Just wondering if you guys know of any organic based farms that have been in long term operation (at least 100+ years, though preferably even 2000+) and how they close the loop of loss of minerals / nutrient? What, if anything, do these farms have to bring in to their system in order to remain viable? Seems to me that as long as we have as our market an external system that takes elements / nutrients, mixes them with copious chemicals and medications, and "treats" it before dumping it out god knows where, then all farming in the end is very similar to mining. One uses machines, the other uses plants, but in the end the outputs of both are carelessly thrown away. Cheers.
There are many areas of the world (often labeled 'backwards', by people who are actually the 'backward' ones) where farms have been in the same family for many generations. Regions of Soviet Georgia, Albania, Montenegro, and many others on most continents.
These areas are usually remote rural areas where families are too poor to buy fertilizers, tractors, and other modern commodities (like electricity). If you don't have a spring/stream or (hand pumped) well, you cannot survive. By default, their crops are organic - actually, "beyond organic".
Their vodka is made from their home grown potatoes. Their cigars are from their tobacco. Momma makes a fresh batch of yogurt each day. The home beverage (besides water) would be a tea from the garden...a cup of coffee would be a luxury to indulge in on their trip to town. If they want to buy a beer or wine, they need to take their own bottle to town to have it filled.
Their land does not get depleted because they are trying to sustain their families, not 'feed the world'. Whatever they need is either grown on their farm, or traded with a neighbor. By necessity, each farm is a polyculture.
Once we step out of the 'modern world', there are thousands of such farms.
It is the 'modern world' where we have learned to do it 'backwards'.
I guess my main question or thinking behind this is the fact that cities tend to operate as black holes for biological material, from which nothing really returns without some level of contamination. And when you hear about things such as a possible long term scarcity of phosphorus and other minerals / nutrients used for farming, one has to wonder about the long term viability of such a system and whether permacultureshould indeed even look at feeding such a system.