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Bill Kelly w/ Joel Salatin inside the Growing Dome at the Truckee Community Farm.
Last month, the Tahoe Food Hub had the fortune of co-hosting a lecture with the famed farmer, Joel Salatin. Joel was featured in Michael Pollan's book, Omnivore's Dilemma and in documentaries like FRESH and Food, Inc. Joel came to North Lake Tahoe as part of Squaw Valley Institute's "Uncommon Speaker Series."

Prior to his evening lecture to a SOLD-OUT crowd of 500 people, the Tahoe Food Hub held its first fundraiser with a lunch for 40 people at PlumpJack Cafe in Squaw Valley. I had the honor of getting to introduce Joel. Most everyone in attendance was familiar with Joel's efforts to help people think more clearly about our food system. So a formal introduction was not really necessary. But as I told our guests, "I will probably never going to get a chance like this again to introduce Mr. Salatin so I was going for it." I was pretty happy with how it turned out and thought I would share an excerpt below...

"Joel Salatin is a 3rd generation farmer and self-proclaimed grass farmer meaning Joel works with his livestock, or teammates as he calls them, to build healthy soil which grows nutrient rich grass which feeds the animals. Its the cultivating of the grass which drives the whole orchestra.

Joel hails from Polyface Farms outside Charlottesville, VA in the Shenandoah Valley. Joel is known as much for his sustainable farming practices as his unique mastery of the English language that has captured the ears, minds and hearts of America. When Joel speaks, it's almost like Spoken Word, language-based performance art. He blends honesty & humor for a common sense approach to understanding our agricultural industry and food system. Because Joel realizes that when we are smiling and happy, we are more prone to listen allowing the words to seep deeper and take root. His back porch style breeds an environment of cooperation and collaboration helping unlikely allies realize we all basically want the same thing...a healthy future for our children and our children's children's children! So how are we going to get there? Well Joel is here to tell us how. Please join me in welcoming...Joel Salatin!" (applause)


Joel quotes:
1. "It's all a symbiotic, multi-speciated synergistic relationship-dense production model that yields far more per acre than industrial models. And it's all aromatically and aesthetically romantic."
2. "Plants and animals should be provided habitat that allows them to express their physiological distinctiveness. Respecting and honoring the pigness of the pig and the chickenness of the chicken is the foundation for societal health."


 
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Carol and Gene Logsdon
In 1974, a book of poems came across Gene Logsdon’s desk  while working for the Farm Journal in Philadelphia. He read four poems and closed the book. He got up from his desk and marched straight into his editor's office and said, "I'm going on a trip." "Where?" replied his editor.“ “To interview Wendell Berry!” The two have been good friends ever since. They are kindred, agrarian spirits. In Gene's living room is a shelf of Wendell's books. Below is a shelf of Gene's books. "We have a friendly competition going." says Gene with a smile.

I can relate to Gene’s affinity for Wendell’s writing. After reading an essay by Gene Logsdon in the book, "The New Agrarianism," I knew I wanted to meet Gene. In no way, can I compare to his and Wendell's literary excellence nor years of dedication to a pastoral life but his writing struck a chord with my food system aspirations and I knew I had to meet him. And that wish came true this past weekend.

Gene is one of farming’s most prolific writers with over 25 books, countless essays and now a thriving blog, The Contrary Farmer. In 1975, he moved with his family from Philadelphia back to his home of Upper Sandusky, Ohio and purchased a small 22-acre farm. As a longtime lover of art, his farm became his canvas. And like an artist, he would use his landscape to experiment with growing techniques and farming designs that mimicked nature’s biological processes. He wrote about his practical experience sharing his wisdom and pastoral philosophy with others. His writing had a symbiotic relationship with the farm just like the interdependent relationships observed in nature between plants and soil, livestock and grass, etc. One feeds the other.

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Me and Gene
We fireside chatted for over 3 hours. The rain drizzled outside and there were concerns of a first frost and the impact it may have on a small test plot of maturing, field corn. We talked about his long-ago plans to have a raspberry business. His love for paintings by Andrew Wyeth. His neighbors...most of whom are conventional growers with scheduled chemical applications and monocultures but who are also his friends. They have a mutual respect for the each other. Each has been at it a long time and are good at what they do. We talked about crop rotations, tillage, pest management and his passion for pasture farming. He bred lamb for years. In 2008, he mated his ewes for the last time. The fifteen, lucky gals who remain will live out their lives and assist Gene in his life’s work, studying the benefits of his rotational grazing techniques.

We spoke at length about “How to get BIG ag interested in being more sustainable?” For a long time, I’ve wanted to believe that conventional farmers were just hog-tied to a system - caught in a viscous cycle with government subsidies and Monsanto contracts. Otherwise, I felt they were stewards of the land and saw the destruction their farming practices had and would change if given the financial incentive. Quite the contrary Gene says, “most think they are helping to feed the world.” My idealism was set back by this fundamental difference. But as the afternoon progressed, I started to understand Gene’s approach to this question. It’s not so much about transitioning to organic certified as it is about transitioning away from industrial agriculture. But how do we get there? Storming the castle with pitchforks and torches is not an effective form of persuasion. Nor is pushing a hard line of organics on conventional growers. But if we can get larger farms to downsize into small and mid-sized farms, we could break the current commercial model. Smaller farms can adopt sustainable farming practices easier than larger ones because they can accommodate biodiversity better thus requiring fewer outside inputs to control pests and weeds. Food will not have to travel as far because the farms will be supporting a local economy as part of a more, regional, food system.

Gene offers a great suggestion in a recent blog post on September 14th entitled, “Small Farms Creates More Jobs.” Here’s the skinny…many of the big-daddy corn producers have anywhere between 4,000-6,000 acres. It takes only one farmer and one to two ranch-hands to farm these mega-farms because of the ginormous equipment available today. What if just a fraction of the 90 million acres of corn fields nationwide (and remember we are just talking corn, doesn’t include other commodity and specialty crops) were broken down into smaller 150-300 acre family farms? Each could employ 2-4 people and their families. Many farmers are getting older. They may not have next of kin to take over the farm or their children may not want to continue farming. The opportunity awaits these families. But we have to reach them before Monsanto or a developer does and prove the economic benefits for them, the immediate future of their community and future of their grandchildren.

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Flash, the farm cat
We looked at the time, it was after 4:30pm. I was honored Gene had taken so much time to speak with me. Before I left, there was one last thing on my list…a farm tour. The 2-acre vegetable garden and orchard provided an edible, front yard landscape. Behind the house, a short path lead through the forest to the barns and pasture. How lovely to have this contemplative stroll each day under the canopy of a mature woodland. As we emerged on the other side, I could see the sheep sunning themselves in the field. The clouds had broken providing a temporary thaw to the otherwise, chilly, fall air. Underfoot, you could feel the structural health of the grass hummocky from years of succession. We picked at different threads of green poking out of the field discussing the variety of the mix available to the sheep. One of the farm cats, Flash, joined us for the whole tour rubbing up against my pant leg whenever we stopped. We looked out over the eight pastures he uses to rotate the sheep. Well, seven because one will be returned to a forest - forests are the subject of his new book, “Sanctuary of Trees,” due out in early 2012.

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We found our way over to the small test plot of open-pollinated corn, aka field corn. He had been telling me about the 16” ears he was finding in the crop. We sifted through the stalks first finding a 12”, then a 14” and finally a 16” long ear of corn. Gene thinks it may be the longest ear of field corn he has ever heard of. For the past 35 years, he’s been selecting seeds from the biggest ears each harvest saving them and planting them the next year. That is dedication and thoughtfulness. It gave me pause to realize more than ever, I was in the presence of a great man, a great farmer. He will mill the crop for cornmeal and for supplementing the otherwise, natural diet of the sheep and chickens.

We sank bank into the woods connecting the pastures to the house. At the entrance to the backyard, two, deep rubber bins were buried in the ground up to their lids. “Outdoor root cellars right?” “Yes, exactly! We keep potatoes in them,” replied Gene. “I love simple ideas like that,” I commented. “Not enough money in simple ideas,” said Gene. It was subtle but profound. Conventional agriculture is far from simple. But it's where it is today because industrialization is considered profitable and the way to make money. Ironically, it’s those simple ideas that are going to bring equity back into our food system.


Parting Note: When I was preparing for my meeting with Gene, I came across a 2009 podcast on www.beginningfarmers.org. It’s a great interview and I highly recommend it. Plus, it describes our parallel to the Mayan culture and how agricultural mistakes can be attributed to many of the collapses throughout cultural history. The Mayan’s relied too heavily on corn. Sound familiar?

 
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Joel Salatin on Polyface Farms
"Festivaling with my Mom" had not been on my bucket list of things to do but after this weekend, it had a speedy induction and then swiftly checked off. It wasn't a music festival but an earth festival. One we could both appreciate. Together we attended the Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs, PA. My mom was the first to teach me about healthy eating and growing food so to share this experience with her was a mother-daughter trip of a lifetime. One to remember!

The 40yr. old magazine comes to life once a year hosting one fair on the west coast in Washington and a second on the east coast in Pennsylvania. In only its second year, Pennsylvania's attendance has doubled from 10K to 20K visitors. A testament to people's hunger for planetary knowledge. Mother Earth News is the largest and oldest, environmental magazine. The festival is a 3D version of the print copy and gives readers a chance to interact with experts and leaders in sustainable living through workshops, presentations and demonstrations. It was a major download of information and a exuberant upload of inspiration.

One of the keynote speakers was farm evangelist, Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms (as seen and heard in Food, Inc. and Omnivore's Dilemma). Having seen Joel speak before, I was ready with pen and paper to scribe some of his "Joelisms." He has a deep command of the English language which commands a crowd's attention equally.

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He began his speech with an open invitation and detailed directions to his farm in Swoope, Virginia. It immediately diffused any naysayers because it demonstrates his transparency and his integrity. Pointing to the ground, he shakes his hands like a preacher reminding us that there is more life below our feet than there is above ground and that it is largely responsible for our survival. It draws a profound and spiritual connection to the role soil plays in our lives. He should know. Joel is in the soil business. Or "land healing ministries" as he likes to call it. With the help of his "teammates and co-laborers," the cows, pigs and chickens, he runs his soil through an "exercise program." Animals and land are treated fairly and with respect for the abundance they provide. He "massages the ecosystem through a choreographed dance with his co-workers to create healthy soils and a forest of perennial grasses."

Here's a look at his rotational grazing method...The cows "dump goodies" on the ground from their backsides. As they rotate onto the next pasture, the chickens arrive in their "Goobley-Go," a chicken coop on wheels (egg mobile). They pick out the larvae spreading the manure around with their beaks - yummy! "Pigaerators" then move onto 1/2-acre paddocks disturbing the land mimicking nature's biological cycles just as wildfires do in forests and on prairies. He describes his pigs as being "four-wheel drive plows" using their snouts and hooves to root and stomp the ground to "the next succession in his accumulation of biomass," a.k.a. grass. According to Joel, and I agree, there is not ONE reason why we need a single CAFO in this country considering the natural technology that Joel and others like him have designed. We know we will arrived he says, "when soccer moms exclaim in jubilation that little Johnny wants to be a farmer," just as they would now when told he wants to be a doctor or lawyer. With new models like Joel's and new markets for local food, we will get there.

Here is a sampling of Joel's lexicon with my best-guess definitions:
  1. Constipation of Imagination = failure to use ingenuity in conjunction with nature's biological processes.
  2. Portable fermentation tanks = cows
  3. Carbonization diaper = the layered bed of manure, hay and sawdust that is collected when the cows are in the barn.
  4. Bankruptcy tubes = corn silos
  5. Pasture sanitization program = rotational grazing
  6. Wheel of Fortune = the cone used to slit a chicken's throat
  7. Rent-a-Chicken = Joel's chicken take-back program - at the end of summer, customers can bring back the egg-laying hens they purchased earlier from Joel if they have no way to winter them.
  8. Germinating = young farmer apprenticeship program
  9. Grass farmer = Joel Salatin

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These aren't the best videos so treat them more like podcasts with optional viewing capacity. I was about seven rows back and wanted to be discrete with my camera. Most of the videos are under two-minutes, so not very long but definitely worth checking out. Get a glimpse of Joel's gospel with two or three of the following:
  1. Prioritize your purchases and we can all afford sustainably grown food
  2. We can feed the world with edible landscapes and pasture-raised livestock practices
  3. The Pasture Principles  - mimicking wild herd behaviors when raising happy cows and healthy grass
  4. Before we can demand a better food system, we need to start at home and reclaim "family time"
  5. Mechanical vs Biological - the land can heal itself, machines can't (this one goes a minute too long. I was hoping he was going to bring it back around but he didn't. i don't know how to edit film footage yet, so just stop at 2:25)
  6. Move and we will dance - Joel's closing remarks.

 
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Agrarian life runs in my blood...My mom's whole side of the family are farmers. As a child, I can remember the hour drive to visit my grandmother and relatives in Salem, Ohio and thinking it must be in another state or something; it seemed so far away. It did transport me in a way though. You could see for miles across rolling fields with fluffy clouds overhead. I loved wide open spaces then and I love them now.

I returned this past weekend to my Uncle Bill's farm (pictured left) for the marriage of his grandchild, and my 2nd cousin, Emilie. Bill has since past but his children have honored his legacy by preserving the farm just as he left it...immaculate. Bill's son-in-law and Emilie's father, Rusty, gave the opening toast. Standing in the center of the barn, he stood behind his daughter at the bridal table with one hand on her shoulder, the other clutching the microphone. He recalled the first time he came to pick up his now wife for their first date and the impression the farm left upon him as a young man, and farmer. Even now, year's later after seeing many barns, he has never seen a more orderly and clean barn as Bill's. And today, it looked dressed and ready for a Sunset magazine feature on barn dinners. For an entire month leading up to the wedding, family members came together in preparation transforming the working barn into a rustic dining hall. Every square inch was pressure washed and the basement floor was finished with a new layer of concrete where the cows bed in the winter. The wood beams gleamed with a sawmill freshness and the structure stood proudly like the tin man after getting polished in the Wizard of Oz. The 100 year old barn didn't look a day over 10.

We felt a little like the Kennedy's! But unlike the Hamptons, it was as much a community celebration as it was a wedding. The bridal party arrived on a horse-drawn wagon to the cheers of family and friends - live the moment and watch this short video: Our heritage is Slovenian so no wedding would be complete without a few polkas. My mom and her sisters have been polkaing in barns before it was fashionable. As their partners swung them across the dance floor, huge smiles shown across their faces knowing that their brother, Bill, was looking down from heaven and clapping his hands with the music. My parting shot...dancing late night with my 84-year old Aunt Dorothy (pictured below, yes she really is 84!!) to Party Rock Anthem. She could do a pretty good shuffle :)

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Right Picture:My Mom (center) and her two sisters, Margie (left) and Dorothy (right). Left Picture: The barn ready for the reception

 
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It was just past 8am as we rumbled along country roads through the rolling hills of Amish country south of Oberlin. The humidity index was already pushing 80% as thunder clouds hovered above treetops. It was going to be a hot and muggy day. We would spend the better part of the morning visiting seven Amish farms and picking up vegetables for Northeast Ohio's progressive CSA program, City Fresh. And that's just for today. Four days a week, collections are made from a pool of 25 farms which supply shares to over 800 members throughout City Fresh's three counties. it progressive because...scaled pricing helps more privileged neighbors subsidize the cost of a share for low-income neighbors. Pick-up locations are called "Fresh Stops" which basically puts a farmers market where a farmer's market would not normally exist...in the inner city. It is just one way that NE Ohio is striving to improve access to healthy, quality, local food especially in economically deprived, urban areas where availability is the weakest..

Pictured here is the farm of Reuben and Mary, our first pick-up. Dogs barked and kids peaked around barn doors as we entered the yard. Never had I had cause or reason to enter the property of an Amish family. I felt honored and humbled. Honored to have the opportunity to visit and meet members of this private community at their home. And humbled by their sustainable lifestyle and the culture they have preserved amongst modern-day temptations.

I approach modestly after climbing down from the truck making eye connect with a cheerful smile. While reserved, their reception is warm and genuine.The little ones stare wondering, "who is this person?" I wink back hoping to catch a closer glimpse of their beautifully, uncomplicated life. Reuben was rinsing and packing the last of the eggplant order with the help of his two eldest daughters. He lingered after by the truck talking with me and the driver, Roger. roger hands Reuben a letter from his brother, Joe, across town....mail delivery! He gives us something to take back. We go there next. Reuben and Joe look like brothers with their big, blue eyes and curls which roll up under their straw hats. Joe and Rachel are part of a certified organic, Amish co-op called Greenfield Farms. They've been organic pretty much from their start in 2005. And were one of City Fresh's first suppliers. They farm 11-acres testing their soil throughout the spring and summer for what organic fertilizers they need to input. But they plan to wean themselves off any applications and just go with straight manure and compost. Rachel nods and confirms, "yields are higher and the produce is bigger and tastier when we amend with manure in the fall and no organic fertilizers in the spring."

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Our last stop is David' farm. He is a shrewd businessman. He keeps Roger on his toes as they discuss prices and next week's order. When appropriate, I introduce myself. He asks if I work for City Fresh. I tell him about my independent study and interest in helping local, organic food to move better through a regional, distribution system. I wasn't sure if he got what I was saying. But a little while later, he asks Roger and I if we would like a watermelon to take home. He had extra. He hands it to me and says, "that's how food moves."

Pictured to the left...A City Fresh Stop near a vacant lot in Cleveland. Love the mischievous grin of the little boy exiting the frame. I think he just ate a Sungold, cherry tomato :)

 
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When I was working for the Wild & Scenic Film Festival last year, I stumbled across some videographies about eight Maine farmers. I was entranced by their stories clicking through each 8-minute video like a kid opening presents on Christmas morning. I couldn't wait to hear what insightful visions the next farmer would share. The interviews are profound. They are almost like spoken word and are mixed with just the right soundtrack to help you smell the fresh cut hay and hear the sound of kids playing in the barn. The profiles will definitely get you fired up about local food and motivate you to follow the road back to where your food comes from. My favorite line comes at the end of the interview with Tide Hill Farm. The owner loves what he does and the life it offers him and his family. "I think people want to be farmers," he says with a smile and twinkle in his eyes. "Deep down inside, everyone wants to be a farmer...don't they?" And after watching a few of these, you just might.

"Meet Your Farmer" was a project by Cecily Pingree and Jason Mann of Pull-Start Pictures for Maine Farmland Trust, an organization that works to preserve Maine farmland. It was shot across Maine between 2009 and 2010. My top picks are: Chase Farm, Broadturn Farm, Horsepower Farm and Tide Hill Farm. Take a few minutes to watch one, two or all. I guarantee your day will be brighter and you'll get what I mean, when I say Foodlust.

 
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Phase three of my food journey began today…a 6-week internship on George Jones Memorial Farm in Northeast Ohio. I’ve landed in some pretty amazing places along the way starting in Boulder this past June on the Abbondonza Seed & Produce Farm then the agroecology course in July at UC Santa Cruz and now here. George Jones looks to be following in those same footsteps. As I’ve pieced together this learning experience, I’ve called it anything from my self-prescribed curriculum to my independent study or unaccredited PhD program. Call it what you will but I’m soaking in lots of information and refining my focus beyond just “sustainable” but to say “regional” food systems because localizing economies is the ticket to a sustainable food system.

Okay, more about George…In 2001, Oberlin College’s New Agrarian Center (NAC) acquired the 70-acre farmstead which had been used intensively for commodity crops throughout the later part of the 20th century. By 2003, five acres had been restored and was ready for organic production offering food not only for Oberlin College’s dining services but also a CSA program, local farmer’s market, area restaurants and an organic food distributor.

The farm is run pretty much entirely by students with the help of master gardener and farm manager, Evelyn Bryant. In the summer, four, student interns participate in a 10-week course learning everything about organic food production. “Our goal is to send the interns off with the confidence to farm a small plot of land,” Evelyn explains. “We want them to understand the basics of irrigation strategy, pest management and marketing which includes not only working with vendors but learning how to plant crops in succession so you can harvest food throughout the entire growing season.”

During the school year, students circulate through either as volunteers or to acquire food for one of the school’s many student-run dining co-ops. The co-ops are brilliant…instead of a campus meal plan, students can elect to participate in a co-op where they build menus, shop and prepare three meals a day. There are nine co-ops each with anywhere from 15-120 students in each. All strive to source as much local, organic food as possible and students can choose a co-op based on dietary concerns or cultural preferences, e.g. kosher, vegetarian, international, etc. UC Berkeley has the largest dining co-op of any university but Oberlin has the highest percentage of student participation in the United States with over 600 active students. Not only do students learn valuable life skills but learn the importance of community.

The New Agrarian Center
has been the ring leader of the local, food movement extending well past Oberlin into neighboring counties all across Northeast Ohio. They were instrumental in the construction of the Northeast Ohio Regional Food Congress. Based out of Cleveland State University, the 15-member collaborative led to the creation of City Fresh, an initiative to bring fresh local food into Cleveland food deserts (discussed earlier). In 2007, NAC co-founded the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition which continues this effort to cultivate a network of food projects and entrepreneurs with a common goal of increasing access to healthy, sustainably grown food.

 
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See the August 3rd post for the introduction to the book blog.

Brian Donahue's essay, Reclaiming the Commons, had me grabbing for a pen. I know it's a good article when I want to underline, highlight or take notes. In this context, "The Commons" refers to the shared lands of a region by ALL it's people. In every society, you need a balance of both private and common land to build a strong local economy and to preserve culture. As of late, urban sprawl and unbridled development have created an imbalance. Brian's main objective to "reclaiming the commons" is to urbanize sustainably. He started a nonprofit based on these principles for Weston, MA called Land's Sake.

The land most at risk is that on the outskirts of large urban areas, land to which people want to relocate while at the same time remaining close to the metropolitan hub. Once-working farmland is being sold off and zoned for residential, commercial and industrial use. How do we preserve this farmland and accommodate the pressure on suburbia to expand? Brian explains, "in regard to land, a community must agree on a common interest with a shared land ethic in order to create local economies which are land appropriate." He's basically saying, we can develop but let's just be smart about it and think how economic decisions impact not only the land but the people. If we did this, things like mountain top removal would never have happened. Mountain top removal is neither land appropriate or instituted with a shared land ethic. To start solving these big questions, we need to evaluate land based on three criteria: will the land be used for residental/commercial, farmland, or forest? Those questions will determine if the land is to be privately held or shared by the commons. In some cases, you can have both. For instance, instead of subdividing a 100-acre farm into 20 sublots, how about putting those same 20 homes on one acre each keeping the other 80 acres as "working" farmland for the community?

Brian approaches agrarianism in it's purest form...as community. The kind of community we all think about when we think of the word "community"...your neighbors, town hall meetings, the welcome wagon, little league, pancake breakfasts, etc. He wants us to view land through the same lens with which we view our community, that is, with respect. In sum, Brian advocates that agrarians are sharing their knowledge outside of their own farms with others in their community to take a holistic approach to the entire landscape.

 
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See the August 3rd post for the introduction to the book blog.

I first met David Orr at a TOOLS conference for environmental groups back in 2009. He gave an inspiring speech which hailed the power of grassroots activists. When I saw that David had also written an essay for the "The New Agrarianism" entitled, The Urban-Agrarian Mind, it confirmed my thoughts to do this first book blog. David is Professor of Environmental Studies at Oberlin College - neighbor to the farm I will be working on next. One of his many accolades is having championed the construction of the Adam Joseph Lewis Center (pictured here) which is a nationally recognized, LEED certified building on Oberlin's campus. His essay tells why he wanted to initiate such a place with an ecologically conscious design.

He opens his essay with an analogy comparing the planet to a train wreck waiting to happen...we are all passengers on a train traveling south headed for environmental and social disaster. A few, we'll call them activists, acknowledge the impending fate and start walking north on the moving train in hopes of reversing this demise. It's not an easy task. There are many obstacles to overcome as they pass through each train car. They slowly make progress and are 25 or more cars back when they realize they are no further north than when they started. But they still keep walking north with conviction. We're still on that train so no happy ending yet. And we still don't know how to reverse the train's direction. But we do know that it will require an upheaval in our industrial paradigm.

For the other passengers on the train, they believe if there really is certain doom, the conductor will stop the train. We, the passengers don't see the signs because many of us have lost a sense of place or as David says, 'knowledge," i.e. agrarian knowledge that helps us relate to the land and our ecosystem. If we had this knowledge, we would observe the crisis and want to address it. As an educator, David wondered how this "loss of knowledge" happened. He looked around his own surroundings at Oberlin College and saw this beautifully manicured, energy intensive campus and realized...No wonder people don't get it. We teach them life skills in a disconnected learning environment where they are asked to think analytically with little applied science to the natural world. That's when David had his ah-ha moment for the Adam Joseph Lewis Center...a place that would restore that connection to our land community (Scott Russell Sanders spoke of the "land community" in the first issue of the book blog). If students were learning in a place that represented what society wanted from its planetary citizens then they would start thinking in centuries not years. By thinking in centuries, we plan for the future with the next seven generations in mind.

In order to transition to a better world, David proposes that we use the dynamics of industry and technology with an agrarian ethic to hold us ecologically accountable.

 
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See the August 3rd post for the introduction to the book blog.

Before there was Michael Pollan there was Wendell Berry - farmer, poet, activist. In his agrarian essay, "The Whole Horse," he asks us to use agrarian values and start at the local level when tackling some of our biggest environmental and economic problems.  

Wendell's thoughts are deep and you need to sit with his words for a while and let them simmer. I got the impression that he wants his readers to be critical thinkers and ask questions. As I marinated in his text, I came away with this...as consumers and citizens, we become outraged that there can be e-coli in our spinach or that an oil rig can explode and spill millions of gallons into the ocean. For a while, it's all over the news. It appears someone will pay and it will never happen again. During the outrage phase, we see a flaw in our system that has been identified and believe things will change...food safety will be improved, drilling regulations will be increased. When actually, another news story takes over, someone's hand was slapped and business carries on as usual. Nothing really changes. Primarily because we use the same industrial methodology to fix an industrial problem. Until we take a whole systems approach to right these wrongs, can we really solve the problem. A whole systems approach would help us realize that things like "oil dispersants" in the Gulf disaster are just going to hide the problem, not fix it. Quick follow-up story: BP has asked for permission to begin offshore drilling again in the Gulf region. Worse still...they are funding a lobby group that opposes regulations to offshore drilling.

What Wendell really came to talk about is economics, local economics...The conservation movement is one of the biggest proponents for local issues like air quality, watersheds and preservation but they talk little about the economics. The conservation movement could be strengthened and enlarged if economics were more part of the dialogue. It would help conservationists see what they have in common with those fighting to save things like their ranches, markets and schools. In doing so, more people would join the conservation movement.

Wendell goes on to explain that "economy" is intrinsic to agrarian culture. But because industrialism is an economy first and a "culture" second, agrarians are seen just as country, subsistence farmers. The real difference is...when building markets, agrarianism considers the economy and culture simultaneously through a local lens versus independently and globally. Some may think that agrarianism is elitist and proposes that everyone be a farmer. Quite the contrary. It advocates for a balanced economy and communication between stakeholders. By using an agrarian approach, "any manufacturing proposal would be formed and scaled to fit the land, ecosystem and community and be employed and owned by the local people." When this is achieved, "consumers who understand their economy will not tolerate destruction of their ecosystem."