Industrial mass agriculture has produced some of the gravest damages to our ecosystems…we know that.
However the good news is that there are several alternative methods of food production that are not just sustainable, but also regenerative. They keep the health of the ecosystem and work ro restore what has been lost and damaged.
Generally, all alternative methods could be considered belonging to the umbrella of Permaculture practices (see next article for more on Permaculture), but have specific features and diverge from each other, even if remaining complementary and close for core principles.
“Regenerative Agriculture focuses strongly on building soils and restoring ecosystems as the foundation to regenerating production, and communities.”
From Permaculture to Holistic Grassland Management, from Byodinamic Farming to Aquaculture…there are many types of cooperation with nature than already allow us to produce enough food and to preserve our natural home…we just need to start using them!
According to the Rodate Institute:
“Simply put, recent data from farming systems and pasture trials around the globe show that we could sequester more than 100% of current annual CO2 emissions with a switch to widely available and inexpensive organic management practices, which we term “regenerative organic agriculture.” These practices work to maximize carbon fixation while minimizing the loss of that carbon once returned to the soil, reversing the greenhouse effect. “
Let’s see some examples of sustainable agriculture practices:
Holistic Planned Management
Against desertification of grassland and destruction of soil
Allain Savory, its creator even thinks that between fossil fuels and agriculture, the last is way more responsible for climate change than the first…but while the common sense starts accepting the end of fuels, we still are far from conceiving the way of sustainable, organic and regenerative agriculture.
Developed from the “anthroposophia” of Rudolf Steiner, the fundamental principle is to see the whole farm as a physical and spiritual being, whose well-being is in the care of the farmer.
Rudolf Steiner was an Austrian philosopher, and educator, founder of Anthroposophy, Waldorf education, biodynamic agriculture, anthroposophical medicine, and the new artistic form of Eurythmy.
“If good health is maintained, abundance will be the result. This requires the integration of a variety of animals, which have different functions in the life of the farm, compared by Steiner to the organs of the human body. He strongly criticised the use of soluble fertilisers, which was just becoming the progressive thing in farming at the time, saying that only little seedlings need soluble nutrients and that established plants need to “work” for their nutrients to be healthy. He also gave detailed descriptions of how to use the phases of the moon and positions of the planets to help plant growth and how to make fertilizers, which, applied in homoeopathically diluted form, could control plant growth and health.”
How mycelium and fungis can help restoring ecosystems? Paul Stamets links mushroom cultivation, permaculture, ecoforestry, bioremediation and soil enhancement, to make the case that mushroom farms can be reinvented as healing arts centers, steering ecological evolution for the benefit of humans living in harmony with our planet’s life-support systems and its ecological cycles.
Community Supported Agriculture
CSA is a system made by a group of people forming a cooperative, which grows food in a sustainable way, with the group taking responsibility for organising and paying the costs of the food production.
They generally grow organic food and support local small farms and economy platforms.
The most similar model existing in Italy is the GAS,Gruppi di Acquisto Solidale.
In India “dryland” agriculture – that is without irrigation-is being developed.
Retention of water in the land is often achieved by building swales to catch rain in the monsoon or rainy season. An important point for a region so depending of dry weather conditions, rain and monsoon periods like India.
CREDA Institute for Dryland Agriculture
Another big problem torturing our ecosystems is soil erosion. Extreme weatehr phenomenon are making erosion more and more difficult to manage. Surprisingly, nature offers a eprfect solution,through planting Vetiver, a grass that is capable to fix soil with its roots, and can beused for many other things, like feed for livestock, handicraft material, building construction material.
There are multi-year vocational courses and full academic degrees in organic agriculture, and almost every farming methodology mentioned in this module has its own training programme of many days, weeks or months. Many of these different systems and methodologies overlap and are complementary, each adding a new method or practice to the toolbox. To apply all these systems well, aspiring farmers are advised to look into the traditional (pre-industrial) farming practices of their particular region and also to talk to old farmers, as they are walking repositories of the true wisdom of living in place which develops over a lifetime of living and working with the land.
Generally speaking and as a way of summary, typical organic and sustainable farming strategies include:
- Building up the soil with compost and vermiculture,
- Companion planting and integrated pest management (IPM),
- Biodiversity of crops,
- Crop rotation,
- Recycling harvested rainwater and treated wastewater,
- Adding natural soil amendments such as mineral rock dust, micronutrients, seaweed extracts, etc.
- Managing moisture in the land by drainage and moisture retention through swales as appropriate,
- Using protected crop technology for extending seasons and so on (greenhouses and shade houses)
- Not turning the soil with a plow, but rather just opening it up with harrowing.