Yesterday afternoon I gave a short talk on sustainable agriculture at a local Indianapolis event. The event, the first annual, was called Food Independence Day, and featured several local individuals discussing local food and personal food production. I was there to record the event, and ended up giving an impromptu talk.
Sustainable Agriculture Talk
Click to play audio.
The main focus of my discussion was to make the audience aware of what’s going in the world of sustainable agriculture, and how it’s more than just organic agriculture or local food production. Also referred to as eco-agriculture or biological farming, this movement is growing rapidly and is a combination of traditional methods, science, and technology. And I made it clear that these farmers really care about our health.
One key point that I wanted to make was that when purchasing from local producers, a person wants to get to know as much as they can about how their farmers actually grow their food. By knowing a little more about sustainable agricultural practices and how they affect the nutritional value of the food, they can then relate on this level with the farmers. Those farmers that have this type of focus will be happy to share it with their customers. These are the ones that will be producing the best foods. And the more we talk it up at the markets and elsewhere with our farmers, the more demand we create for the best possible nutritional quality.
The other major point I made had to do with producing food at home. In learning more about how sustainable farming is done, one can apply the same information and ideas to their own home gardens and raising of animals.
I brought up a few major concepts, methods and techniques, including:
– The health of the soil, soil biology, and why it’s important to feed the soil that feeds the plants, and not feeding plants with fertilizers. Healthy soil produces healthy plants and animals, and doing so goes beyond just adding nutrients.
– The measurement of nutrient density by using Brix meters. Farmers that understand this and work at increasing their Brix readings produce more nutritious food. And higher Brix plants means healthier plants that are more resistant to insects and disease.
– The concept that sustainable agriculture is about developing a farm ecosystem. Biological farmers seek to mimic nature and work with it, and not try to master it.
At one point someone asked about no-till farming. I said that that is being done in biological farming, and mentioned the work of Jeff Moyer and the Rodale Institute. Then another person suggested that there are a lot of clay soils in Indiana, and wondered how that works with no-till, since the soils are so hard. I did respond that some soils need to be worked with for a while, and that it takes some time to build them into what you need. What I did not say is that cover crops, or ‘green manure’, can be used. Things like tillage radish, a type of daikon radish, is very good and poking holes in the soil and creating space. Of course, other cover crops and various types of materials can be looked at. The overall point I missed is that these are very effective methods that can be used on our clay soils here in Indiana. Then no-till organic farming becomes very viable.
Also in relation to the idea of plowing soils, we discussed how that there is a delicate balance of biological life in the upper layer of the soil, and that it is very important to respect that and to try not do anything to disrupt it.
This reminded me of the interviews I did at the 2011 MOSES conference with Gary Zimmer of Midwestern Bio-Ag, and Jeff Moyer of the Rodale Institute. These gentlemen summed this up pretty well. I caught Gary Zimmer on the first day of the conference in the lobby area. A few days later I stopped by Rodale Institute’s booth and talked with Jeff Moyer. You can see these brief interviews at the following link – MOSES 2011 Interviews – Gary Zimmer and Jeff Moyer
I was glad for the opportunity to make this little presentation. This was basically a scaled down version of something that I’m working on for other public speaking engagements, complete with Powerpoint slides and all sorts of useful information. The general purpose of such a presentation is to introduce more people to sustainable agriculture and it’s methodologies, and to help people understand that this is not only a trendy thing, but a very important development that supports the health and well being of everyone.
Special thanks to The Earth House Collective and their staff, and to Cara Dafforn of U-Relish Farm for having me there in the first place.
Links to resources mentioned in the article:
Earth House Collective