I called the utility manager of a local town to ask where they put all the leaves that the street sweeper collects. People here are so lazy that they just blow their leaves into the street and pay the city to collect them.
He just called back this morning. He said they used to give them to a local farmer who composted them and sold them cheaply as organic mulch/compost, but he said he thinks he went out of business or retired. Now he said none of the local farmers seem to want them, so this year they just piled them up on a lot they own. But, since he doesn't have enough manpower to oversee it (liability), he can't offer them to the public.
Now, I know probably the majority of the farmers in America are basically idiots who are always looking for a magic bullet, but how far does stupidity have to go? I know they send their dump trucks to the local produce-processing plant because I've seen them lined up waiting for the corn husks, ground cobs and pulp to feed their livestock. But they don't see any use for leaves.
I was in the little local cafe one day, and there was an old farmer talking about a local Mennonite farmer, saying, "He has the only good piece of land around here".
The major crop around here is hay. Cheap, junk, low-nutrition hay. They let it grow, then mow and bale it and ship it off. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Any nutrients the soil had are long gone, I'm sure.
The Mennonites add manure, till in their crop waste and grow cover crops.
Along those same lines I have a story from high school. This was when I had Just started trying to garden (my parents didn't garden) and was learning the basics, nothing Too fancy.
In english class we were reading 'Grapes of Wrath'. Again and again while reading, and in discussion in class, I remember saying "but why don't they just compost! this story is stupid! why leave home when they could have just Composted!"
haha little did I know that that same question is one I'd be dealing with as an adult too!! (and no wonder my english teacher couldn't give me a satisfactory answer. this is a cultural amnesia)
For a lot of farmer folk, they are being torn in many directions and they are getting a lot of conflicting information.
Plus, they live out in the sticks without a lot of neighbors. Survival means getting along. And doing something contrary to what everybody else is doing, could run counter to getting along.
I think the thing to do is to find the healthy paths, and demonstrate good, healthy paths. The information is making its way into the farming communities. We just need to keep researching and improving our own stuff.
I've been watching farmers and their farms for fifty years. I've driven back and forth across this country and covered many miles of the top half. Some are in admirable condition. Most of them make me want to cry.
They get a pest weed growing on their property and just let it go. I've seen acres and acres of star thistle covered with seed heads. It was apparently too much for the farmers to plow it down when it was young, they just had to let it go to seed.
They've gotten paid not to grow crops for many, many years, but can't be bothered to sow a cover crop like alfalfa (and leave it alone) or clover, that will reseed itself for several years.
They grow one or two crops, and if something happens to it, they're dead in the water. The price of corn is set, the farmer can take it or leave it. But he still keeps growing it, even though he makes less on it every year that he grows it. America is awash in a sea of corn, and the profit margin is razor-thin. So why do they keep growing it? Maybe they should stop growing corn and grow a crop that pays. But no, he won't do that. Why?
They will stand in a GOOD farmer's fields and tell him what he's doing wrong. The absolute gall of this is incredible. They can see what a good farmer is doing really works, but they won't change what they're doing.
Farmers are a con man's dream. P.T. Barnum must have been thinking of farmers when he said, "There's a sucker born every minute, and two to take him". The suckers have been buying the lies of the chemical companies and the USDA for over half a century, and they still don't get it. The moment that a new silver bullet is offered, they jump on it.
They make bad choices on top of bad choices on top of bad choices, and then wonder why they're bankrupt and being swallowed up by a huge corporate farm. I've heard them talk and it's always someone else's fault.
Any other business person who makes the kinds of decisions that farmers do, are soon out of business. But then, so are the farmers.
I used to go around in the autumn and look for bagged leaves to bring home..(as i do for just about any other natural materials avail) however..i began to notice a fewyears ago in our area that a lot of the leaves had these black holes in them that looked like cigarette burns..and it got me to thinking...what if that disease comes in with the leaves and spreads to my trees?
well a couple years later I noticed our neighbors maple tree had those spots..yikes ! Now i have a little healthy fear of leaves that I don't know what trees they came off of..am i silly here?? don't disesases overwinter in people's leaves??
Bloom where you are planted.
Its not nessesarily farmers fault they dont compost in their fields.Sure some pass up what you might see as an opportunity.But often participation in the economy requires you to remove and sell your biomass.A large portion of the hay in western washington comes from eastern washington because their the ones with the money to buy it.Now how does a farmer in eastern washington get that biomass back.Manure and animal bypoducts(blood meal,bone meal,feather meal)are not these endless resourses that come out of no where.They cost money and the higher the demand the more its gonna cost.The mennonites might be living more of a subsistance existance which means that biomass is staying around the farm rather then being exported.The nature of the system is to pay you money in exchange for the extracted biomass(in whatever from)but since all the shit is not returned or is flushed down the drain its always going to be a net loss.
There is nothing permanent in a culture dependent on such temporaries as civilization.
You are right about being careful and having some concern. There are lots of diseases and fungus that would love to bring their little fruiting bodies over to the neighbors place (or anywhere else for that matter)!
I currently have lots of leaves on my land that I can harvest yearly for sheet mulching or whatever.
In the past, I used to collect from folks in town. I would check the some of the leaves first to try to spot any abnormalties. Of course, they could have been composted well first and then they would probably not be an issue, 3 days at 130 degrees completely mixed through. It is good to try not to spread more problems than we already have!
In Community, Marilene Richardson Director, SongCroft Self-Sufficiency Skills Apprenticeship Programs www.songcroft.com Subscribe to our newsletter! http://bit.ly/Newsletter_Page Follow us on Twitter and Facebook
I would like to see the agriculture schools taking on more interesting experiments and leading the way to a more sustainable agriculture. I mean, some people actually do go to school to learn farming. Where are they? From what I can guess from my *one* interaction with a WSU Pullman ag. grad= they're on their tractors somewhere learning how to tell brown-skinned people what to do.
That's too bad. I mean someone could really want to learn to farm well, and the whole model is just so unsustainable for them to learn from.
Also another example: I was listening to a speaker last week from the local ag extension. He was describing this great experiment they did about soil health and mulch. Result of the experiment: mulch protects/creates healthier soil. (wow!)All well and good, but come on. Aren't we paying them to do experiments that are cutting edge?
It's just kinda interesting that my friends and I are doing rad projects to figure out what and how grows here sustainably, and on often a low budget. The extensions, with all that money, aren't even thinking as far as we are it seems.