Episode-2195- Growing Food and Balancing Regenerative with Pragmatism — 8 Comments

  1. Posted the link to this in

    While doing time as a Facebook Felon, I found MeWe.  Like it there.  Will post more from you there.

    GAB isn’t too bad either but I like MeWe better.

  2. Is aquaponics regenerative or is it just reduced impact? Well let’s see. You have the ethics of Earth Care, People Care and Return of Surplus. If you simply reduce your impact, then I would say that you are caring for the earth by not using as much of the existing resources. Then, within your little aquaponics footprint, you likely have a higher production per so many cubic feet so that in itself generates more production that the same amount of natural space which is enough to support regeneration.

    Then let’s examine the People Care ethic. When you build an aquaponics system, you are learning hard and soft skills. You learn building techniques in plumbing, carpentry, electical, gardening, marine and plant biology, soil building, hydraulics, physics and overall function stacking. You might chose to put those skills to use designing and building aquaponics systems to sell to others or use some of the skills developed to make a career in endeavors such as plumbing or building construction. Just looking at whole systems and how the pieces work together is a skill which applies across many things. You would also develop soft skills with people in order to support sales activities. Since this people care business can provide potentially a living, that still supports the notion that it is regenerative.

    Now you are certainly going to end up with some floaters and culls from time to time. These can be buried in soil or made into a fish emulsion which creates fertility and supports Return of Surplus.

    When you look at the totality of production capacity compared to natural systems, building of skill sets with application to real careers and the ability to produce more than the inputs and return that excess to the earth, I think that pretty well supports the notion that aquaponics can be regenerative in every sense of the matter.

  3. What most amazes me with this podcast – and most of them, really – is that your thinking and application of the basic concepts of what I always knew as “ecology” is so beyond that of the average person (certainly where I am living now) that the biggest question I see is the one you posed towards the end of the show: How do we get more people to think like this?

    Here in suburban Sacramento, there are citrus trees all over the place; oranges, grapefruit, even lemons and limes. It is spring now, and the fruit from last summer is still hanging on most of those trees. People won’t even reach up and pick their own fruit! That’s how far it’s gone in suburban America, from what I can tell.

    The gardens here are also full of mulberry trees; they are very popular! What variety? The one that doesn’t bear fruit! Because they don’t want those dark stains all over their driveways (I guess). Sacramento is also full of oak trees but of course acorns are no longer considered an important source of food, so they don’t get utilized either.

    And then there are the front (and back) yards full of grass, versus the water shortage crisis due (apparently) to shifting weather patterns. Is anyone talking about solving this with swales? Most people here have never heard of a swale. A few folks have eliminated or reduced their front lawns. Some have replaced them with lots of plants, and those yards look great. But others just put down black paper (or plastic) and dump wood chips or pebbles on top of it. I know of only one person in all the neighborhoods I have bicycled through who is actually applying permaculture concepts around his house. He even raises chickens. From what I can tell he is a totally unique person in these parts.

    In Sacramento we let wild turkeys run free in our yards (if they happen by for some reason) but the average resident knows close to zero about natural systems or growing their own food. My mom knew more about growing food than most of the people living here.

    So this looks to me like a huge education project; a significant awareness-raising is needed, then people need access to useful data in useful forms. It’s OK, I suppose, to quibble among ourselves about the minutia of the best ways to do this or that, but when it comes to the general public, the challenge is to shift them out of their current state of being totally clueless.

    The potential of a region like the suburbs of Sacramento is huge. There is land to be transformed and people to transform it. They are retirees, stay-at-home moms, kids after school is out. They could change this whole region if a significant number of them acted. But that is certainly not the current scene. Their attention is riveted elsewhere. To change that will likely require a large, sustained and organized effort.

  4. I thought this show was spot on. You made some excellent points.

    On the GMO issue I would agree with you for the most part. I do differ slightly, in that I also have a problem with GMO’s because I think it is unethical to mix two entirely different species together. Maybe that’s just a difference in our worldview. Never-the-less, I would totally agree that some good can probably come from the research etc.

    Thanks for the show!

    • Well that is why it is not a black and white issue, right?

      Take the American Chestnut, my understanding is the GMO method to infer blight resistance being done there is by taking genes from the Chinese Chestnut but doing it in a very specific sequence, allowing the American Chestnut to remain true to type, where as the crosses do not. Further that this cross could occur, eventually in nature but it may be a one in 100 billion shot. So this is not like say when they take genes from a fish and cross it with cotton (true story). Then people say well you don’t eat cotton. Really? Look at how much cotton meal is fed to livestock and how many things contain cotton seed oil that people eat.

  5. Jack, thanks for covering this topic.  This is something I’ve wrangled with for the last few years with our pigs. 

    I’ve seen several sides of this growing up in mixed row crop/dirt lot hogs/cow calf type farm community that started switching to CAFO’s as I was growing up. 

    We farrowed 100 sows on dirt lots and sold feeder pigs and butcher hogs to an accumulation yard.  It was a lot of work and hard on the soil.  The CAFO’s looked like the future.  More could be done with less labor and less erosion.

    I worked 4.5 years in the neighbors 600 sow breeding to nursery hog barns.  A semi load of 30-50 Lb pigs left every two weeks.  Two showers couldn’t get the smell out.  I have a strong stomach, but still got queasy a few times over some things.  (I smell a dead one in here somewhere, but where is it…  Rendering cleanout after a lightning strike killed the fans on a summer day…)  I quit eating pork for several years as a result and decided if this was the future of farming, I needed to study more to get out of it.  (Dad did the same thing in early 70’s and caused grandpa to switch from dairy to beef cattle.  Instead of getting big, he got out.) 

    Fast forward a decade and we are trying to farm again.  We tried raising under “humane” standards in a natural environment (huts on pasture and timber at lower density than the past).  I don’t care what the breed is, a hog in muddy ground will dig just for curiosity if nothing else.  Sows dig and test fences HARD.  For us, it’s just too hard on the ground to continue this way.  (I can see why Joel Salatin primarily buys feeders in spring and avoids farrowing, at least that’s how it was last time we were there.)  We have sadly sold out of our hogs for now.  Have just one left for our freezer.

    We will probably get back into hogs once the house is done, but have recalibrated our desires and expectations.  To do it right, they need somewhere to go during mud season (Dec.-April ish here) that is covered.  My current idea is an open sided shelter with a dirt floor covered with sawdust and timber gates that can be arranged to pen a sow for farrowing or more open for group gestation with enough clear openings it can be cleaned out with a skid steer.  Roughly 80-120 square foot per sow.  I envision about a 20 sow operation.  Similar setup for feeders and butcher, but more open pen space.  Pigs would still be allowed on open ground (existing orchard, timber, and eventually Chestnuts) when conditions were right, IE when its fairly dry they can’t destroy the soil in a day or two.  Not a perfect life for a pig, but WAY better than CAFO without being destructive to the land.

    Hopefully, this will get our pigs in line with the farm land management goals while also being profitable like we have done with the cattle and goats.