Sustainable Agriculture

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Outward Bound – Ethnobotany in the Taiga and Tundra Subarctic North Atlantic

I will not be blogging for a while now as I am off to do ethnobotanical research in the Taiga and Tundra subarctic regions of the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland on my way back to Maine.

Meanwhile here is a quote from Walt Whitman

“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”

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Can Organic Feed the World?

The argument is raging on about the ability for Organic Agriculture to feed the world. To many the argument itself is a kind of political bickering that has stalled the movement toward a more sustainable agriculture, to others it is a critical scientific question. I have recently given a presentation about this argument from an agriculturalists perspective for a class with Prof. Dr. Andreas Bürkert.

The argument that ‘Organic Agriculture Cannot Feed the World’ was brought to the agriculturalists table with significant data in a paper of that title by D.J. Connor from the University of Melbourne (2007). In this paper D.J. Connor argues that less than 100% of cropland could receive adequate nitrogen through an additional legume cover crop. This means a total of only 1.7 tons of grain harvest per hectare. This multiplied by the current 1362 million hectares of agricultural land, and 500kg grain per person per year, is enough to feed only 4.2 billion people. D.J. Connor’s arguments are aimed mainly at the mathematics in a study by Dr. Catherine Badgley.

Dr. Catherine Badgley counters all refutations in ‘Organic Agriculture and the Global Food Supply’ University of Michigan (2007).  She offers strong counter arguments in this paper, stating that now 77 published studies agree that nitrogen-fixing legumes can replace the amount of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer currently in use. Therefore Organic grain harvest can be greater than 2500 total calories per person per day (w/ developing country yield ratios 4358 total kcal person/day w/ developed and developing countries yield ratios).

I argue further with the following slide:

The above slide shows that the USDA and FAO data suggest that much more than enough grain is being harvested today to feed everyone, and yet 1 billion are hungry. Here It is important to note that ‘The Problem of Hunger’ according to Amartya Sen (Harvard University/ Nobel Prize 1998) is not the lack of food but the lack of access to food. Amartya Sen famously said: “Starvation is the characteristic of some people not having enough food to eat […] not of there being not enough food to eat.”

Following the arguments of Badgley, Sen and IFOAM’s arguments for global adoption of organic food productions systems I have concluded that organic agriculture is viable and appropriate that it is our agricultural future.

Finally, I ask the question about the what is the purpose of farming? This can best be answered by the farmers themselves and so I quote here two opposite ends of the farmers perspective.

“The ultimate goal of farming is  not the growing of crops,but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”
Masanobu Fukuoka, Natural Farmer

•“We are not driven by ideological concepts, political correctness or environmental persuasions;we are driven by the marketplace.”
-J. Hendrix, President of Prog. Ag.


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Summer Academy on Organic Animal Breeding and Organic Husbandry

ekoconnect_logoFor all students interested in temperate regions organic animal husbandry and breeding there is a course this summer in Dresden, Germany from EcoConect e.v and the EU lifelong Learning Program. The Organic Animal Husbandry course takes place from September 7 to the 20th near the center of Dresden through the University of Kassel, Witzenhausen. The expenses will all be covered and 4 credits will be offered for the coursework with the possibility for 6 credits with an extra written work.

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Check out the EcoConnect e.v. advertisement (scroll down for English)

Download the English version of the course program

Download the application