Notes from the Farm

Posted 1/9/2008 10:37am by Leaf Myczack.

Due to our modern, rapid pace lifestyles, many people now suffer from the hurry, hurry, hurry sickness. As a result, we have become a culture of quick fixes. With instant message gadgets, instant credit, "fast food," Fed Ex, etc., we have come to expect quick action and results with little input from us. This is also true in the modern, US Dept. of Agriculture promoted farming practices. Farmers are led to believe that spreading a bag of synthetic fertilizer, or spraying a toxic poison will instantly improve the quality of their land.

On the face of it, the type of agriculture taught in most land grant colleges is not only harmful to soil, water, and air, but also a waste of time and money for the student. What passes as science behind the doors of academia is so lacking in real world merit, it is difficult to understand how people can believe that industrial-type farming is actually workable.

Soil is not depleted overnight, nor even in a year or two. It is a slow process of leaching out the vitality and fertility of the soil, and not replacing what's used with natural organic-based soil amendments. With the wholesale decline of the small family farm, the agricultural circle of take and return was severed. Sustainable family farms grew their own feed, which was fed to their animals, who then produced a rich fertilizing manure that could be returned to the feed growing field. Farming was conducted in a circular manner.

Corporate farming on the other hand is compartmentalized and linear. The feed is raised in one place, the livestock in another. Feed and hay are moved hundreds of miles from where they are grown by river barge and highway truck. CAFO's (concentrated animal feed operations), where animals are packed into pens or buildings and fed hormone and antibiotic laced feeds designed to promote quick growth, produce tons of manure daily that become a major source of pollution and disease. Fetid waste lagoons and manure saturated disposal areas contaminate rivers and streams during rain events.

In industrial farming, the rich fertilizing manure is far removed from the fields where the feed (and fertility) was harvested, so another source of fertilizer is needed. Today, that means a synthetic fertilizer (petro-chemical) derived from natural gas is used. It is toxic, caustic, and expensive.The only way to truly enrich soil is to provide the soil and soil organisms the "food" needed to renew and replenish. The process of feeding the soil results from the application of organic matter.

When I was a boy, one of my chores was to clean out the leaf mulch in the flower beds each spring. Pulling the wet thick leaf mat off of the soil exposed damp, loose soil full of earthworms. The leaves were hauled to a disposal area on our land which we called "the dump." After a week of being exposed to the sun and wind, the garden soil was no longer loose, moist or full of worms. It didn't look as alive and healthy as when I first pulled off the mulch cover. On the other hand, "the dump" was where we went when we needed worms for fishing. They seemed to thrive under the piles of decaying leaves and brush. My first garden was planted in "the dump," as my family was not willing to sacrifice lawn for potential food.

Soil is a complex structure, full of symbiotic relationsghips between minerals and organisms. It has countless components that all function in a manner that sustain and perpetuate itself. It does not naturally lend itself to quick changes. When we attempt to "spike it" with some sort of miracle grow formula, we get in the way and do harm. Using chemical fertilizers betrays our ignorance of the complexity of natural systems. There is no quick "magic fertilizer" that can replace the slow, natural decomposition of organic matter necessary in building soil fertility.


-farmer leaf

Next blog to be posted Wed. Jan. 16, 2008