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When Organics Goes Bad  RSS feed

 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Geoff mentions this farm in his online PDC. Here's how NOT to green a desert. In fact, here's a really good way to MAKE a desert.

 
Celia Revel
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wow, I eat a lot of carrots from Raleys supermarket. Wonder where they are gettting their carrots from. This makes me want to grow my own carrots from rainwater.
 
Alan McGill
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I knew organics could be problematic, but seeing it like this, and with Geoff's clear explanation makes me determined to find better ways to grow my own or buy locally from folks I can talk with about their methods. Damn
 
Andrew Jackman
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So, let's pretend that I inherited land similar to that above, about ten acres. It gets 10" of precipitation per year, half of it snowfall. It's got a net elevation change of about 20 ft per 100 ft. I've been planning on creating swales (3-6 ft tall) at about every 10 ft of elevation change. To build up the topsoil, I plan on seeding a ground cover mix that's advertised as a "dryland pasture" mix for a few years until I get some trees established. As much as I can, I want to encourage vines to grow that require little moisture, preferably fruit-bearing. The idea is to trap as much moisture in the topsoil as possible and then prevent it from evaporating. I am skeptical about being able to keep any surface water, but sepp holzer claims that any climate can maintain surface water.

After a few years, I'm hoping to see a lot more opportunity for planting edible produce, including grapes, fruit trees, grains, and tubers.

Would this be the recommended way to go about this or am I missing something? Thank you.
 
William James
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Celia Revel wrote:wow, I eat a lot of carrots from Raleys supermarket. Wonder where they are gettting their carrots from. This makes me want to grow my own carrots from rainwater.


Yup. Another idea would be to ditch the carrot and grow sweet potato (higher in beta carotene AND vitamin A) and apricots (a perennial plant).

William
 
Tom Rutledge
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Andrew Jackman wrote:So, let's pretend that I inherited land similar to that above, about ten acres. It gets 10" of precipitation per year, half of it snowfall. It's got a net elevation change of about 20 ft per 100 ft. I've been planning on creating swales (3-6 ft tall) at about every 10 ft of elevation change. To build up the topsoil, I plan on seeding a ground cover mix that's advertised as a "dryland pasture" mix for a few years until I get some trees established. As much as I can, I want to encourage vines to grow that require little moisture, preferably fruit-bearing. The idea is to trap as much moisture in the topsoil as possible and then prevent it from evaporating. I am skeptical about being able to keep any surface water, but Sepp Holzer claims that any climate can maintain surface water.

After a few years, I'm hoping to see a lot more opportunity for planting edible produce, including grapes, fruit trees, grains, and tubers.

Would this be the recommended way to go about this or am I missing something? Thank you.



What is the hypothetical end goal for the land? Is it to be an income generating space, a hobby farm, a retirement or vacation home or simply a space to return to mostly zone 5 after rehabilitation?


The distance between swales is important for protecting the areas between them from any winds. Likewise depending on the topography and the prevailing wind directions there could be a fair amount of wind running parallel to the swales which will tend to lessen the protection offered. One solution would be to add some non contour berms or hugleculture between the swales and make them curvy.


When in doubt, Sepp is right. The question of course then becomes how is Sepp right? My guess is that it'll take a lot more catchment area to gather up enough water for surface storage in the dessert. 10 inches on 10 acres is 8.3 acre ft, or 363K ft^3, or 2.7 M gallons. Figure a 1 inch a week losses on a standing pond (swag), by detecting 10% of the water means there is 698 ft^3 loss per week, which seems to work out to a square ( don't do that ) pond about 90 ft on a side, and as deep as you would like.

Well that sure is interesting... It gives me hope for deserts everywhere. Thank you for helping me to walk through that.


A common trick and thing to pay attention to is how the the site land interacts with the land around it. Taking runoff from upslope and redirecting it into the property can help a fair amount. Roadside ditches are good for this but the water needs to be filtered somewhat due to the general ick of cars and roads. One of the standard processes is to map out the catchment that drains into the property. You might get lucky and find out that there is a huge invisible resource of water just waiting to be politely coaxed into a solution.


With the magnitude of project scale and expenses involved I would recommend as a first step getting a small library of Permaculture books, everything sepp holzer has writen, the Permaculture design manual and probably try to get to PV2 if you can. Then read the library. Then take a PDC and try to find permaculture groups in the local area. They'll be able to help out with regional things like what cultavars work better and which equipment operators to use.


This sounds like an awesome project. Good luck with it!... hypothetically.
 
Andrew Jackman
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Thank you very much for taking the time to respond to my post. I've seen a lot of material that says, "Yes! You can!" but this video hit home very well and really made me want to examine the possibility of failure for my own property. Anyway, while I am grateful, I apologize if this was the wrong place to interject with my personal project.

Tom Rutledge wrote:
What is the hypothetical end goal for the land? Is it to be an income generating space, a hobby farm, a retirement or vacation home or simply a space to return to mostly zone 5 after rehabilitation?


My objective is to produce enough food to live on, trading for variety. Right now I'm concerned more about just myself and my wife, but we are at child-bearing age and have extended family to worry about, too.

From what I've read, sorghum and millet can handle harsh climates, but they aren't commonly used in the states as far as I can tell. In Peru, where I've lived off-and-on, those grains are usually referenced as animal feed. I wouldn't mind learning to enjoy sorghum and millet, though, if they're at all tolerable.

Because of my having lived in Peru, I'm also pretty well set on having at least one greenhouse for growing the produce that requires a warmer year-round climate. I've discovered that I can be fairly frugal with water with some of those plants, however, while growing them in my city home in pots/buckets. Capturing and recycling goes a long way.

Also, I would be lying if I said I didn't have a bit of prepper in me. Between seeing what goes on in both Peru and the US, I'm very skeptical about the longevity of the economy or agricultural practices of either.

As for as actual occupancy, I'm trying work out how much I can do with the county building permit process.

Tom Rutledge wrote:
The distance between swales is important for protecting the areas between them from any winds. Likewise depending on the topography and the prevailing wind directions there could be a fair amount of wind running parallel to the swales which will tend to lessen the protection offered. One solution would be to add some non contour berms or hugleculture between the swales and make them curvy.


To clarify, I think what I'm hearing is that low-laying ground cover and trees (as wind-breaks) is not likely to be enough?

Tom Rutledge wrote:
When in doubt, Sepp is right. The question of course then becomes how is Sepp right? My guess is that it'll take a lot more catchment area to gather up enough water for surface storage in the dessert. 10 inches on 10 acres is 8.3 acre ft, or 363K ft^3, or 2.7 M gallons. Figure a 1 inch a week losses on a standing pond (swag), by detecting 10% of the water means there is 698 ft^3 loss per week, which seems to work out to a square ( don't do that ) pond about 90 ft on a side, and as deep as you would like.

Well that sure is interesting... It gives me hope for deserts everywhere. Thank you for helping me to walk through that.

A common trick and thing to pay attention to is how the the site land interacts with the land around it. Taking runoff from upslope and redirecting it into the property can help a fair amount. Roadside ditches are good for this but the water needs to be filtered somewhat due to the general ick of cars and roads. One of the standard processes is to map out the catchment that drains into the property. You might get lucky and find out that there is a huge invisible resource of water just waiting to be politely coaxed into a solution.

With the magnitude of project scale and expenses involved I would recommend as a first step getting a small library of Permaculture books, everything Sepp Holzer has writen, the Permaculture design manual and probably try to get to PV2 if you can. Then read the library. Then take a PDC and try to find permaculture groups in the local area. They'll be able to help out with regional things like what cultavars work better and which equipment operators to use.

This sounds like an awesome project. Good luck with it!... hypothetically.


Thank you! Your insights are valuable, and I wish you success in your own endeavors.
 
Miles Flansburg
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I like seeing the weeds coming into the fields. Mother nature trying to help out .

And it is a shame that any farmer who leaves the fields fallow to bake out all life, is allowed to call themselves organic.
 
Tom Rutledge
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Andrew Jackman wrote:

My objective is to produce enough food to live on, trading for variety. Right now I'm concerned more about just myself and my wife, but we are at child-bearing age and have extended family to worry about, too.

...

As for as actual occupancy, I'm trying work out how much I can do with the county building permit process.



Take a look at the tiny house stuff for a bridge into on site building. http://thetinylife.com/what-is-the-tiny-house-movement/
In many municipalities they don't get dinged by the same rules as doublewides and such. You can also possibly get buy on some technicalities. For example some areas do not require permits for anything under X square ft. In some places that X might be 100 ft^2, in others 200 ft^2. If one is being artistic one can pack a lot into a 200 ft^2 space, especially when lofts, external utility spaces (water heater?), and basements are not counted in the square footage measures.

Make friends with the neighbors, it goes a long way.

Andrew Jackman wrote:
To clarify, I think what I'm hearing is that low-laying ground cover and trees (as wind-breaks) is not likely to be enough?

Thank you! Your insights are valuable, and I wish you success in your own endeavors.



If geoff lawton can green the deserts of the dead sea, then you can do this. "to be Enough?" is a site and expectation specific enough to require someone to go out and look and understand the land to answer that. A solution can be found the questions are all details about costs and timeframes.

You are quite welcome. I'm sure there is a better forum for asking for advice, I just can't seem to locate it right now.
 
allen lumley
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Here is a separate group of Australians with no Relationship to Geoff Lawton that I have heard of who want to use a solar Desalination scheme to
''Water the Deserts'' Their goal is to solve ALL problems with solar

- From a power loss at every step of the process I think this will prove to be less likely of success that the Solar Roadway !

See link below :


http://cleantechnica.com/2014/12/05/can-solar-thermal-desalination-make-sustainable-agriculture-possible/?utm_source=Cleantechnica+News&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=7f3c3816fb-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_term=0_b9b83ee7eb-7f3c3816fb-188996529

For the good of the Craft ! Big AL
 
Jerry McIntire
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William James wrote: Yup. Another idea would be to ditch the carrot and grow sweet potato (higher in beta carotene AND vitamin A) and apricots (a perennial plant).


Do you eat sweet potatoes raw? I haven't. That seems to be an advantage for carrots.

Jerry
 
William James
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Jerry McIntire wrote:
Do you eat sweet potatoes raw? I haven't. That seems to be an advantage for carrots.


Yeah, raw carrots taste great, and you can grow them yourself. You might even be able to make a polyculture of carrots and sweet potatoes, so they both win.

Hot off the press:
http://www.jesselanewellness.com/recipes/raw-sweet-potato-salad/

"Raw Sweet Potato Salad with Curry Almond Sauce is a unique and refreshing salad that ..."
William
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Paul said he especially liked this video, what was it that had magic for you Paul or others?

I liked the one where he showed a desert that had been rehabilitated to fertile soil just by proper swaling and zero maintenance, then neglected for 80 years. I think it'll come up as a link off the video in this thread.
 
Sam Boisseau
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Geoff had talked about this topic in his online PDC, and I am glad he is putting it in a video that is accessible to the general public. I remember there was some demand for him to share this.


The reason I like this video is that this is an important subject to me. It took me many years to realize that I should be eating organic. Then it took me months or maybe a couple years to pierce through that "organic" label and understand I needed to go deeper.


It is a bit upsetting to see people blindly trust labels such as organic, free range; when it's all a bit of a lie.


So having a well put video out there to share is a very nice result. Not much magic, unfortunately, other than Geoff's magic in putting everything together.
 
William James
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Sam Boisseau wrote:


So having a well put video out there to share is a very nice result. Not much magic, unfortunately, other than Geoff's magic in putting everything together.


It seems like this video is just one that offers a kind of challenge to people who thing organic is the shizz. Then it's like, if you want something better, take a look at my other videos and take a look at permaculture.
William
 
Heidi Hoff
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When organic farms were starting out, a lot of them were small scale. But premium prices for organic produce persuaded industrial farmers (read: large corporations) to adopt "organic methods" just to be able to slap the organic label on their products. I think a lot of us have been buying organic (and free-range and nest-laid) in grocery stores not just for our health, but to try to encourage better farming practices. And we have been learning that the only way to really be sure what practices are actually being used is to know the farmer, to visit the farm, to see how the crops are grown and how the animals are raised. That means buying local.

The unfortunate side effect of the local food movement is that good farmers in remote rural areas do not have a local population to feed. They are obliged to ship their products elsewhere. How can they convince folks like us that their products really are "beyond organic"? Or are products that are shipped over 100 km, by definition, not "beyond organic"? Are they, by definition, not sustainable? Is moving populations out of the cities and into the rural landscape, back to the villages that are now virtual ghost towns, the only way to have a truly sustainable food supply?

These are two sides of the same coin: city dwellers who cannot trust their food supply and rural farmers who are too far from their markets. Darren Doherty and his Regrarians seem to be offering some ideas on how to resolve that apparent dilemma.

 
William James
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Heidi,
I think the problem lies in distribution practices. I remember one of Paul's podcasts saying that large corporations probably have better distribution and probably make a more efficient use of fossil fuels than your average farmers market seller. He stressed that there are lots of great reasons to buy from a local farmer's market, but lowering fuel consumption is not one of them.

That being said, I'm thinking some things.
1. There could be a distribution pattern that uses 1 truck to pick up multiple 'local' farm products and makes them available within the city, even making the return trip with a loaded truck.
2. More people have to get into agriculture in Peri-Urban spaces. I live 30 minutes by car from a major city. In 2.5 hours, I theoretically could walk a product into the city center. There are corridors for animal and human transport that can connect the urban area to the peri-urban area where food can be grown on a larger scale.
3, Suburbs are a huge opportunity to get people to be growing a lot of their food on site and are amazingly under-utilized. The space is there, the desire to use it is not.
4. There could be buying clubs from the city that connect with a group of farmers (like a HMO) for all their food needs (grains, fruit, vegetables, dairy, meat, nuts, etc) and then organize a sustainable pattern of delivery. It's not impossible. The consumers have to take more of a role in their food acquisition, but it is possible.

William
 
Ken Peavey
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I've been a strong supporter of organic growing in the past, and I still am. Organic growing is a gateway to permaculture, but the grower has to make the effort to keep on going to get past the organic method, otherwise it's essentially the same situation as Green Revolution Agriculture, but without the synthetics.

I could do a monocrop in the back field. I'd probably make some money, and I've been tempted. A field of just carrots or just potatoes would be mind numbing to me. I can stand a couple hundred potatoes. Several thousand, one after another after another, would quickly become drudgery. It becomes assembly line work. Plug in the seed, turn on the pumps, repeat. This is not the homesteading lifestyle I dream of, and who would want to come out to the farm if all I had to offer was a field of carrots and a shiny well pump. There's no interaction, no enjoyment, no diversity, nothing to lift the spirit. You've got one thing to look forward to: the carrot harvest, along with the carrot packing, carrot loading, and the truck turning onto the road. The operation in the video requires no skill and very little understanding. All one needs to do is read the directions and delegate tasks to the hired help. So simple a caveman could do it? How about: so simple a robot could do it.

This is not agriculture, it is not organic growing. It is a bastardization of an idea for maximized profit on an industrial scale in order to take advantage of a marketing strategy. Every problem seen in this field is a result of applying organic principles to an industrial model. The more important issues of natural growing are ignored in favor of a proven commercial process which is in conflict with the nature of these issues. I've got nothing against carrots, can't make a decent pot roast without em. But growing carrots like this flies in the face of stewarding the environment and does nothing whatsoever to improve quality of life for the people involved, other than the guy who signs the paychecks, and I question his ability to sustain his business.

Organic growing is only a start. It's Natural Growing 101. To get it right you have to move to the next level.

Irrigation
Yeah, you can hook up the pumps and turn them on. It's easy, cost effective, and can be done by anyone who knows his way around a pipe wrench. Of course, the soil will end up salinated and the well will run dry as it does on GRA crops which are constantly irrigated. When the Mad Hatter ran out of tea and cakes he would simply move on to the next seat. I suspect this will be the solution sought for the grower in the video. Solving that problem ahead of time can be done by reducing the demand for water to a level which nature will provide. Deep mulch, high levels of organic matter in the soil, rich hummus, and hugelkulture are all well developed ideas that have proven their effectiveness and are cheaper in the long run.

Ground Cover
Geoff Lawton walks through a field beside the carrots. It's totally exposed to the sun and blows away with every step he takes. There goes all the work put into that soil. But the grower is not concerned about the soil, just the product. Cover that soil, the work and investment would be around to keep giving back. One more step, adding a cover of leaves, grass clippings, old hay, wood chips, or whatever is handy would preserve that soil.

Monocrops
This means monorisk. Bring one pest, one virus, one bad weather pattern and all is lost. Putting all your eggs in one basket is kinda dumb if you ask me. That's no way to run a business, but that's none of my business.

Migrant Workers
The grower of the monocrop is the reason they migrate. They have nothing because they spend what little they make on temporary lodging, travel, and living out of a trunk. Diversify the crop, stagger plantings, bring something to harvest regularly rather than all at once. Regular work means people can put down roots. Being around for the entire year, the people would be able to develop skills. They'll become members of the community. They'll be regular customers, no need for distribution. Their lives will improve. They'll be better people and it will show in their work. Is that too much to ask?

Organic is a start, but buy itself is an incomplete method. If you want to keep it going, you need more. Nature is complex. It all works together. Cutting it down to the basics loses the essence of that complexity and the ability of the land to sustain the crops, fertility, nutrition, people and community. In a small backyard setting organic growing will get you by because the ecosystem has not been disrupted to any significant degree. When a vast field is laid waste to support a monoculture, natural systems break down. Bad bugs are not kept in check by good bugs. Water runs off, taking soil with it. Disease has a population sufficient for an epidemic to ravage the entire field. Bare land is assaulted by the sun, wind, and rain. And the people are reduced to the value of the commodity being harvested. When the work is done, they get loaded up on a truck just like the carrots.

The grower of the crop in the video will probably be able to keep up that operation for a while. Only when his crops begin to fail will the flaws in organic growing present. When enough of these operations fail, only then will solutions be sought for problems they didn't need to be hit with in the first place.


 
John Polk
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I don't look at it as "Organics going bad."
I look at it as "Farmer going bad."

Once that aquafier goes dry, that land won't support tumble weeds.

 
John Saltveit
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Like Ken was saying, it's the whole thing. Apricots are much easier to grow in the desert than raspberries or carrots for that matter. Grow what nature tells you to grow. Use the practices that people have learned from nature, the greatest teacher. Jujubes and sea berries should grow very well. Once you have established lots of diverse growing plants, your soil will improve due to leaf fall, mycorrhizal fungi and root exudates. Covering the soil will keep the moisture in, and as we've seen from Lawton and others, can change the amount of rainfall. Cactus, peaches, quince, and autumn olive.
John S
PDX OR
 
William James
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Perhaps a different take on what has already been said, but here it goes:

Carrots are a profit magnet. Everybody eats carrots. Even kids eat carrots.

Quince, cactus, autumn olive, sea berries, jujubes - not so much. Peach and maybe jujubes ok.

Obviously it's putting profit before nature, and profit before what is sustainable in the long term. "But it's carrots! They can make you a huge profit now!" they would say. And they would tell you you'd be stupid to plant anything else. And maybe for a few moments you'd feel stupid, or that what they said has merit. Maybe you've never even been to agriculture school where they teach you how to not plant "stupid" crops.

The other thing is that the producer probably is not "tied" to that land in any real way. He or she could grow carrots anywhere, so why there? Is the profit margin that much better because you're growing where land and water is cheap?

William
 
Darin Colville
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I guess I should say that I agree whole heartedly that Permaculture is the only way to live sustainably anywhere you don't have reliable rain and quality low erosion soils.Thanks for trying to scale it up.
 
Sue Usher
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Very interesting. Organic food is becoming a big talking point lately, especially with the healthy eating trend growing and growing.
 
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