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The Empire Strikes Back: The Omnivore’s Delusion  RSS feed

 
                                  
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It's good to hear from the industrial agriculture side sometimes.  They must be allowed to speak.  We shouldn't depend just on how their views and practices are characterized by permies.  There's a new article written by a Missouri farmer called, "The Omnivore’s Delusion: Against the Agri-intellectuals," in The American (http://www.american.com/archive/2009/july/the-omnivore2019s-delusion-against-the-agri-intellectuals) in which he really takes on the natural agriculture folks.

A sampling of his points:

*  "Biotech crops actually cut the use of chemicals, and increase food safety. Are people who refuse to use them my moral superiors?"

*  "Herbicides cut the need for tillage, which decreases soil erosion by millions of tons. The biggest environmental harm I have done as a farmer is the topsoil (and nutrients) I used to send down the Missouri River to the Gulf of Mexico before we began to practice no-till farming, made possible only by the use of herbicides. The combination of herbicides and genetically modified seed has made my farm more sustainable, not less, and actually reduces the pollution I send down the river.... Farming is more complicated than a simple morality play."

*  "Protected from the weather and predators, today's turkeys may not be aware that they are a part of a morally reprehensible system."  He goes on to tell of how turkeys will stay out in the rain and look up at the sky until they drown.  "Chickens will provide lunch to any number of predators, and some number of chickens will die as flocks establish their pecking order."  Talking about the dangers of free range chickens, here.

*  "The crates protect the piglets from their mothers. Farmers do not cage their hogs because of sadism, but because dead pigs are a drag on the profit margin, and because being crushed by your mother really is an awful way to go. As is being eaten by your mother, which I've seen sows do to newborn pigs as well."

*  "Changing the way we raise animals will not necessarily change the scale of the companies involved in the industry. If we are about to require more expensive ways of producing food, the largest and most well-capitalized farms will have the least trouble adapting."

He makes some weak points but also some interesting ones.  It's worth a read, IMO.
 
Leah Sattler
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its sounds like it would be worth reading. I have personal ideals that I attempt to follow regarding my gardening and animal husbandry practices. but I struggle sometimes with my stance on large farms. I know that realistically most of the worlds population is going to be sustained by modern agriculture. and the practices that make modern farms viable may not fit my ideals. I often try to think in terms of what is 'better' not 'best'. because 'best' is most often a pie in the sky idea that will never (in my pessimistic opinion) come to fruition on a large scale or is simply based some premise that is faulty. I tend to be especially torn with the use of genetically modified crops because of the point made there. but I also know that the law of unintended consequences will reveal some serious ones eventually. I also have raised some type of animal since I was a teenager. and know that to be good stewards of them and be remotely successful, most require some kind of human intervention and modern medical treatment at some point and confinement in one way or another is often in the interest of the health of the animals and the health of the eventual product. I hope someday that we can come full circle and have well tested safe, effective products that are very targeted and develop methods to use in farming that will safely produce food for the world with  minimal impact on the enviroment.

right now it seems that there are few people that take the middle ground. there are those that refuse to believe that modern methods and chemicals could be unsafe or have anything wrong with them and those who believe that any modern method or chemical must be hazardous and all natural methods are superior and effective. I tend to fall in the middle. I trust the principles of science. although not always the skills or intentions of those conducting it.
 
Brenda Groth
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yeah i've heard all that crap before but if it was all true then why do we have hundreds and hundreds of wild turkeys out roaming our property .un drowned..esp in the storms we are having today....why are there wild pigs that survive mama, and why are there birds that the predators do not get..

sure there are always losses in nature..but to what extent does making unhealthy food justify their practices?

i'll grant them that no till farming is an improvement..but well the rest..is very questionable.

pretty obvious old time farmes got along fine with their animals out there in the dreaded nature !
 
paul wheaton
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If anybody believes any point in that, please start a new thread for that point.  I know that I would appreciate the opportunity to offer the counterpoint.

But only for those points where somebody might actually believe it.

 
jeremiah bailey
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bruc33ef wrote:
It's good to hear from the industrial agriculture side sometimes.  They must be allowed to speak.  We shouldn't depend just on how their views and practices are characterized by permies.  There's a new article written by a Missouri farmer called, "The Omnivore’s Delusion: Against the Agri-intellectuals," in The American (http://www.american.com/archive/2009/july/the-omnivore2019s-delusion-against-the-agri-intellectuals) in which he really takes on the natural agriculture folks.

A sampling of his points:

*  "Biotech crops actually cut the use of chemicals, and increase food safety. Are people who refuse to use them my moral superiors?"

Why would you want to use biotech or chemicals? Nature can do it better, if you let her.

*  "Herbicides cut the need for tillage, which decreases soil erosion by millions of tons. The biggest environmental harm I have done as a farmer is the topsoil (and nutrients) I used to send down the Missouri River to the Gulf of Mexico before we began to practice no-till farming, made possible only by the use of herbicides. The combination of herbicides and genetically modified seed has made my farm more sustainable, not less, and actually reduces the pollution I send down the river.... Farming is more complicated than a simple morality play."

I had no clue that no-till was only made possible by using herbicides.

*  "Protected from the weather and predators, today's turkeys may not be aware that they are a part of a morally reprehensible system."  He goes on to tell of how turkeys will stay out in the rain and look up at the sky until they drown.  "Chickens will provide lunch to any number of predators, and some number of chickens will die as flocks establish their pecking order."  Talking about the dangers of free range chickens, here.

Chickens are a mighty tasty lunch, indeed. And eggs for breakfast, too.

*  "The crates protect the piglets from their mothers. Farmers do not cage their hogs because of sadism, but because dead pigs are a drag on the profit margin, and because being crushed by your mother really is an awful way to go. As is being eaten by your mother, which I've seen sows do to newborn pigs as well."

Um, I know that momma dogs will eat their dead or dying puppies. Perhaps the author mistook this for thinning the herd to the proper size and health.

*  "Changing the way we raise animals will not necessarily change the scale of the companies involved in the industry. If we are about to require more expensive ways of producing food, the largest and most well-capitalized farms will have the least trouble adapting."

More expensive? Perhaps he failed to include the long-term costs with the equation. Or he's believing the FUD campaigns.

He makes some weak points but also some interesting ones.  It's worth a read, IMO.

 
                  
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we should mass email Fukuokas One Straw Revolution to industrial farmers.

They keep fixing things and things keep getting worse... Just like society in general.

Do nothing, understand everything.
 
                                  
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I think the problem with several of the article's points is not that they're incorrect per se, but that they're way out of proportion.  For example, yes, some sows kill some piglets sometime, likewise for chickens, turkeys, etc., but the "solution" is far out of proportion to the problem, and most of the difficulty can be ameliorated in simpler, less intrusive ways. 

And yes, if all of the land currently under industrial cultivation were to move to natural, organic practices, yields would be so low and uncertain that we would not be able to supply the markets and prices would skyrocket.  But that likelihood was created by the self-created dependence on these practices to begin with.  Better for more people to grow their own food to begin with and not be dependent on industrial farming.

Unfortunately, we are often guilty of this lack of proportion, too, as was laid bare last week with the publication of an extensive study that shows that there is no statistically significant nutritional advantage in organic produce.  Or our ignoring the fact that pathogenic illness from organic produce is 6-8 times higher than from factory-farm produce. 

Or, ignoring one of the author's other points, left out of my original post, that there is simply not enough natural nitrogen to go around.  For instance, there is not enough manure to meet farmers' needs.  And that it is ironic and contradictory that the eco-elites call for a cessation of meat production while at the same time extolling the benefits of manure.  Where is it supposed to come from?  And if the answer is green manure, he has a lot of reasons why that won't work, either, especially in temperate climates where the clover and other legumes freeze during the winter.

The thing about scientific farming -- and science in general -- is that it has a built-in self-correcting mechanism.  Knowledge is continually being refined.  Over time, what is true wins out over what is false.  The problem is that it often takes too much time and we become dangerously close to disaster while waiting for the truth to emerge.  Also, all the data is never finally in, so we are always drawing conclusions on incomplete data.

There is this dance going on right now between the two cultures.  It seems that each one hates the other, but also needs the other and even benefits from the other.  But there is no purpose served in ignoring the other.  That is why I urge people to read the article to see the author's logic, rather than relying on the smattering of decontextualized points listed above.
 
Leah Sattler
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bruc33ef wrote:

The thing about scientific farming -- and science in general -- is that it has a built-in self-correcting mechanism.  Knowledge is continually being refined.  Over time, what is true wins out over what is false.  The problem is that it often takes too much time and we become dangerously close to disaster while waiting for the truth to emerge.  Also, all the data is never finally in, so we are always drawing conclusions on incomplete data.

There is this dance going on right now between the two cultures.  It seems that each one hates the other, but also needs the other and even benefits from the other.  But there is no purpose served in ignoring the other.  That is why I urge people to read the article to see the author's logic, rather than relying on the smattering of decontextualized points listed above.



a perfect explanation! there is absolutely no doubt that many of the current farming practices are destructive. And "they" do much to suppress information regarding the problems associated with it. and by the time the mess they made is revealed it has reached a critical state. but also some of those farms might be ok with just a little tweaking. and the experiences of the more natural and organic movement can help if they don't alienate them.  utilizing organic and natural solutions that are proven safe and effective is the best route to take but we can't ignore some of the shortcomings it can present in our already overpopulated world that has found itself addicted to cheap easy food. and it is important for those of us trying to push the move to better farming practices not appear as whackos that won't accept truth and reality, that exaggerate claims that support our position while discounting truths that question them. we then are no better then the companies that supress information or exaggerate their own claims to gain support simply with different motivations.
 
                  
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http://www.scribd.com/doc/7953334/one-straw-revolution-Fukuoka-1978

When it is understood that one loses joy and happiness in
the attempt to possess them, the essence of natural farming will be realized. The
ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation  and perfection of human beings


  84
People think that when they turn their eyes from the earth to the sky they see the
heavens. They set the orange fruit apart from the green leaves and say they know the
green of the leaves and the orange of the fruit. But from the instant one makes a
distinction between green and orange, the true colours vanish.
People think they understand things because they become familiar with them.
This is only superficial knowledge. It is the knowledge of the astronomer who knows
the names of the stars, the botanist who knows the classification of the leaves and
flowers, the artist who knows the aesthetics of green and red. This is not to know
nature itself-the earth and sky, green and red. Astronomer, botanist, and artist have
done no more than grasp impressions and interpret them, each within the vault of his
own mind. The more involved they become with the activity of the intellect, the more
they set themselves apart and the more difficult it becomes to live naturally.
The tragedy is that in their unfounded arrogance, people attempt to bend nature
to their will. Human beings can destroy natural forms, but they cannot create them.
Discrimination, a fragmented and in- complete understanding, always forms the
starting point of human knowledge. Unable to know the whole  of nature, people can do no better than to construct an incomplete model of it and then delude themselves into thinking that they have created something natural.

All someone has to do to know nature is to realize that he does not really know
anything, that he is unable to know anything. It can then be expected that he will lose interest in discriminating knowledge. When he abandons discriminating knowledge,  non-discriminating knowledge of itself arises within him. If he does not try to think about knowing,  if he does not care about understanding, the time will come when he will understand. There is no other way than through the destruction of the ego, casting aside the thought that humans exist apart from heaven and earth.

The more people do, the more society develops, and the more problems  arise.
The increasing desolation of nature, the exhaustion of resources, the uneasiness and disintegration of the human spirit, all have been brought about by humanity's trying to accomplish something. Originally, there was no reason to progress, and nothing that had to be done. We have come to the point at which there is no other way than to bring about a "movement" not to bring anything about.

Masanobu Fukuoka
One Straw Revolution
 
jeremiah bailey
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EcoHouse, asking someone who has their paycheck at stake to read something that could turn their world upside down is futile. They will scoff and tell you to try doing what they do. Only by proving in actions your point will you get across. They need to see proof that reading it will work. They need a model to look at and say, yes that is better than what I do now. No amount of words will persuade them to that end. Especially the words of Masanobu Fukuoka. As wise as he is about natural farming, his words are very out there to most Westerners. The Eastern concept of "mushin" is rather foreign to most Westerners. The concepts of mushin are very prevalent in Fukuoka's words. Not a very good way to change the course of the status quo.

In Mr. Hurst's article, the only real comparisons he makes is between industrial and organic farming. I don't see either as a viable way to sustainability. Organic farming is rooted in the same methods as industrial farming. Only the materials are different. My understanding is that the methods are what make those styles of farming unsustainable. The methods between the two may differ, but only slightly. The author's comparing apples and quinces.

I feel his pain. He is criticized by many who don't know or understand his plight. Also, he makes a good point that the market demands he do what he does. Critics of industrial farming should really criticize the buyers, not the producers. An overly dramatic hypothetical situation: if the entire earth stopped buying corn that was produced with GMO seed, herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers, would the farmers keep growing them? How about if twenty more people stopped buying GMO and chemically enhanced crops everyday? Do you think the farmers would care either way? No, they'd produce what the buyer wants.
 
                  
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"asking someone who has their paycheck at stake to read something that could turn their world upside down is futile. "

One of the principles of permaculture is start where you are.
I have a small mountain location with a tiny garden that I am terraforming right now.
If I get a food mountain to demonstrate for my efforts, with little work and food for a family, people will listen.

There are large farms in Russia now that leave hay on the fields, use simple yeomans like plows and are aiming to do little work with no pesticides and herbicides, producing large crops.
people are listening too.

There are people that look for solutions, and they will listen.
There are victims that will always tell you why someone else is deciding their destiny for them.

Those, you can just let know that a solution exists.
We need to set shining examples, but we also need to let people know that a solution exists.

It is those that have lost their paychek already and their world has been turned upside down, and the chemicals and the machines no longer help to make money or grow enough crops, that will listen.
There are more and more of these every day.

 
                                  
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Today, someone on the Permaculture listserve wrote words to the effect that the article was published by the American Enterprise Institute -- a right-wing think tank that has been responsible for some outrageous claims in the past, such as that tobacco isn't harmful -- and therefore (by implication) nothing in the article should be taken seriously.

Actually, though, the truth value of a statement is totally independent of the source, whatever it is.  Each statement in the article can be assessed on its own, and is true or false on its own, regardless of who stated it or published it.  Totally irrelevant.  Attack the statement, if you can, not the source. 

There are outrageous claims made by groups on all points on the political spectrum.  And there have been quite a few outrageous statements from this critic as well, if you know who I'm talking about.
 
Leah Sattler
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bruc33ef wrote:
  Each statement in the article can be assessed on its own, and is true or false on its own,

There are outrageous claims made by groups on all points on the political spectrum. 


so true. it can be frustrating that there really aren't any (or don't seem to be) any unbiased 'think tanks' out there. everybody is just looking for information that supports the position they already hold. I guess to be human is to be biased. I am certainly guilty of often compeltly discounting a statement or proposition based on the source. when you hear so much gobbeldy gook come out of some places you just start to ignore them. we should always try and keep one ear pricked for bits of truth amongst the bs.
 
            
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So this is kinda long but here i go

bruc33ef wrote:
And yes, if all of the land currently under industrial cultivation were to move to natural, organic practices, yields would be so low and uncertain that we would not be able to supply the markets and prices would skyrocket.  But that likelihood was created by the self-created dependence on these practices to begin with.  Better for more people to grow their own food to begin with and not be dependent on industrial farming.


My Question about this is where is the proof that yields will be "so low and uncertain." Fukuoka proved that he was able to produce the same and even more rice and barley per hectare using organic no till methods than people using chemical's

bruc33ef wrote:
Unfortunately, we are often guilty of this lack of proportion, too, as was laid bare last week with the publication of an extensive study that shows that there is no statistically significant nutritional advantage in organic produce.  Or our ignoring the fact that pathogenic illness from organic produce is 6-8 times higher than from factory-farm produce.

I seem to find this statement false. First off what is "organic" in this study. Because nowadays in the states organic is also factory farm produced. And then how can organic be 6-8 times higher compared to factory farm when factory farm produce 90% or more of the food. Thats saying for every 100 veges produce 1 out of the 90 factory farm gives a pathogenic illness and 6-8 of the 10 organic ones give a sickness. That seems really high. Me thinks i would like to read this publication.

Here are some quotes from the article

Weasels were a problem, but not as much a threat as one of our typically violent early summer thunderstorms. It seems that turkeys, at least young ones, are not smart enough to come in out of the rain, and will stand outside in a downpour, with beaks open and eyes skyward, until they drown. One night Niemann lost 4,000 turkeys to drowning, along with his dream, and his farm.


Interesting how a bunch of young turkeys raised with out mothers would not know what to do in the rain it kind supports the theory of natural over man made techniques.


On one side were eight crates of the kind that the good citizens of California have outlawed. On the other were the kind of wooden pens that our critics would have us use, where the sow could turn around, lie down, and presumably act in a natural way. Which included lying down on my 4-H project, killing several piglets, and forcing me to clean up the mess when I did my chores before school. The crates protect the piglets from their mothers. Farmers do not cage their hogs because of sadism, but because dead pigs are a drag on the profit margin...


So it is sadistic to raise pigs in a crate but its not because farmers are sadistic it just about making more money.


Chickens will provide lunch to any number of predators, and some number of chickens will die as flocks establish their pecking order.


If anyone can find info on broiler farms and the number of deaths/culls during the raising of a flock that would help. I am sure it would be the same if not higher to the number of chickens lost to predators and pecking order. considering i have only lost 2 of my 30 chicks to pecking order and they would easily have been culls in a broiler farm.


Free-range chickens and pigs will increase the price of food, using more energy and water to produce the extra grain required for the same amount of meat, and some people will go hungry.


Free range "of livestock and domestic poultry; permitted to graze or forage rather than being confined to a feedlot "
Free range allows animals to supplement grain with grass and bugs so there by cuts the cost of feed.


Some of the points have some good backing but others just don't hold water.

This is all i could find about the author

Blake Hurst farms in Northwest Missouri with his family on a 4 generation family farm. He and his wife Julie also own and operate a greenhouse business selling flowers in 4 states. Blake is a contributing writer to The American Enterprise magazine, and his essays have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, Readers Digest, PERC Reports, The Wilson Quarterly, and several other national and regional publications. Hurst is Vice-President of Missouri Farm Bureau. The Hurst’s have 3 children.

Blake Hurst was re-elected vice-president of the Missouri Farm Bureau Federation during the organization's 93rd annual meeting in 2007. He was first elected to the position in 2003. Hurst served on the Missouri Farm Bureau board of directors between 1994 and 2002, representing District 1 in the northwest area of the state. He is a past Young Farmers & Ranchers (YF&R) state committee chairman and served on the American Farm Bureau YF&R committee. He also serves as Atchison County Farm Bureau president. He and his wife, Julie, operate a row crop farm with his father, Charles, brothers Kevin and Brooks, nephew Brooks, and son-in-law Ryan Harms. All row crop fields utilize no-till. Their daughter, Lee Harms, is head grower for the greenhouse operation that includes four acres, two of which are under roof. Hurst Greenery is a wholesale greenhouse, selling bedding plants in four states. Hurst is a member of the Missouri corn and soybean growers associations. He is also a freelance writer with numerous agricultural articles published in Reader's Digest, Wilson Quarterly and Wall Street Journal. He is the author of a book, Real Life, featuring a collection of his essays. The Hursts have three children and a grandchild.


 
                                  
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jtjf_1 wrote:
My Question about this is where is the proof that yields will be "so low and uncertain." Fukuoka proved that he was able to produce the same and even more rice and barley per hectare using organic no till methods than people using chemical's
I seem to find this statement false. First off what is "organic" in this study. Because nowadays in the states organic is also factory farm produced. And then how can organic be 6-8 times higher compared to factory farm when factory farm produce 90% or more of the food. Thats saying for every 100 veges produce 1 out of the 90 factory farm gives a pathogenic illness and 6-8 of the 10 organic ones give a sickness. That seems really high. Me thinks i would like to read this publication.


1. As one example check the University of Minnesota study published in May 2004 issue of the Journal of Food Protection.  Organic produce 9.7% positive for E. coli compared to 1.6 for conventional produce.  Several other studies confirm other pathogens higher in organic produce.  The researchers are almost uniformly savvy enough to carefully operationalize their terms for "organic" and "conventional,"  They're also savvy enough to control for differences in scale and not commit the Statistics 101 fallacy that you refer to.

2.  Fukouka "proved"??  In science we never prove anything, the best we can do is fail to disprove.  If a statement fails to be disproved, it survives... for the time being, at least.  "Fukuoka 'claimed,'" would be more accurate.  Also, he himself acknowledged that the very mild winters in Kyushu Prefecture went a long way toward that production and that his methods would not necessarily transfer so well to other regions without alteration.  Also, which 1970s blunderbuss chemicals was he competing with?  There has been much progress since then in agricultural chemicals.  Finally, I wasn't aware that anyone conducted independent, controlled, scientific comparisons of Fukuoka's output vs. conventional farms.  If you know of any, please inform us.
 
Leah Sattler
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proof is a very strong word. first all conclusions must be contingent on new information that becomes available. proof is when at some point all the information we have points so directly to one answer that it would be silly not to offer assent. key here is all the information. all that information must come from reviewed documented information obtained through accepted scientific methods. so that it is there for anyone reasonably educated in the matter to see for themselves how the conclusion was drawn. nothing is 'proven' by one persons account or experience or even several. it may show promise. but to be proven it must stand up to the scrutiny of peers be well controlled and documented  and be reproducable by anyone with the materials necessary in the exact same way. it appears that he developed a superior method. which is yet to be proven to apply everywhere with everything. personally I think some of his methods can be applied everywhere with everything and will almost certainly have benefits at least to the soil and general health of the enviroment but which ones are practical and applicable to each different situation is up in the air.
 
rose macaskie
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The crates factory farm pigs are kept in are so small the sows can't turn over when they are pregnant!
   
    American organics must be odd organic farming should include animals being brought up in as natural surroundings as possible. People who buy organic are paying to feel better about animals as well as for healthy products. Also it is farming in over crowded conditions which creates all the lack of health in live stock and the antibiotics they give animals, your organic meat would not be green if they were brought up in overcrowded situations. 

    How can anyone believe what people say with out really going into it, especially those that produce lots of money, the big farming industries will say anything, did not they blatantly distort information when attacking Michel Obamas veggie garden, talking of which, what racist swine gave her and her party of kids, shovels to dig with, who wanted her to look silly, a sort of weedy woman who could not dig. I hope the white house gardeners got moved to some other part after making her look so silly, have you ever tried to dig with a shovel? I have, it is impossible.

      It is childish to get upset about others having moral superiority over you, it is also dangerous, people who get upset when others are morally superior get really destructive, most of the people who try to do for me are upset if i have any moral superiority in any field. There are always going to be people who are better than you at something i am not as brave as a fire man for instance, I am not going to get uptight about it.  Yes they may be morally superior to you, be a man and suck that and they may not, they may just have seen a good business opportunity in organic farming. which is on the rise Britain for example does not raise as many heads of organic beef to mention one thing as its population demand, organic farming is on the rise.  If you attack people morally they always pretend you are attacking them because they attacked you morally, it is one of the dirty tricks of the not moral.
  another dirty trick of the moaral is to always mention your fautls and not your moral beauties it reduces your confidence fidn an organic witha dirty farm and pretend its the norm forget the include some poor farmers with difficulties investign money and talk as if all organics were like that, reduce cofidnence in organics as you can.
 
    One article i read said that, ecologically farmed chickens can be farmed successfully but not by inefficient twits, the last two, my words and i really don't feel very confident about not being one of those myself were i to take up farming. Though i have a good succulents production on my balconies. I know that there are much more efficient people in some things than i am myself. I am adult about my abilities and disabilities.

    The principles of organic farming are right, it has been proved to work and is backed up by scientists, that there will be wrinkles to iron out, of course, systems don't get perfect in a decade or two, they take longer, paul stamets has a way of doing for e coli, Brazil mushrooms attract and stun and gobble up e coli, beds of these mushrooms clean up your land.
    This claim is twisting things, it is factory farmers that produce lagoons of manure to big for one farm to deal with it is easier to deal with the smaller quantities of manure, maybe you can find an inefficient organic farmer who has not dealt well with it bu  it is easier for organic farmers to deal with than for factory farmers and dealing with it could push up the price of the factory farmers too cheap meat that fattens people too much and breaks other farmers. 

    We know that the use of fertilisers salts up and ruins soils for future generations what happened to that morally beneficial part of farming, the very future generation oriented farming sector, that sacrificed a lot for their sons, these look after their sons in child hood but leave them with a tough adult life.The old fashil¡oned farmers used to put ia lot into, i leave my good land to my sons.
      New, old fashioned, still called modern farming, ruins soils,  both because the use of chemical fertilisers causes a build up of salts in the soil. and because it leaves the land bare to be eroded and because it does not worry about the water holding property of soils. 
    Not putting in the stuff, organic matter,  that increases the absorptions and retentive factor in soils is to ruin soils and as chemical fertilisers put in the nitrogen, the farmers stopped bothering with the fibre. That soils retain lots of water is important for crops in all parts were rainfall can be not absolutely to be relied on. Also if they retain water they also retain nutrients and the bills for fertilisers are big enough for farmers to understand the importance of that. The bills for pesticides and herbicides are big enough to understand the importance of reducing them too.

      The English government sent farm advisers to farmers my grandmother had a man who came i don't know once a month or every few months to advice her on farming technics.

      Not putting in organic matter not only spoils soil it spoils the water. If the land absorbs lots of water when it rains a lot, the ground picks up the rain if the soil is good and the rain sort of drips out off it into the rivers, if the land is bad the run off is immediate and so on the day it rains the rivers fill and flood but the next day only trickle water because the soil has not stored it the water to let to let of gradually.
      That rains run quickly off the soil or quickly through it, too quickly, also means  the water has not been filtered and cleaned. To understand this about the ground filtering water look up "rain gardens" a great lakes project. Really it is a subject treated in bioremediation, microbes digesting soil  mycoremediation or fugi digesting soil and phytoremediation plants diigesting soil.

    That there is no mulch on the soil is to lose a crazy amount of water in evaporation. When the Spanish government moans about water, i think, first you organize for soils that retain water and for cover crops and then i will take you seriously when you pretend to be worried about water. agri rose macaskie

        Pesticides cause the water authorities a enormous expenditure, they have to get them out of the drinking water so much so that in some parts of germany the water authorities pay farmers to go ecological, that means subsidising them for six years i believe, pesticides and herbicides are canceriginic, and ecological farming does work it can produce masses of food if well done, there is no real need of cancerigenic products that there should be is factory farming myth making. rose macaskie.
 
paul wheaton
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I think fukuoka did, indeed, prove a great deal. 

First, when the statement is made "nobody can ..." or "always" or "never", then you only need one case to prove the statement to be false. 

It would seem that all fukuoka has to do is to know the exact size of his property and then record how much product he sells.  He then has numbers like pounds of rice per acre which can then be compared to industry standards and to the bold statements.

It is hard to make progress on the permaculture front when the media is carrying false messages which humble folks like fukuoka can prove the falsehood in a heartbeat.

 
                                  
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paul wheaton wrote:
First, when the statement is made "nobody can ..." or "always" or "never", then you only need one case to prove the statement to be false. 


I can't figure out what statement you're referring to, here.

paul wheaton wrote:
It would seem that all fukuoka has to do is to know the exact size of his property and then record how much product he sells.  He then has numbers like pounds of rice per acre which can then be compared to industry standards and to the bold statements.


Except that there are innumerable factors that could explain -- or partially explain -- the difference in output irrespective of, or in unobserved combination with, anything that Fukuoka did; e.g., soil composition differences, elevation, micro climates, water table, contaminants, etc.  Unless such factors are controlled for in a study, it's hard to isolate exactly what is responsible for the differences in output.  Moreover, if you take the totality of Fukuoka's measures, it may be that one or two explain, say, 95% of the variance while all of the rest account for the remainder.  Finally, the term "industry standard" is simply an average or median comprised of perhaps a wide variation in output.  A large number of conventional farmers would have output above the industry standard.

paul wheaton wrote:
It is hard to make progress on the permaculture front when the media is carrying false messages which humble folks like fukuoka can prove the falsehood in a heartbeat.


Agreed, as the article illustrates, but "humble," is not a term used to describe Fukuoka, by the way.  Check out his "Plowboy Interview" in Mother Earth News way back when to get an idea of his prickly personality.
 
jeremiah bailey
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bruc33ef wrote:
Except that there are innumerable factors that could explain -- or partially explain -- the difference in output irrespective of, or in unobserved combination with, anything that Fukuoka did; e.g., soil composition differences, elevation, micro climates, water table, contaminants, etc.  Unless such factors are controlled for in a study, it's hard to isolate exactly what is responsible for the differences in output.

As I recall, Fukuoka did account for these variables. Soil composition: he returned all left over residue to the soil and didn't open the soil to erosion by plowing. Others did not. Elevation, he compared to his direct neighbors for the most part. Water table: rice paddies are almost always flooded. He flooded his fields for a much shorter time, wasting less water. Contaminants: he didn't put any fertilizers, herbicides or insecticides on his fields, so no contaminants. The controls you are asking for are rather moot. To have those kinds of controls would make it no longer be natural farming. If anything, Fukuoka showed the world that it can be done. He also made no bones about disclaiming that his techniques would most likely have to be adapted to each situation. This means some experimenting and observation on the part of the farmer. His techniques aren't an end all, cure all, as he said so himself. The most valuable part of his teaching is the need for a change in mindset not only among farmers, but in consumers as well. The later would be most prudent, as farmers only produce what consumers will buy.

Agreed, as the article illustrates, but "humble," is not a term used to describe Fukuoka, by the way.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/humble Definitely not humble by definitions 1 and 2, but by 3 he sure fits the bill. In Paul's context, #3 would be the correct usage.

Also, which 1970s blunderbuss chemicals was he competing with?  There has been much progress since then in agricultural chemicals.

Agreed, as far as yields are concerned. But what about the safety of those chemicals? What purpose do they really serve? What are their long term effects? What scientific studies do you use to support their safety and long term effects? The ones published by the companies producing them? Or perhaps the ones published by those paid to make the chemicals look good? Or how about the ones published by the Industrifarms who also profit from them? Or the seed companies? Or some on other interested party. Show me one study from a disinterested party as to the safety of these chemicals. USDA doesn't count on so many levels.
 
                                  
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jeremiah bailey wrote:
As I recall, Fukuoka did account for these variables. Soil composition: he returned all left over residue to the soil and didn't open the soil to erosion by plowing. Others did not. Elevation, he compared to his direct neighbors for the most part. Water table: rice paddies are almost always flooded. He flooded his fields for a much shorter time, wasting less water. Contaminants: he didn't put any fertilizers, herbicides or insecticides on his fields, so no contaminants.


Did anyone compare soil samples for nutrients and contaminants?  Also, "for the most part" doesn't cut it in terms of elevation and terrain, thermal belts, and microclimates.  What was the variation in flooding vis a vis his neighbors?  Unknown.  It's simply not enough, and certainly not for scientific validity.  It's not uncommon to have two farms right next to each other where all of the inputs are seemingly identical, yet the output varies enormously.  You can also do things identically in successive years on one farm and have wildly different output.  Finally, let's say you compare Fukuoka's output during one year to those of his ten closest neighbors.  Are you comparing it to the average of the neighbors, the mean, the highest output, the lowest, or what?  Will it be the same for every year?  Doubtful, but let's at least keep an open mind until we see actual verifiable results. 

This leads to another requirement of science -- that it be replicatable.  It's not enough that it works in one farm in Kyushu during one time frame; it also has to work elsewhere by other farmers in other regions for his methods to be valid.  Where are all the documented year-after-year successes?  We all hear a lot of stories, a lot of anecdotes, a lot of claims, a lot of tall tales, but Fukuoka's methods are maddeningly non-fasifiable (falsifiability is another requirement of science).  Perhaps another way to say that is that there's as much "art" involved as science, which makes assessing his methods a very slippery undertaking.  For the true believer Fukuoka-ites, when someone succeeds it's because of the method; but when someone fails it's because of them.  The perfect crime -- they get to have it both ways!

jeremiah bailey wrote:
The controls you are asking for are rather moot. To have those kinds of controls would make it no longer be natural farming.


No, no, you're using the lay meaning of "control" rather than the scientific meaning. The idea is to control FOR the intervening variables, to allow an assessment of the impact of the independent variable(s) on the dependent one.  And merely two groups -- a control group and an experimental group -- are insufficient in this case; there are far too many differences between the two groups to be able to isolate exactly what is going on.  It's strictly anecdotal evidence regardless of how impressive it seems.

Look, Fukuoka is a real visionary and inspiration, and his books present really interesting theories that should be taken seriously and tried... a lot more than they have been, IMHO.  But let's also acknowledge the limitations of his methodology and be open to the possibility of alternate explanations for his results.
 
            
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I think you missed Fukuoka's point nature is the only possibility we can not conquer it we must work with it. Science tries to explain something to us but science does not have the whole picture. So when we see nature do something we may not understand why it works but that does not mean it will not work just because we do not understand.

I don't have the time to find the quote but in "One Straw Evolution" Fukuoka talks about how if someone was to scientifically study one aspect (specialize) of rice cultivation they would fail with out the help of an infinite number of specialists on every other aspect of nature. Which is impossible because there are parts of nature we still
 
jeremiah bailey
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You're right. There are too many variables to make a scientific comparison. There is very much art to his way of farming. Just as there was art to the way of farming for thousands of years prior. To the best of my knowledge, the percentage of world hunger has remained about the same over the course of history to present. I could be wrong there.

Masanobu Fukuoka started small, with merely a 1/4 acre after the government repossessed his family's land. He worked the land by hand. This allowed him become very close to what was actually going on with his land. Over time, he was able to take that knowledge and expand to many more acres. Mr. Fukuoka was well versed in scientific method, being a scientist himself. Reading his works, one can see his use of the scientific method in building his farming style. Albeit he did not publish his findings in a scientific manner. That was his intent. He only wanted to A. show that natural farming could be done and B. provide the basics for getting started. He was well aware that two farms side by side with seemingly identical inputs could have wildly varying outputs. Due to this fact, he realized it would be futile to write a definitive guide to farming. He realized that each farmer would have to find their own way, due to the uniqueness of their situation. He said that to practice natural farming is to get as close as you can to the land and listen, look, smell, feel, and taste. If something went wrong, he either found a way to correct it or let nature take its course. He didn't always let nature take its course. He did however always look to nature for a solution. No two farms will ever be exactly alike. The scientific chemical way however, has only a relatively few solutions to the numerous problems found on millions of acres of farmland. Nature has at least one unique solution to every unique problem. If I were to choose a solution on experience alone, I'd choose nature. Nature has been doing its thing for millions of years. Science has been trying to catch up for 500 years at best.

One thing about his outputs that has not yet been mentioned in this thread: He never let a plot go fallow. As I understand it, this is common practice in western farming. In my opinion, this is a waste. All of his acreage was being utilized to produce something. If yields were very low in a plot for any reason, they were still much higher than if he let his land go fallow. This is a huge part of natural farming. He also grew various crops simultaneously on the same land. That way if his tomatoes failed, perhaps his rice and squash were stellar. Or maybe his radishes offset a failure in beans.

I am keeping an open mind. I buy my produce at the supermarket. I buy for price. I buy for sustainability of my wallet, not the world at large. I am however experimenting with growing my own produce, without chemicals. I own and use a tiller. I experiment with varying levels of tillage including no till. I experiment with permaculture techniques. I have experimented in the past with various chemicals. I can say that my garden has good yields without chemicals. So does my lawn. I intend to replicate not necessarily Fukuoka's techniques, but practice natural farming. I wish to see and experience for myself its viability or non-viability.
Fukuoka merely showed that it can be done. I wish to build on that and allow natural farming to work for me on my land. Maybe I'll fail. Maybe I won't.
 
rose macaskie
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    Arguing a point is tremendous, i have practiced the zen of argument for a decade and a half, you don't have to deal so much with facts, as distraction techniques, lies, stonewalling, procrastination, whipping up the masses, coercion, threats, and continual efforts to invalidate you morally and intellectually.
    Trying to insist on the convenience of the masses being ignorant is another one way to stop your mouth ignorant crowds are easy to sway with unreasonable arguements, on this sight you get a bit of upholdign lack of information.
    Upholding experience so much that knowledge somehow looses out is one way of doing for knowledge helping the class system or the top dog system, maybe without meaning to.  This is backed up by an idea seems to do the rounds that goes something like, "it is better to let each person re-invent the wheel than to use old fashioned pedagogy, though it may appear to hold things up a bit it is good in the long run it helps people really get inventive".
  What about, "don't give a man a fish, teach him to fish", becoming, "don't give a man a fish, tell him to learn how to fish or to reinvent fishing".  The rich or have been pushed through university and made to learn the trade or can pay experts. Know how is the real base of advantage not money.

      Ability at the art of argument is what makes Jon Stewart so interesting, he often thinks of a good way to argue something in face of all the confusion created by opponents. I think how does one explain that in face of the obstructions put up by your opponents and he finds a way, it is like a football match, the goals are when he he gets round the problems.
      I learnt painting not farming, that is perhaps a subject principally concerned with the spread of ideas, rather than production of food say.

        The old fashioned techniques used on their own are dead it is question of how long will the agony be. Fertilisers burn soils and salt them in the hands of the unwary who use to much fertilisers. Herbicides and pesticides are poison and are canceriginouse. Organic farming nuts and permis' may lose a tomato crop one year, though according to Paul Wheaton, i think it was, his healthy organic tomatoes are doing better than his neighbors inorganic ones and scientist have some preliminary findings that say that organic ly farmed soils have less pests strong healthy life forms always increases resistance to infection, but losing a crop one year is nothing compared with old fashioned farming methods that ruin the earth for what will probably be  long periods of time.
    odld fasihone dconventional methods  reduce the ability of earth abiility to store water soil scientists came from wettish countries like england and germany by not adding organic matter. As they reduce the earths capacity to absorb water they increasing the need for irrigation and they make  rivers rather like toilets that recieve a lot of water when you pull the chain and none at other moments, unless the land holds water that drips out of it as a full sponge will drip,  the water from the rain runs straight into rivers when it rains and when it stops raining as there is no resesrve of water held in the earth that drips slowly there is no water to fill rivers a usually reduced flow of water in rivers and they recieve nearly none at other times . Any over use of fertilisers can cause saltying up of the soil which ruins the land for years both because the instructions on packets tend to be for a maximunm use of fertilisers and because there are people who always use the double of a good thing, except this good thing is expensive the use of chemical fertilisers can mean a build up of salts in the soil. Herbicides and pesticides poison water sources and conventional farming leave the  land bare in the sun to heat up. Green house gasses make it hard for the heat to escape so we can't afford farming that increases the amount the sun heats the earth. The old fashioned methods just can't last much longer. agri rose macaskie.
 
rose macaskie
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the man in the article this forum discuses ask if he is morally inferior to organic farmers.
  Don't we all have to know that other people, in one way and another have been morally superior to us and maybe we in some way have been morally superior to them. It is just like that, we don't have time enough to do all the morally superior things nor do we have information enough to get it all right. and that doesn't mean we have to allow others to decide for us in moral issues, as no one gets it all right, if you get another deciding for you, you double that others faults as well as their good points, it just means, be real you can't be morally superior all the time, you have to accept criticism unless the criticism is so constant it looks like they are trying to make you doubt yourself or just are incapable of seeing good in others and are destructive company, in which case learn to stand up to them,. Leaving them alone does nt work you only find others that do the same.  You have to accept a position of weakness sometimes, it is mean to always take the one of strength, some people will lie or bully others to make them agree that they are always the morally superior ones. Not only is it mean it stops you learning, if you get to upset about their moral superiority  it hurts to much for you to read about them so you get ignorant. Of course maybe you could not know what they did, be gentle on yourself. rose macaskie.
 
jeremiah bailey
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Well said, rose. I can't say that I'm a saint. I'm far from it, in fact. My main concern about industrial farming is that our food supply is basically dependent on the supply of petroleum. I think it doesn't need to be. I'm willing to put forth my own time and energy to further the goal of the supply of produce being independent from oil.

I realize many hardworking people across the globe farm to put a roof over their heads and feed their families. I commend them for their efforts. I don't really think the burden is totally on the farmer's back in switching to sustainable means. Consumers will have to be the ultimate decision makers for sustainability to work.

On the other hand, there is a lot of organic practices that as such, are basically organic. But, they are not necessarily sustainable or profitable. Just because a farm is organic, doesn't mean it is sustainable in the long run. Many farmers are finding this out the hard way. This leads to a lot of the scientific community stepping in and saying, "Whoa! organic isn't all that it is cracked up to be after all. Our chemical way must be right after all."

I would like to put forth that farming can be all at once, natural, organic, sustainable, and profitable. I also say that in order for a farmer be successful at it, he or she must erase most of what they learned in conventional farming. It just isn't applicable.

Change isn't easy. It never has been. It never will be. The ball has already begun to roll. Let's see where it goes.
 
rose macaskie
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      Jeremiah Bailey, Being morally superior to somone in something doesn't turn people into saints, anyway i agree with the protestants about saints, i would ban them, hocus pocus is an unfair and unholy way of trying to influence people, it carries them off their feet and gets them leaving their heads behind somewhere.
      Organic should be more profitable than traditional, it takes account of more of the soils and plants necessities. When they first started using fertilisers they did not have much evidence to support claims by, say, the british organic man, Sir Albert Howard (i have found him this last weekend in google) that using chemical fertilisers was not doing all that needed to be done for the soil or plants. Now we have lots of evidence to say that there are a lot of things that are important for plant growth that are not included in chemical fertilisers, except, in part, in the very most modern ones. We also have lots of evidence for saying that chemical fertilisers can ruin soils.
        Adding a bit of chemical fertiliser to the soil seems to be a necessity, does not Paul Wheaton say that most sources of organic matter are contaminated in one way or another but chemicals burn the life in soils so it has to stay as using a bit of chemical fertilisers. I use ever so much less fertiliser on my balconies than the recommended dose and get good results.

      Have you seen the size of Paul Stamet mycorrhizised onions, he showed them on a video he did with  Daryl Hannah, you can find it writting "daryl hannah and fun guy" into google or youtube i suppose, it is on her web site dhlovelife.  Also have you seen how quickly his mycorrhizised potatoes grew compared with his control potatoe? There is a photo of them in his book.
        Is it possible to suddenly stop using so many lorries and so much energy for transport? I don't think so, but i bet its possible to get cover crops on the land left fallow really quickly, or to better up on overgrazing that leaves land that looks desertified and really needs some fertiliser had lost all the nutrients in the soil and is a big  farming disaster in most of the world. Thats why i favour these farming improvements as a way of stopping global  warming and getting more food into hungry mouths.
   
        Global warming, rather put the slow march of calling for better farming methods on full steam ahead lines. My absolute priority now is to try to change the global warming situation. It seems to me that reaching a less transport type farming is not a measure that could be acheived in a jiffy, though with solar energy, travel that is not polluting  is so very very much nearer than before, maybe even a jiffy away.
      Does not  the country that really gets on with solar energy techniques and wind and such, get a big industry that might earn a lots of money for itself and its people?

      I put my energy into researching and writting though i garden too. I put an awfull lot of time and energy into writting and reading up on these topics. Without the experiments of others what could i read up about? agri rose macaskie.
 
                                  
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jeremiah bailey wrote:
My main concern about industrial farming is that our food supply is basically dependent on the supply of petroleum. I think it doesn't need to be. I'm willing to put forth my own time and energy to further the goal of the supply of produce being independent from oil.


I think your concern is justified... for now.  But I think the danger for the future only exists if current projections hold, and I don't think they will (do they ever?).  When I look into my crystal ball, I see progress along both paths simultaneously -- industrial and non-industrial agriculture.  Science marches on, and as it matures there will be less harm to the environment, not more.  It's the rule for there to be the most danger in the early years of a science only to become more benign at later stages.  Chemicals will be more selective in their effects, they will decompose more readily, and will be less dependent on fossil fuels to produce. 

There will be improved hybrids and farming techniques.  The first mass-produced electric vehicles will be on sale within two years, followed by hydrogen.  Farm machinery is much more easily converted to alternative fuels than are cars because of the limited range and limited variety of operating conditions.  On the other side, improvements in natural farming will put pressure on the industrial sector to improve even more quickly and completely or face increasingly stiff competition.  In fact, the competition will be good for both paths.  As people become greener, as I think they are becoming, their values will be transformed into laws placing even more pressure on industrial agriculture to clean up its act.  It will have to in order to survive and I suspect it will.

My guess is that eventually Farmer Hurst will begin to change as the market changes, and he'll end up borrowing from both paths in order to do so.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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bruc33ef wrote:

...turkeys will stay out in the rain and look up at the sky until they drown.  ...



Snopes says they don't.  Among other reasons: because a turkey looks up by tilting its head to one side, not leaning back with mouth open.

Thanks, Leah, for the link:


http://www.snopes.com/critters/wild/turkey.asp
 
                                  
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polyparadigm wrote:
Snopes says they don't.  Among other reasons: because a turkey looks up by tilting its head to one side, not leaning back with mouth open.


Actually, you took Snopes out of context.  Snopes goes on to say that because they've been bred in captivity for so many generations, today's turkeys are not well equipped to make it on their own and that such turkeys left to fend for themselves might well die in the rain. 

Now you could argue that this problem was caused by the very people who now demean turkeys, fair enough, but the solution of 'wilder' turkeys might mean sacrificing the benefits for the farmer that domestication brings.

Anyway, the point is not how, or even whether, turkeys tilt their heads, but whether they have the ability to survive on their own.
 
Leah Sattler
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this is the thread! I couldn't remember where I saw the "drowning turkeys" mentioned. snopes does point out that domestic turkeys are not well equiped to survive without considerable human intervention but the whole drowning in the rain thing was a bit of a stretch and is one of those things that can prevent people from seeing some of the truths. I know when I see some glaringly obvious mistruth I habitually turn away without reading any more.
 
                                  
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Good point, Leah.  It's possible to get the facts right but the proportionality all wrong.  Does the amount of "dumb" turkeys and cannibalistic pigs justify keeping them all in such restricted conditions?  Very doubtful.
 
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of course not. that is just one of the things that they use to justify it. And because what constitues justification is so subjective we have this debate and the two camps. is there anything that could justify it? hypothetically speaking. for instance I have 3 young goats locked up in a small area. maybe 15' in diameter.  I can't afford a large pen or real fencing around the whole property right now. and they won't respect the hot wire to stay on the acreage. so I go back and forth and back and forth. am I justified in keeping them locked up? they are healthy. if I sell them they most likely will end up in similiar or worse conditions. seems silly to just put down perfectly healthy goats. I can't let them hang on my neighbors porch. so I always come to the conclusion that because of the circumstances this is the best I can do for them. when asked to raise the gazillion hogs, chickens and turkeys that the market demands.....I dunno......sometimes I can see where they are coming from. then of course I get into our addiction to cheap easy food and blame the population........ahhh its never ending.
 
paul wheaton
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I have heard it dozens of times:

"without petroleum based fertilizers, 3/4 of the world's population would starve."

"If all of the agricultural land in the world were converted to strictly organic, it would only feed 1.5 billion people."

What I am saying is that there is heaps of evidence to the contrary.  Fukuoka alone proves it is false. 

Not only does fukuoka produce a quantity of rice per acre that is in the top 10% of productivity, he manages to work a second crop out of the exact same land - thereby producing more food per acre than any farmer using petroleum fertilizers.

When such a bold statement is made, we don't need much to prove it wrong.

Of course, if you compare a petroleum fertilized farm that is managed really well to an organic farm that is managed horribly, then I think the comparison is not chemical vs. organic - it's just an example of a fool with good tools.

 
                                  
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The point is that Fukuoka hasn't proved it.  He got very interesting results but it's very difficult to say what caused them. 

Consider this.  A guy doubles his investment in the stock market every time the market goes down 10%.  As a result, he beats the market averages five years in a row.  Has he proven that his method works?  No.  Historical analysis shows that if he had done that during all five year periods since 1900 his results would have been no better than average. 

Does someone who wins the lottery based on a number he picked from some sequence in nature prove that he's found the answer?  What about all the times he's lost?  What about all the times Fukuoka failed?  If all we do is count our successes, and not our failures, we can all look like geniuses.

Finally, replication.  Linus Pauling, a Nobel Prize winner, documented that he cured the common cold with megadoses of Vitamin C.  Except that no one else who tried it was able to get the same results.  To prove it's true it can't just work in Los Angeles, CA, it has to work in Spearfish, SD, too.  It has to work for any moron as long as he follows the exact instructions.  And it doesn't.  Maybe Fukuoka was a unique genius, maybe there was divine intervention, maybe he was incredibly lucky, maybe he was a liar (I lived in Japan for six years and  I don't believe any statistics that come out of that country.), maybe he was insane, maybe a lot of things.  I don't know.  But just because you get some interesting results for some years and you think it's because of some things you did, it isn't enough to satisfy the requirements of science.
 
paul wheaton
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It is my opinion that fukuoka has proved it. 

For every crop and every part of the world there are different variables to work within. 

Chemical ag had its problem crops early on too.  Shall we count that?

The key is that the statements about how organic techniques cannot be used on a global scale for fear of starving the world is proved to be false. 

Fukuoka has been able to reliably demonstrate that his farm outperforms all (or nearly all) similar farms in his area.  And, it is safe to say, that with minor modifications it can work in more places. 

Rice is a staple grain crop. 

Similar things have been shown with corn - the staple for the US.  Of course, this was not done by fukuoka. 

So, here are the important things I want to reiterate:

1)  I think that the statement that organic methods do not produce as much as chemical methods is a big, steaming pile of horse potatoes.

2)  I think fukuoka's work proves the statement to be false.  In fact, I think fukuoka's work shows higher yields and higher nutrition.

3)  I think that polycultures will raise production even higher.  And nutrition also. 

4)  The only possible hole in my opinion could be around some particular crop, but I cannot think of one crop that would thrive more on chemical techniques over PROPER organic.

5)  Which leads to:  I think there are a lot of people that are heavily trained in chemical techniques that are trying to cash in on the organic stuff and they are trying to simply substitute organic stuff for their chemical ingredients and they are struggling.  I think these folks just don't get it, so, yeah, their efforts are gonna do far worse than the chemical approaches.

 
Joel Hollingsworth
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bruc33ef wrote:

It has to work for any moron as long as he follows the exact instructions. 



As I understand it, Fukuoka's exact instructions cannot, unfortunately, be followed by a moron.

There are skills needed to replicate some of the results in science: there are psychological studies that require some level of acting ability, for example.  No one today can reproduce Lord Kelvin's experiments using his equipment, because he trained for a solid decade, full time, to be the best in the world at reading a thermometer...but with easier-to-read instruments, it's doable.  Many medical studies would require a skilled surgeon to replicate.

As Paul pointed out, the skills an industrial system requires of a farmer are mostly of compliance:  Spray the specified amount at the appointed time.  Fukuoka's methods require skills of engagement.
 
                                  
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The point is that the method must be replicatable -- consistently -- with similar results by disinterested (as in non-self-interested) actors in different locations, at different times.  The claim that water will boil at 212 deg. F. at sea level, etc., can be replicated anywhere by anyone, at any time, of course as long as they can read instructions, pour water and light a match basically.  (I'm sure you know a lot of morons who can do that but who are morons nonetheless, no?)  The claim that anyone -- or any farmer or even any skilled farmer -- will get Fukuoka's results by following his instructions is not supportable, even considering that the task is many levels of magnitude more difficult.  As mentioned earlier, there seems to be a lot of "art" (meaning luck? chance? intuition?) to Fukuoka's results.  And the question is whether that is transferable.  I have my doubts but am open to evidence.  Have some??

Basically, what Paul says to farmers boils down to, "Fukuoka did it so you should be able to also," or "Fukuoka did it, why can't you?"  There are so many problems with that it would take a book.
 
Neal McSpadden
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bruce, the issue with your demand for rigorously replicable field studies of agriculture (Fukuoka, permaculture, organic, conventional, or any other kind) is that it simply is impossible. You'll hear big ag companies say they have some sort of figure for whatever it is they are pushing.  And that may be true in a laboratory-controlled environment.  But it's never strictly true in the field.  I believe you even stated earlier that side-by-side farms often have dramatically different results at any given time.

Now, as to the claim that Fukuoka was able to get 28 bushels of rice per acre per year (if I remember correctly) plus the other inter-crops and extrapolating from that to feed the entire world are two very different things. 

However we do know a few things: 

1, Conventional broad-acre agriculture has a strong tendency to decrease the productivity of a piece of land over time.  I think the latest number I heard was that farms are only viable for 20-30 years on average before the soil is unproductive.

2, Conventional broad-acre agriculture is depleting the aquifers at a very high rate.

3, Intensive, small-scale plots have much higher production rates that any kind of broad-acre agriculture.

4, There are approximately 0.75 acres of currently "arable" land per person in the world right now.

If we take these trends to forward in time, we have no choice but to change away from our current food production systems.  Never mind whether we'll be healthier or not, we're simply going to run out of land and water available to low-efficiency broad-acre agriculture.  In the US, I personally think it will be water first.

So we're going to have to adopt a much higher efficiency system in the future, or we're going to have to have fewer people running around. 

You can say that Fukuoka did or didn't show us a way forward.  I think the more important lesson to take from his work is that there is *a* way forward of some kind.  I think we'll each have to find that way for ourselves given that climate, aspect, water availability, etc etc are highly unique to any particular location. 

But that's what permaculture is all about!
 
paul wheaton
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My thing is fukuoka/holzer/others did it, so it is doable.  As opposed to "If EVERYBODY DID IT, BILLIONS OF PEOPLE WOULD DIE!"

If 3/4 of the world population would die, I would like to see how folks figure that. 

 
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