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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 5/16/19

Back to the Farm

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In a newly posted article, "A New Green Deal Must Prioritize Regenerative Agriculture", (Published May 9, 2019 in Truthout), Curt Ries describes the crucial role the agricultural industry could play in saving the planet from global warming. By a radical shift from the exploitive soil-destroying methods now used by industrial agriculture that release enormous amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, to the regenerative methods he details, agriculture could become a primary carbon sequestering factor, sufficient to compensate for current levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

This transformation on a national and world-wide scale could restore the food and farming economy, and the soil and atmosphere of the entire planet from the present seriously declining condition to a healthy state. It could start a social and economic revolution whereby throngs of people trained in state-of-the-art farming methods would move back into non-industrialized farm work with good-paying jobs and opportunities for small-scale businesses. We have a taste of this happening now with thriving organic specialty farms.

There is a precedence for all this. Going back in time before the industrial revolution, 90% of the population lived and worked on farms under marginal living conditions. Then, with industrialization offering work opportunities in factories, there was a vast migration into crowded cities, eventually leaving fewer than 5% on farms. (Statistics subject to interpretation.) Despite the diversity and attractions of city life, many of today's social and economic urban problems are associated with this phenomenon: hazards of unhealthy living conditions, slums, congestion, unemployment, poverty, racial discord, crime, security.

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During those times, country farm life, in general, was the backwater of American society, devoid of the amenities available in urban centers and somewhat isolated from mainstream American culture by lack of communication and transportation. The farm economy was always on fragile grounds, subject not only to weather but to the international market for grains and to poor farming methods resulting in declining soil fertility. The height of distress perhaps was the Dust Bowl in the mid-30s caused by the depletion of the top soil in large areas of the Midwest and resulting in a mass exodus of farming families, particularly from Oklahoma.

In the 1930's during the "Great" depression, the Roosevelt administration addressed some of these problems by projects bringing electrical power into rural communities (the Tennessee Valley Authority) and flood control projects along the Mississippi River and its tributaries. To stabilize farm prices from overproduction and restore land fertility, it subsidized farmers to leave some acreage fallow. Roosevelt also encouraged the development of suburban communities to relieve some of the pressures of over-crowded cities. You can read about this in his speeches while New York governor and president.

With a Green New Deal promoting regenerative agriculture as a major pillar, we can envision a solution to many of the problems afflicting our society today. There could be a large migration from crowded cities into a new life style closer to nature in the suburbs or country. Work in this revitalized sector may not have the same glamour that some urban jobs offer, but it would provide the satisfaction of having fundamental relevance for human needs and significance for solving the world's problems - primarily global warming. It could offer a peaceful environment closer to nature and free of the tensions associated with congested urban life. At the same time, life "on the farm" would not be isolated as in the past from the good in contemporary culture by lack of communication. It could establish a modest but very rewarding manner of living as a model to the world for life in harmony with nature.

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Veteran, retired from several occupations (school teacher, technical writer, energy conservation business, etc.) long-time Sierra Club member


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7 people are discussing this page, with 11 comments  Post Comment


JenniferWNY

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I'm already there!!

Last fall, at age 62, I closed on my homestead.

This years goal is to clear the property and plant a small garden, large enough to sustain myself.

My second year goal is to enlarge the garden to be able to sell organically raised fruits and veggies roadside.

When the second year garden is planted, my plan is to begin building a chicken coop, then a house for milking goats.

The third year will hopefully see the addition of chickens first, then four or five milking goats.

Submitted on Thursday, May 16, 2019 at 4:01:11 PM

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Alexander Kershaw

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Reply to JenniferWNY:   New Content

Be lazy. Let nature do as much of the work as possible. Try getting chickens immediately and house them in a chicken tractor so they can be moved easily. If your land is overgrown try Hugel gardening. That starts sequestering carbon and fertilizing the soil right off. If all you have is weeds just cover deeply with leaves from the neighborhood. That will kill weeds and lawn. The chickens will shred the leaves and eat the slugs and insects. You can have a portable pen for your goats. Portables let you decide where the animals do their eating and pooping.

Every place is different so be flexible. Above all have fun. I read somewhere that gardeners live 14 years longer. Getting your hands dirty is good.

Submitted on Thursday, May 16, 2019 at 10:14:17 PM

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JenniferWNY

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Reply to Alexander Kershaw:   New Content

Alexander, Thank You for responding, and most importantly for the suggestions!!! I am, at least right now, planning on following the Back To Eden Gardening Method, but I will look into the Hugelkultur.

I am planning on a large area for my chickens to graze, with expansion areas for them to go into as I choose for them to graze in.

I am also planning on a large area for the goats to graze, again using a flexible fencing system to allow them into a large portion of my property so one area does not become over-grazed.

A good part of this year will be spent clearing about 30 or so 3'-4' tree stumps and taking down another dozen or so trees, most of them pine trees , that is after I get a small garden in.

Ive been looking for a homestead for a number of years trying To find one large enough that I could afford that was in an agriculture district so I could have chickens and goats and sell roadside.

For me, this is a long awaited dream that has finally come true!!

Submitted on Saturday, May 18, 2019 at 5:34:53 PM

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Harold Novikoff

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Reply to JenniferWNY:   New Content

Best wishes for fulfillment of your goals on your homestead. There is another example of mass migration to farming remotely in my family history. Near the end of the 19thC, as an alternative to the Zionist movement to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine, a wealthy Frenchman (a Rothschild?) sponsored a large number of Jews fleeing from persecution in Russia to establish a farming community in Canada. After a number (?) of years, the community moved to Petaluma, California and became the mainstay of the chicken raising community there. My relatives moved there around 1915. Not all of the chickens were kosher.

Submitted on Thursday, May 16, 2019 at 11:30:55 PM

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David Pear

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"with industrialization offering work opportunities in factories, there was a vast migration into crowded cities..."

I don't have the research to know if the farmers abandoned farming for the city life, or if they were forced off the land for other reasons.

I do know that US imperialism is forcing farmers off the land in the global south. The US uses IMF imposed structural adjustment programs (SAP), and one-sided trade agreements to force farmers off the land. They then migrate to the city, where the only "opportunity" is to live in a cardboard box next to a Nike factory. It's called wage slavery.

SAP's result in highly tax-payer subsidized US agriculture products being imported by the Global South. Small scale farmers cannot compete so they lose their land. Banks foreclose.

Indigenous and poor farmers who do not have formal title to their traditional land are forced off by puppet governments of US and Canadian corporations. The land is then turned into monocrop production for export, mining and exploration for oil and gas.

I would imagine that a similar scheme was devised in Europe and the US to drive the farmers off the land. They sure did not find citylife to be the attraction, at least not in the early phase of industrialization.

Best of luck with your homestead.

Submitted on Thursday, May 16, 2019 at 6:14:31 PM

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shad williams

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The article presents good ideas but also makes assumptions that urban dwellers would be willing to take to producing their own food.

This statement:

"It could start a social and economic revolution whereby throngs of people trained in state-of-the-art farming methods would move back into non-industrialized farm work with good-paying jobs and opportunities for small-scale businesses. We have a taste of this happening now with thriving organic specialty farms."

I don't believe the existing capitalist structure should be the model, with special considerations to good-paying jobs, as the basis for producing clean affordable food.

Submitted on Friday, May 17, 2019 at 5:07:48 AM

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Harold Novikoff

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Reply to shad williams:   New Content

The author of the article upon which my article is based points out that regenerative agriculture must be an essential part of the green New Deal. As I understand it, it would not be a matter of individual struggling homesteaders but rather a government-promoted/subsidized social movement perhaps in the form of cooperatives under the mentorship of universities that would spawn off private businesses. Possibly, it may include communal living arrangements like the Kibbutz in Israel.

Submitted on Friday, May 17, 2019 at 4:02:03 PM

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David Wieland

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As a homesteader in the 70's, I gained firsthand experience with the small farm life. It had its pleasures, but it was mostly struggle. By age 35 I was feeling poor and already somewhat broken down and returned to the city to learn computing and earn a living that wasn't so hard on my body. My wife and I are now on a semi-rural property where I'd like to have a few chickens, but she won't hear of it. ­čśĽ

Submitted on Friday, May 17, 2019 at 5:41:32 AM

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Harold Novikoff

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Here is an added thought to my reply to Shad Williams. The program as I envision it would be a promising partial solution to the homeless problem. In the spirit of the original New Deal, a CCC-like project could relocate capable candidates from among the homeless. Under such programs giving direction to hopeless lives, even people with mental problems have thrived.

Submitted on Friday, May 17, 2019 at 10:58:56 PM

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Reply to Harold Novikoff:   New Content

That seems like a wonderful program. Do you have any ideas on how to pursue it and join in the effort? Are there any government lands (i.e. commons) that would allow this?

P.S. As for my first comment, the closing off of the commons in Europe probably had a lot to do with people migrating to wage slavery. In the US there was plenty of land stolen from the Indians and turned into private property. GW was the richest man in America. Like Trump he was a real estate crook.

Submitted on Saturday, May 18, 2019 at 5:04:33 PM

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Chuck Nafziger

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The return from cell phones to nature nourishes the soul more than it sequesters CO2. We are burning accumulations of fossil fuels that took millennia to accumulate with our consumption of oil. A year's new growth does little to mitigate the CO2 we are putting into the air, but, with some care, the hard work, the mental environment and the fresh, local, organic food are very good for one's body.

Submitted on Friday, May 17, 2019 at 4:13:08 PM

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