Less than a handful of weeks remain of this winter. As with all winters we look for signs in the patterns in weather and life for what the future may hold; drawing simple conclusions from the complexities of life and events. Some of these are worth sharing.
The land surrounding our home is dominated by conventional farmland. Our soils are light sandy loams that erode easily. When we have winds and heavy rains the evidence of catastrophic soil loss is easy to see. For decades the government encouraged farmers to conserve the soil with windbreaks, spring field work so litter/debris partially protected soil, and cover cropping in the 7 months of the year when the land was not tilled. These intuitive and cost saving efforts have been countermanded by bigger and bigger fields under irrigation pivots. A few weeks ago we had 3+ inches of rain in a day. The gullies deepened and the roads were flooded as the light soils were relocated where the rainwater flowed. Evidence was left in muddy deposits across the roadways and ditches filled. Tire swallowing gullies opened across fields. And still the land stays bare and tree lines are bulldozed for the favored big tillage fields.
Further evidence of soil loss was observed while shoveling snow following storm “Q”. We had just a few inches that covered the barren land. The snow came with a big blow that made the house shake and the dog to howl at odd times. The snow was more tan colored with the abundance of airborne soil than pure white. So much in the air that the wet snow brought it down. Rather unusual in the winter time but what is usual anymore…
The following quote is from an article about the record breaking yields that small farmers are achieving with the most advanced growing techniques for cereal grains:
“(SRI)is good for small farmers who rely on their own families for labour, but not necessarily for larger operations. Rather than any magical theory, it is good husbandry, skill and attention which results in the super yields.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2013/feb/16/india-rice-farmers-revolution?CMP=twt_gu
These articles highlight that small, intensive farms have superior yields and are sustainable. It’s interesting that the few criticisms that emerge are about the inability for large farming operations to scale up this model to mega farm size. To some of us it is clear that big is the problem, not the method.