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[ Sorry about the way this article looked. I am not sure what happened to the font. ]

Can we feed ourselves after the oil is gone?

This article is in response to an article in Permaculture magazine Spring 2012 issue, No. 71. The article,Can We Feed the World? Five experts give their views on the best methods of eco-farming, page 54 to 56.

These five experts each have their views with some cross-over. The five experts are, Bethan Stagg, Colin Tudge, Peter Harper, Patrick Whitefield, and John Ellison.

First there is Bethan Stagg who says we need to put into a practice techniques that take into account
local environmental conditions using intensification to get the most output possible. Saying it another
way, it is a type of polyculture farming technique.

Next Colin Tudge just says what I’ve have been hearing for some time now, we are growing enough to feed 14billion people but it all goes toward increasing profits rather than feeding people. Not completely true
as some of the food stuff are not meant for people but cattle or other farm animals because the grain has been genetically altered so people can’t eat it. He mentions the problem of wastage some of which can not be helped and that which can be helped should not be dumped but fed to people. People in industrialized
nations have been brain-washed into buying only the best looking and ignore blemishes or slight defects.
That needs to change.

Peter Harper talks about producing food in a post-carbon future. In other words, food production without
fossil fuels.

Patrick Whitefield is a strong promoter of Permaculture.

John Ellison and Bethan both agree that we can’t afford to rely on just one approach to solve our food
needs in the future.

They are all correct. We need to stop relying on mono-culture large factory farms and change the way we
farm altogether. This means we go back to the way we used to not too long ago. Also, we need to do away
with chemical inputs, tractors and so on to move away from oil and other fossil fuels, even biodiesel.

Based on their input and my views the answer to growing enough food is this:

  • We get away from the corporate farm and go back to many smaller farms.
  • We need to incorporate many approaches to grow the food we need.
    • Masanobu Fukuoka from Japan gave us no-work farming where there is no tilling of the soil, no
      fertilization, all organic and he has yields the same or better as farmers using tractors and
      fertilizer’s.
    • Sepp Holzer from Austria gave us poli-farming techniques. He combined fruit trees, herbs, grains, vegetables, hogs and fish all on the same land requiring again no equipment, no fertilization, and it is virtually self maintaining. He mostly spends his time harvesting and selling what he grows and does most of the work establishing his method and then there virtually no more work.
    • Polyculture at the most intensive manner possible geared to a local environment. This comes up in Permaculure in designing a Food Forest were in a small space you can feed more people than using traditional farming methods. Usually every three acres of Food Forest can feed around 8 to 12.
  • We need to produce food closer to where it is consumed. Places like the U.S. need to consume less calories overall, start by cutting the meat consumption by at least 50% the first year and again
    another 50% a few years later. Cows, pigs, chickens and other factory farmed animals need to be set free to feed the way they were originally intended, without hormones.
  • We need follow models like Cuba as a way to transition off oil and produce enough food for ourselves
  • The profit needs to be taken out of growing food, and feeding the people of the world.
  • Corporations like Monsanto need to be put out of business so food can again be put in the hands of
    people.

Everyone needs to decide what happens with their food, how it is grown and treated before it gets to theirtable. People also have to realize that for decades corporations (or governments) who have controlled their food have not had their best interests at heart only their own. That needs to stop. Our ancestors were either Vegetarians or near Vegetarians because they realized that it was a matter of survival and feeding an animal came second to their own survival. This meant that meat consumption was low.

Traditional methods of growing food need to be brought back and taught to everyone growing food if they
are to survive after the end of fossil fuels. Otherwise we will need to prepare ourselves, especially in the U.S., for food wars, riots, and uprising because people will want to eat and not know how to feed themselves in any other way than to steal it.

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Since I am currently unemployed I was taking the bus to one of the Workforce centers to do my duty and look for a job in order to collect unemployement. As I saw the houses pass by the window of the bus, seeing the various stages of develepment – decades old to newer build multi-function structures with shops below and apartments above, reminded me of the following.

Where I live in Wheat Ridge, Colorado we were once part of the bread basket, along with Broomfield, Littleton and surounding area, for Denver residents and even exported the excess. Most of the food produced were grains: wheat, corn, oats, rye, and barley. Sugar beets were also grown for the sugar industry. Wheat Ridge once had a good sized tree orchard, mostly apple, but there were also pear, peach, and plum trees. Some of these old trees can still be found in some yards.

Wheat Ridge also had a huge flower industry at one time, namely carnation, that exported them to many of the flower stores around the country. Wheat Ridge was so proud of this that it even named the fall festival, the Carnation Festival, after the industry. The greenhouses no longer exist today.

Ranching was a big industry that did more to hurt the land and make it less productive than all the grains and orchards combined. The cattle ate what little grass there was and left nothing but useless shrubs and a soil that became useless, depleted over the years.

All the towns have taken up the call for development and covered over all the grain fields with streets, concrete, pavement, houses and businesses or industries. None of these original farms remain today. In Wheat Ridge the orchards were cut down, stumps removed to the point where all you see is apartment buildings, houses and streets. They’re all gone. Wheat Ridge also had a huge network of irrigation ditches fed by ponds that held the spring runoff. These too are being erased.

Progress seems to mean, tear it down, dig it up, poison the land and put something on the land, a house or building of some sort and cover it with asphalt or concrete. Progress and developement have meant a lot of money for some, and the loss of their land to others who were told they could no longer grow the food that provided them their livelyhood for many generations.

The land here has never had the best soil, but with amendments like poop and old plants the land would yield a whole bastket full of food. Afterall, the sugar industry existed from late 1890 into the early 1930s when World War II damaged the industry and the Dust Bowl helped bring an end to the industry altogether as special interests wanted to concentrate the industry into a smaller area. The sugar industry around Denver at its height went all the way form Greely along the old Valley Highway (I-25), into Loveland and southward along the railroad tracks. Sugar beets were brought into Denver where they were processed and the sugar transported by train around the coutnry.

Time and again, progress saw fit to let food producing areas to go under in order to allow the land to be snatched up for very little money to see houses  or other buildings placed on it or it was turned into an industrial area so cities could make more money from the taxes they charged.

Over the years I’ve seen policies change from farm friendly, or supportive of family owned small food production, to encourage developers to come in, change policies that ended food production, build something on that very same land because it yielded a higher income. Food was no longer a priority, instead money was.

As I rode through these areas on the bus seeing one of the old irrigation ponds and ditches I couldn’t help but think, the local government has been working so very hard to erase it’s farming past for the past 40 years and it will be soon, when it will have no choice, as the price of oil climbs ever higher, to reverse its decisions and put back these ponds and ditches and again allow food production and every yard.

Progress has truned so many urban areas into food deserts. The future will be about those who know how to grow food on as little land as possible for maximum yield.

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