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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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The Greenhouse Project (in the Denver, CO metro area) is my idea before it comes to fruition. I initially got the idea when I saw energy prices go sky high and food prices went up too. It was becoming hard to afford healthy food. Then I came across Growing Power in  Milwaukee, WI which is able to produce an enormous amount of food in not much space. The light bulb went on for me.   The idea is that it will be a solar greenhouse run cooperatively growing organic food commercially. You see an employee run business does much better overall and so that is why I chose this model.

All greenhouses are technically solar, but a solar greenhouse is specifically designed to use as little, if any, fossil fuels to keep warm in winter or cool in the summer. Beyond using the sun the greenhouse can get its warmth from livestock (rabbits or chicken), have hydroponics and aquaponics which act as a heat sink, produce methane, heat from composting, and a biomass masonry fireplace. All together, and some innovative measures, will keep the greenhouse warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

Besides growing food the greenhouse could also support other cottage industries, like processing raw fiber into thread or yarn, make cloths, blankets, and other products. One product would be producing paper from non-wood sources. The project could also sell eggs, honey, and bees wax along with fruits, vegetables, and fish.

Once the first greenhouse is build and operational, and the bugs have been worked out to where everything is running fairly smoothly it will be time to start building more. The idea I have is to put them where people are so they don’t have to go far for healthy organic food and sell it at an affordable price as possible without going bankrupt. Yes, some of the food can also be given away to soup kitchen, homeless shelters, food distribution center and so forth – but that will take time and effort to get to that point where we can produce more than enough.

I started a Facebook page some time ago – go here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/287111137982805/

Grow something to eat.
Richard Boettner

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