Fields Without Fences

oaks,mint,elderberry

I love my friend Minca. Now that we’re no longer college classmates, we cherish the rare opportunities to spend time with one another. A little over a year ago she happened to be in New Jersey and I insisted that she and I visit one of my favorite farms of all time, Fields Without Fences (FwF). The farm was started by Lindsay and Johann Rinkens in 2012 with the intention to develop an ecologically appropriate land management strategy for growing certified organic food and medicine. The farm’s story is much more involved, but that day I learned about a new development: 2014 would be the first year with paid apprentices. That’s all I needed to know. I was in.

My body, mind, and emotions were tested this summer in ways that I didn’t originally anticipate. My body is no worse for wear, but a summer of farm work, along with hiking, biking, and swimming around the Delaware river, has definitely tuned me up (thanks to stretching and chiropractors for mechanical help). There’s something I love about the feeling at the end of a productive day outdoors. My body loves to do what it evolved to: walk, bend, pick, pull, plant, scrape, shape, peel, pluck, dig, rake, make, and mark. This is the third full summer I’ve spent working on a farm and, though at times I’d like to deny it, it makes me really happy. Working in and with the elements undeniably agrees with my heart and bones. And farm work, strenuous and stressful as it may sometimes be, connects me with my ancestors—to my great grandparents who immigrated with family from Austria to farm in Minnesota and Nebraska five generations ago. Working on the farm is my heritage. And I’m glad I inherited their work ethic.
James&Katie in FieldLindsay and Johann have tremendous work ethics, and I appreciate how they turn tedious labor into strength-training exercises. Their attention to detail and proper technique made repetitive tasks multi-functional—weeding, seeding, transplanting and harvesting with good posture, sensitivity and body-awareness also increased our efficiency, making work as effortless as possible while building balanced body strength. That’s permaculture! I mean, it’s one thing to say all that, and another to actually do it. Especially on a farm where dozens of different species of herbs are sharing bed-space with fruiting ground-covers, berry bushes, fruit and nut tree saplings…not to mention the volunteers. Physically performing at a high level at a farm like theirs requires an equally high level of mental effort.

The mental edge I gained working for Lindsay and Johann is a reflection of the mental level at which they work, as well as the complexity of the polyculture systems that they’re establishing. As a farm that seeks to mimic the ecological architecture of regional native plant communities, they’re ahead of the curve. Being ahead of the curve also means not relying upon experts to tell you what to do, and relying heavily upon your own observations to make adjustments as the systems grow. As the season progressed Johann and Lindsay challenged us to start thinking and acting more like managers. They challengsoutheastfield_0728ed us to take responsibility for our learning curves and move beyond the introductory hand-holding. It wasn’t until they brought this up that I realized how much easier it was to just follow instructions and do what I was told. They challenged us to increase our productivity and make more of the “little” decisions for ourselves. Up to this point I had thought I was working hard. I thought I was slowly starting to get a feel for the systems dynamics. But midway through the season it was clear that I wasn’t challenging myself enough. That was a spicy pill to swallow; it’s always more fun to get a pat on the back than a kick in the ass. That’s when I learned what Field’s Without Fences is really about: The fields are our minds, and the fences are all the self-imposed limitations we put on what we believe is possible and what we think we’re capable of. The fences are all the excuses we make up to hide our true genius. We fence-in our creativity, and fence-out our power of will. I guess I thought I was just keeping the deer from eating my vegetables. But I had to face the reality of the situation. I needed to take the challenge personally and accept responsibility for my full capacities. That’s the mental edge that Lindsay and Johann put to work. I’m still working on it.

Now that the 2014 season has come and gone I can say, without a doubt, that living and working at FwF has permanently altered my outlook and ambitions. I like to rationalize my work as a farmer and analyze it’s impact on civilization and the biosphere. But I’ve come to learn that my propensity for abstraction is not as meaningful to me as what I actually do. As much as I love the mental stimulation of ecological and philosophical concepts, this season on the farm has strengthened my emotional bond with the ecosystems that I am a part of. Living and working at FwF helped me see the necessity of being in relationship with the ecosystems on and beyond the farm. And that requires commitment (gasp). My life is moved by thoughts and emotions, and my inner landscape is mostly comprised of feelings. Lately I’ve been asking myself, “How do I want my life to feel?” A big part of the feeling that I want in my life comes from being in relationship with the biosphere and it’s ecosystems. As a producer, I am reliant upon the web of relationships that make plants and animals healthy. So I must be in tune with the reality of life on the ground, which is work. Committing to working with the land in some way, shape, or form requires me to exercise will-power to do something….And stick with it! There’s no way out of it. Accepting that challenge makes me a field with fewer fences. I want my life to feel un-fenced . As I commit to farming, I commit to being un-fenced.

North field at the end of the summer, prepped for cover crop and tree plantings

The Art of Composting

Wooden Road In Forest
“Everything is a process, even the [farmer].”

– Michael Phillips

Maximizing the soil food web for your farm and garden ecosystems is not only possible, but inevitable. As topsoil continues to be depleted and lost at record rates worldwide, farmers are feeling the pressure to adopt new strategies for ensuring the long-term productivity of the land. The agricultural community at large is becoming more aware of the ways in which plants depend on healthy soil, and the soil food web is coming into the spotlight. Those who treat the soil as a living ecosystem are experiencing breakthrough success, as their farms demonstrate more resilience to droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events. Farmers and gardeners who treat their soils as a living ecosystem are tasting the results; more vibrant, nutritious, and abundant yields than ever before. And the ecosystem of beneficial insects and pollinators are coming back with authority. (citations)

An increasing number of farmers, gardeners and scientists alike are adopting this new paradigm of “living soil.” It’s not like adopting a child or even a family. When you adopt the living soil paradigm you adopt an entire community; in reality, this shift in understanding is an acknowledgment of an entirely new world. It is changing people’s entire relationship with the process of farming, gardening, and scientific study. The time has come to reform our notions of superiority in the web of life. Nature is not an inanimate resource bank awaiting our plunder. It is an ever-evolving dance of mutuality, collaboration, and adaptation. Time has come to see ourselves as part of this dance, not separate from it. Our roles as participants are many. The integrity and health of the niches that we occupy are largely the result of our attitudes and approaches to management.

Thus, the art of composting has as much to do with your approach as it does your execution. When you approach composting (and farming as a whole) with a sense of reverence and respect, your relationship with the process changes. If you can let go of the assumption that you’re the only intelligent life form on your farm, you can access an even greater ability —a greater sensitivity— to the process. The art of composting is the art of transformation, the art of succession and evolution. If you’re willing, you can begin to tune yourself to that process and become sensitive to the relationships between plants and the living soil. If you’re bold, you might even begin to treat your soil and plants as legitimate business partners and listen to their ideas about how the farm should be.

“Organic gardening is complex and simple, a blend of good science, fact, experience, intuition, experiments, play, speculation.” -Robert Kourik

Please remember that the science of compost, the science of the soil food web, is all metaphor. Cation exchange capacity, the nutrient cycle, carbon to nitrogen ratios – are all metaphors. The reality of the soil food web is something beyond our ability to express in words, which is why plants don’t grow in books. All the information up to this point in the paper, especially in Part 1, has been expressed in linear terms. Nature is not linear; nature is non-linear. The intelligence in the soil food web goes beyond our maps and diagrams, and cannot be explained by our facts and figures. The reality of life (and composting, farming) is not easily predictable. And this is the difference between living soil and dead soil, between an ever-depleted soil from which we extract life, and a regenerative soil that is teeming and overflowing with life. The paradigm of living soil acknowledges the vital interconnectedness between microbes and plants, air and water, sun and people. What we do to the web we do to ourselves, the earth is not a machine. And even the tiniest changes in one place can change everything in ways we wouldn’t expect. Living systems cannot be reduced to their component parts; the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is already well-established. This is the glory of natural law; this is the genius of creative intelligence. We are meant to live in abundance, but we need to drop our arrogance and learn how to listen again.

“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.”
― Masanobu Fukuoka

I understand that if you’re committed enough to have sought out the information in this paper, you probably already consider yourself a natural farmer or gardener. Let this be an appeal not to reason but to intuition. As you take the information, the compost pile recipes, materials lists and instructions, and prepare to apply it to your current operations, do your best to carry yourself more as a midwife than a chef. Realize that with every compost pile you make you’re giving birth to an entire community of new life forms, and your farm will be a stronger community because of it. Like any good community organizer (which you are), you’ll need patience, compassion and understanding, as you already know. Engage in the process of growing more abundant and healthy plants so that you might become more healthy and abundant in spirit. Farm so that you might create more harmony on earth. Your job is not easy and you know it, and it never ends

Exerpt, taken from the full paper: The Art and Science of Compost: Maximizing the Soil Food Web For Your Farm and Garden Ecosystems

The “Soil Food Web” Paradigm

Healthy soil is built and maintained by a universe of soil organisms. These organisms make up the soil food web and are the key to unlocking fertility in the soil. The soil food web forms the basis of a healthy farm ecosystem. Without them, farmers and gardeners are required to do the extra work of fertilization, pest/weed and disease control. It doesn’t need to be this way. Healthy soil and healthy plants can happen without our endless toil. But this all hinges on a sound understanding of “soil food web science.” Over time, healthy communities of life underground have been devastated as a result of annual tilling, compacted soil, mismanagement of organic matter, and relentless applications of chemical fertilizers and pesticides/herbicides/fungicides. Various farming practices such as no-till, cover cropping, and chemical-free organic farming are all effective ways to support the soil food web. Gardeners and landscapers can utilize similar strategies to promote the vitalizing force of the critters below. However, nothing has been demonstrated to be more effective and important than compost for establishing the vital, regenerative and chemical-free growing power of the soil food web.

From: USDA's "Soil Biology Primer"

From: USDA’s “Soil Biology Primer”

“Viewing the soil as a regenerative living system is one big kick in the pants for anyone who has been taught that NPK fertilization is more relevant than soil biology.” 
-Michael Phillips

“Soil food web” science includes the following components: Sun, water, air, plants and their roots, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, micro and macro-arthropods, earthworms etc, humus (decomposed organic matter) and the mineral components of soil – sand, silt, and clay, as well as humans and their management decisions. The web starts with and is governed by plants, who use the energy of the sun to make carbon chains (photosynthesis); much of these carbon compounds are used as root exudates to attract and develop beneficial microbial communities in and around their root system. Exudates are simple sugars, proteins, and carbohydrates released by plant roots to feed and stimulate populations of beneficial microorganism. They do not feed pathogens. (Lowenfels and Lewis 23-24). Understand that the energy going into roots is not only used to build root structure for stability and fertility; in general, about half of a plant’s energy that goes into its roots is released as exudates (Kourik 10). Why do they do this? Because the energy they give away comes back to them many times over.

The strange reality is that while humans garden plants, plants garden microorganisms. They do this because of the crucial role microbes play in the nutrient cycle. Whereas humans are fed by plants, plants are fed by microorganisms. Microbiologists have found that the number of microorganisms in the rhizosphere – a zone immediately around the roots, extending out about a couple of millimeters – is far greater than in the surrounding soil (Ingham, “Living Soil” 2011). What’s more, studies on foliar dynamics have revealed that living leaves produce exudates through their phyllosphere that attract microbes just as roots do through the rhizosphere (Lowenfels and Lewis 25). All this “life” competes for the exudates in the rhizosphere and phyllosphere. At first glance it would seem like the microbes are the ones being fed, but if you look a little deeper things get much more interesting.

“Soil organic matter is the storehouse for the energy and nutrients used by plants and other organisms. Bacteria, fungi, and other soil dwellers transform and release nutrients from organic matter.”
-Dr. Elaine Ingham

Soil life creates soil structure and produces soil nutrients. The activities of its members bind soil particles together into microaggregates as they create air and water pores. The chemical and biological activity in the thin layer of moisture around aggregates convert nutrients into soluble forms that roots can absorb via ion exchange. Unlike applications of fertilizer, soil nutrients in living soil releases slowly over time; they are available when plants need them. As compost, mulch and other organic matter is added to the soil, their nutrients become immobilized in dead bodies and subsequently mineralized (made available to plants) through digestion or decay. The proximity of microbial action in the rhizosphere is what makes mineralized nutrients far more bioavailable than soluble fertilizer forms.

“There must always be a perfect balance between the process of growth and decay. The consequences of this condition are a living soil, abundant crops of good quality, and livestock which possess the bloom of good health”
– Sir Albert Howard

An increasing number of farmers, gardeners and scientists alike are adopting this new paradigm of “living soil.” It’s not like adopting a child or even a family. When you adopt the living soil paradigm you adopt an entire community; in reality, this shift in understanding is an acknowledgment of an entirely new world. It is changing people’s entire relationship with the process of farming, gardening, and scientific study. The time has come to reform our notions of superiority in the web of life. Nature is not an inanimate resource bank awaiting our plunder. It is an ever-evolving dance of mutuality, collaboration, and adaptation. Time has come to see ourselves as part of this dance, not separate from it. Our roles as participants are many. The integrity and health of the niches that we occupy are largely the result of our attitudes and approaches to management.

Citations

“So God Made a Farmer…”

This almost feels like the distant past now, but in the late winter this ad ran as a super bowl commercial. I didn’t actually see it on tv, but when I came upon the commercial on a timemagazine.com web page recapping the best and worst super bowl commercials I watched it, and couldn’t help making a comment on the web page below the video. I knew my comment would most likely stir an adverse reactionary comment, and I was right. Below are a series of comments between myself and an anonymous person, who provided me the opportunity to seek out some valid citations for my point of view. The thread didn’t attract any other commentators, and after my last reply (shown below) there were no further comments by anyone. I decided to put it up on my blog for future reference and to document the conversation. Here is the commercial that started the comments:

JamesSchleppenbach Feb 4, 2013

I live in Rural Iowa. The people in these commercials are my neighbors. They love their families, they work hard, their jobs are thankless. Meanwhile, multinational corporations feed them seeds that are poisoning animals and people, chemicals that poison the water, and plows that send the fertile topsoils into the rivers that end up in the Gulf of Mexico, killing and disrupting ecosystems of the Delta. I love this country. And I am a revolutionary. My revolution is for regenerative agriculture practices that support the growth of soil fertility rather than chemical companies, and the ability to save seed rather than risk patent infringement from the company that owns my seeds. Thank you Dodge for this beautiful ad, which highlights and celebrates real people doing work that has built one of the greatest countries of all time. Yet the ad is sadly ironic because it highlights how ignorant we are of the full-range impact our modern industrial systems have on the health of individuals, families, communities, ecosystems, etc. etc. etc. I understand this conversation is complex, and there are many truths on both sides. So here I make the first comment. This is me: https://jaschlepp.wordpress.com/  This is where I go to school: http://sustainableliving.mum.edu/
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jrobs585 Feb 5, 2013

@JamesSchleppenbach: Who here is ignorant?  Because science says its you.
http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4166
When you have any actual proof or scientific finding to back your claims, maybe I (and other farmers) will listen to you.  Until then, I’ll stick with real science.
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JamesSchleppenbach Feb 5, 2013

@jrobs585@JamesSchleppenbach: Woah, well I’m not gonna take your condescension personally. And you clearly have not done thorough research on this subject. It took me less than 10 minutes to find these:
This article describes a United Nations report based on studies in East Africa that conclude Organic Farming is the recommended way for long-term food security and environmental sustainability:


http://www.rodale.com/organic-farming-and-food-security?siteID=TnL5HPStwNw-4xQBgBc7DKp8Og0fNQ24Pg

“The evidence presented in this study supports the argument that organic agriculture can be more conducive to food security in Africa than most conventional production systems, and that it is more likely to be sustainable in the long term,” write Supachai Panitchpakdi, secretary-general of UNCTAD, and Achim Steiner, executive director of UNEP. “The great technological progress in the past half century has not led to major reductions in hunger and poverty in developing countries.”

Study: Long-term effects of organic and conventional farming on soil erosion
http: //www.nature.com/nature/journal/v330/n6146/abs/330370a0.html
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JamesSchleppenbach Feb 5, 2013

@jrobs585@JamesSchleppenbachAnd have you not taken the time to watch “Food, Inc.”? Because regardless of the scientific debate, do you really think our current dominant food system is good for people and the planet?
http://www.takepart.com/foodinc/film
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jrobs585 Feb 6, 2013

@JamesSchleppenbach@jrobs585: Forgive me for not trusting something from rodale.com as truly scientific.  Can you find me the actual peer-reviewed study, rather than a pro-organic site’s interpretation of the study?  I’d honestly like to read it. If organic farming can bring higher yields, why do they consistently bring in such lower yields in developed countries?  You’d think it’d be easier in a developed country.  Could it be that they’re comparing the ‘higher organic yield’ to the undeveloped country’s original poorly-managed low-yield techniques?

I do appreciate the nature article (though i could only read the abstract), you now have me thinking that soil erosion may be a problem we ought to look into.  But by ‘look into’ I mean do more peer-reviewed studies… Plows have been used for thousands and thousands of years, so I kind of doubt the urgency.  Why haven’t older countries plowed their way down to the bedrock yet?

And no thank you, on Food Inc… I don’t need Hollywood’s “informed” opinion on anything, really.  Give me more peer-reviewed journals, can’t get enough of those.

I get the feeling that you didn’t read my link (or chose not to address any of it) so I doubt you’ll actually look into any of these.  But they are there, peer-reviewed arguments against the claimed benefits of organic food and organic agriculture, for anyone to read.
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http://xa.yimg.com/kq/groups/18208928/1586534823/name/Does+organic+farming+reduce+environmental+impacts%3F+e+A+meta-analysis+of+European+research.pdf
Avery, Alex. The Truth About Organic Foods. St. Louis: Henderson Communications, L.L.C.; 1ST edition (2006), 2006.
Dangour, A., Aikenhead, A., Hayter, A., Allen, E., Lock, K., Uauy, R. “Comparison of Putative Health Effects of Oragnically and Conventionally Produced Foodstuffs: A Systematic Review.” Food Standards Agency. Food Standards Agency, 29 Jul. 2009. Web. 12 Jan. 2010. <http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/organicreviewreport.pdf>
Hughner, R.S., McDonagh, P., Prothero, A., Schultz II, C.J., Stanton, J. “Who are organic food consumers? A compilation and review of why people purchase organic food.” Journal of Consumer Behavior. 21 May 2007, Volume 6 Issue 2-3: 94-110.
Kristensen, M., Østergaard, L.F., Halekoh, U., Jørgensen, H., Lauridsen, C., Brandt, K., Bu¨gel, S. “Effect of plant cultivation methods on content of major and trace elements in foodstuffs and retention in rats.” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. 1 Sep. 2008, volume 88, Number 12: 2161-2172.
MacKerron D.K.L. et al. “Organic farming: science and belief.” Individual articles from the 1998/99 Report. Scottish Crop Research Institute, 1 Dec. 1999. Web. 22 Jan. 2010. <http://www.scri.ac.uk/scri/file/individualreports/1999/06ORGFAR.PDF>
Mondelaers K., Aertsens J., Van Huylenbroeck G. “A meta-analysis of the differences in environmental impacts between organic and conventional farming.” British Food Journal. 1 Nov. 2009, 111, 10: 1098-1119.
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jrobs585 Feb 6, 2013

@JamesSchleppenbach: We (American farmers) are just sick of being chastised by organiacs like yourself that think that Food Inc is a form of scientific evidence, yet have no real scientific backing for most of your claims, yet you pretend to have our interests at heart.

Don’t think for a minute that any well-managed food company has not already been on the organic bandwagon since it started rolling.  Nearly 100% of organic food in supermarkets comes from a producer owned by one of the major food companies that also sells regular food.   It’s an ironic little secret that the very same corporate food producers taking our money to sell us organic foods are the same ones spending it on the ad agencies to stoke the anticorporate message that drives them.
If you prefer organic foods, that’s fine.  Nobody is campaigning to eliminate organic food, because it doesn’t hurt anybody.  But your money (and more of it) is going to the same companies, regardless of whether you buy organic or not.

If you believe in science, there are no health benefits to eating organic.
You don’t need to believe in science to see that organic agriculture is way less cost-efficient than traditional agriculture.

And if you believe in science, the environmental impact of organic ag is unproven and likely negligible.
If you don’t believe in science, but some transcendental earth life-force stuff, that’s fine too.  But when you’re making extraordinary claims about how society needs to make sweeping changes, you need some very serious backing from the scientific community.  You guys simply don’t have that.
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JamesSchleppenbach Feb 12, 2013

@jrobs585@JamesSchleppenbach
: I’m currently enrolled full time in school and have a job so its taken me a little time to get through the links you posted. I agree about “big organic” industry being essentially just another arm of the big ag industry. Thats why I’d rather buy a vegetable grown locally and sold at the farmers market than by an organic veggie grown in California and trucked to Iowa.
I also agree that its not a good feeling being chastised. Chastising is hardly a productive form of communication, and I’d rather be friends with my neighbors, even if they’re living a lifestyle that I don’t choose. I see the links to the studies and I know the hundreds of millions in scientific research over the years has produced lots of sound science. I also think the smaller pool of available research regarding organic and regenerative (beyond “organic”) practices are reflective of the need for more research funding. I also see in the first link you posted, the author says about the organic industry: “The people promoting it generally have questionable scientific credentials, and they support their claim primarily by pointing out flaws in the norm. These are all characteristic of pseudoscience.” I agree that most people don’t distinguish between science and pseudo science. I agree that marketing in the organic industry plays on people’s fears as much as the news media does about politics and world events.
Also, from the article you posted: “We should choose farming methods that truly address our real concerns — safety and sustainability — not simply methods that satisfy an arbitrary marketing label.” I’m all about it. And I understand that where we go from here is dependent on our different paradigms.You think 1000acre corn and soybean fields, tilled and plowed every year, genetically modified, sprayed with chemicals is just fine, and is good for you and the earth. I don’t. I don’t think we need sweeping changes, I think we need responsible ones. Sweeping changes create instability. This is my last comment on this thread just because I have too much homework to give this the attention it deserves. 

Finally, for you to keep insisting that the science is so one-sided shows me your focus on “organic vs conventional” has given you paradigm blindness. My point has more to do with rethinking and reconsidering the entire notion of annual agriculture. I’m saying we need to consider mimicking forest ecology to create polyculture systems based on perennial plants. This would be a long-term, gradual shift. See Mark Shepard’s work. This is one of the main reasons:

Professor of Soil Science at Ohio State University Dr. Rattan Lal has calculated that 476 Gigatons (Gt) of carbon have been emitted from farmland soils due to inappropriate farming and grazing practices (Christine Jones, PhD, http://www.amazingcarbon.com). In contrast, 270 Gt have been emitted over the past 150 years of fossil fuel burning (Jones, http://www.amazingcarbon.com).

In their study, “Carbon Sequestration Potential Estimates with Changes in Land Use and Tillage Practices in Ohio, USA,” Zhengxi Tan and Rattan Lal explain that the conversion of natural ecosystems to those managed agriculturally can reduce the soil organic carbon pool by up to 50% in the top 20 cm of the soil and 25-30% in the top 100 cm depth after 30-50 years of cultivation (Tan, Lal, 2005).

It makes sense that more carbon comes out of the soil being tilled than the carbon released making and running the engine tilling it. For, fossil fuels are mostly buried and compressed landscapes of once living organisms. These fossil organisms are no different from the organisms in our soil still. Destroyed, they release the same kind of carbon that was put there by the same photosynthesis.

All exposed soil will lose this soil-organic-carbon. Inappropriate tillage expands the process exponentially. Today we have realized that inappropriate agriculture has successfully released the carbon of a 30 foot thick organism that once covered the entire Midwest, the topsoil and root system of the tall-grass prairies. Bare soil is potentially a more feasible culprit for global warming than even electricity.
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JamesSchleppenbach Feb 12, 2013

@jrobs585@JamesSchleppenbach: Published in “Science” Journal – published by American Association for the Advancement of Science, full pdf on Google Scholar: “David Pimentel”, et al “Environmental and economic costs of soil erosion and conservation benefits”

Abstract:
Soil erosion is a major environmental threat to the sustainability and productive capacity of agriculture. During the last 40 yeras, nearly one-third of the world’s arable land has been lost by erosion and continues to be lost at a rate of more than 10million hectares per year.
From the body: About 80% of the world’s agricultural land suffers moderate to severe erosion. Croplands are the most susceptible to erosion because their soil is repeatedly tilled and left without a protective cover of vegetation.

The U.N. Environmental Programs first “Global Environment Outlook Year Book” was released in 2003. The program executive director, Klaus Toepfer, noted that the dead zone problem was likely to rapidly escalate. He stated that there are 146 dead zones, most of which are in Europe and the east coast of the U.S. The most infamous is at the end of the Mississippi River, due to fertilizer from farm fields of the Midwest.

From the published paper “Spreading Dead Zones and Consequences for Marine Ecosystems” 
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/321/5891/926.short

Abstract:
Dead zones in the coastal oceans have spread exponentially since the 1960s and have serious consequences for ecosystem functioning. The formation of dead zones has been exacerbated by the increase in primary production and consequent worldwide coastal eutrophication fueled by riverine runoff of fertilizers and the burning of fossil fuels. Enhanced primary production results in an accumulation of particulate organic matter, which encourages microbial activity and the consumption of dissolved oxygen in bottom waters. Dead zones have now been reported from more than 400 systems, affecting a total area of more than 245,000 square kilometers, and are probably a key stressor on marine ecosystems.
So the conclusion is that my viewpoint has to do with “real science” as well. Please take me out of the “organiac” box. Though I do enjoy hugging trees…

Read more: http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/02/04/the-best-and-worst-super-bowl-commercials-of-2013/slide/ram-trucks/#ixzz2KfZF7AYy

Senior Capstone Reflections

Create a list of three broad principles or themes from your field of study and three broad interdisciplinary principles or themes from Maharishi’s Science of Consciousness that help to inform your field and its connection to the whole of knowledge.

1&2) Sustainable Living Principle – Produce no waste: By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste. This entails designing systems from the ground up and/or retrofitting old wasteful systems so that energy and resource outputs from one process feed into and support another process or function. This is a thoroughly intentional way of designing, so the consciousness of the designer is paramount.

Thus, we see a connection with Maharishi’s Science of Creative Intelligence in the principle: “Outer depends on inner.” This principle applies to the individual life by the way in which our interpretation of the reality that we experience moment to moment is largely contingent upon the state of one’s “inner” condition – the way the brain has been structured up to that point, and the paradigms from which each person’s worldview is constructed. On the collective level we see that the structure of society stems from the consciousness of the architects of that society. We now see the obvious shortcomings of current systems built out of ignorance of the need to conserve resources, recycle everything, and produce no waste.
3&4) Sustainable Living Principle – Use and value diversity: Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides. In the field of Sustainable Living, diversity – whether referring to the variety of plants in a garden or field, sources of energy production in the region, or our social atmosphere and culture – are seen as assets that make a system more resilient. For example, an uncontrollable variation in a weather pattern like drought will not be as devastating to the farmer if he has a variety of crops with different levels of tolerance to drought.

Likewise, the SCI principle: ​”Harmony exists in diversity” supports this understanding in my field because it recognizes the underlying strength in diversity. Harmony is complementary, collaborative, and improves a given situation. The presence of harmony is a sign that things are working well, and in Sustainable Living we seek to design systems that harness the power of diversity to optimize function.

5&6) Sustainable Living Principle – Integrate rather than segregate: By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other. This is related to the principle of diversity, but it also points to a reality that all things are connected, and when we try to segregate and treat things as independent of each other our results inevitably fail and produce undesirable effects. When things are integrated we see that the relationships between them produce emergent properties and gain a greater status as something more highly developed than the parts themselves. Additionally by seeking integration in all areas of life we become more focused on the underlying unity of all things.

​”The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” ​ is an obvious principle connected to this idea. The reality of wholeness is different than the conglomeration of individuals. This can be seen in medicine, where the special healing properties of a medicinal plant are not fully present in the isolated chemical or chemical compound that is synthesized in the lab. The interaction of energy that happens when things are in relationship creates a special “extra” something that does not exist without the interaction or relationship.

To All Soil Professionals…

(Written by Jacob Krieger)

To all soil professionals,

That means the farmers first and foremost. The stewards of our soils.

There are plenty of silly facts about global warming that don’t change anyone’s mind. Especially in the mid-west. Whether CO2 changes the global temperature or not does not change the fact that we have raised the amount of it in the atmosphere. Two primary ways of raising the CO2 levels have been burning carbon based substances and removing or killing the natural “resources”, or the Earths biota.

We can see the cars and factories for ourselves. We can all see the lack of trees while perusing Google Earth. We can all see millions of acres of exposed soil through vast amounts of the year with a short drive. We pride ourselves at the coffee table on our tidy little barren soil beds being prepped and poisoned for next years synthetic crop. Yum, yum, down on the farm, home grown goodness, eh?

Here is a fact that soil professionals should know when preparing beds of soil.

Professor of Soil Science at Ohio State University Dr. Rattan Lal has calculated that 476 Gigatons (Gt) of carbon have been emitted from farmland soils due to inappropriate farming and grazing practices (Christine Jones, PhD, www.amazingcarbon.com). In contrast, 270 Gt have been emitted over the past 150 years of fossil fuel burning (Jones, www.amazingcarbon.com).

In their study, “Carbon Sequestration Potential Estimates with Changes in Land Use and Tillage Practices in Ohio, USA,” Zhengxi Tan and Rattan Lal explain that the conversion of natural ecosystems to those managed agriculturally can reduce the soil organic carbon pool by up to 50% in the top 20 cm of the soil and 25-30% in the top 100 cm depth after 30-50 years of cultivation (Tan, Lal, 2005).

It makes sense that more carbon comes out of the soil being tilled than the carbon released making and running the engine tilling it. For, fossil fuels are mostly buried and compressed landscapes of once living organisms. These fossil organisms are no different from the organisms in our soil still. Destroyed, they release the same kind of carbon that was put there by the same photosynthesis.

All exposed soil will lose this soil-organic-carbon. Inappropriate tillage expands the process exponentially. Today we have realized that inappropriate agriculture has successfully released the carbon of a 30 foot thick organism that once covered the entire Midwest, the topsoil and root system of the tall-grass prairies. Bare soil is potentially a more feasible culprit for global warming than even electricity.

What’s more disturbing is that we now farm fuel despite all the free sources of energy. (Yes, free energy. It’s here and being denied)
Farm soil and keep it covered. For better crops, better health, and a cooler planet. Soil is an organism that cannot be disconnected from the plants that it works with symbiotically. It is a single organism. Plants and soil both die when separated. Hence the need for chemical supplements that further the biological selection and destruction. Stop bare soil and start capturing CO2.

AGRICULTURE COULD BE USED TO BUILD SOIL at rates scientists once believed would take thousands of years.

It is being done in most 1st world countries and has been since the 1950’s. It is a shame we don’t take it seriously here. Carbon farming is a concept that pervades the planet aside from the American discussions. Proper grazing, rotation, soil conditioning, reestablishment of proper biology and biodiversity, and the end of monoculture could curb our global catastrophe in a growing season. No-till is a start, perennial poly-culture is a possible future, there are hundreds of solutions to start improving and expanding upon. Regenerating what we have destroyed is first on the to-do list avoiding the next dust bowl.

Row crops and CAFO’s are two ends of the same goat. Putting the cows back to pasture has fixed over 15,000 acres already by way of Darren Doherty Everyone should know this by now and realize it’s a scam. We are down to a few million farmers who bought out all their former cooperation by just playing the market by the rules. We are mostly farmed by contractors and satellites now. Monopoly is not about calories produced per acre. It is about control. It is extremely important for everyone to produce the same thing for the few to have power over the many.

Stop playing their game. Research regenerative agriculture and help improve it. Help revision. You be the scientist. You change the world. Any lawn or large acreage can be a part of the solution. And there are way more solutions than problems, but it starts with a mind change. Learn what science has discovered about soil in the last 25 years! Even in the last 3 years we have completely re-written the book on soil and how plants grow! Get on it SOIL PROFESSIONALS!

If farmers knew anything about the role they play today and what they can change tomorrow, the world would see a revolution by spring.

Change of Mind, Not Heart

Fairfield is a transformative place to be, especially when you’re already working on yourself. The inner work of Self-awareness and liberation from unconscious conditioning is the good work of becoming your True Self – free from guilt, shame, fear, suppressed emotions, hidden desires – and free to be happy, sad, mad, loud, quiet, tough, rough, soft, so long as it respects the free will of others and is non-violent to others. It’s this process of inner transformation that makes life most exciting for me daily, and being in a place like Fairfield allows me to connect with a ridiculously high number/per capita of other people consciously becoming their unique and liberated True Selves. Interestingly, not in Fairfield but New Mexico I experienced an enormous acceleration and integration of my personality; participating in the Earth Medicine Apprenticeship was a primary reason for this progression.

“Earth Medicine” is a way of healing; it involves sacred plant medicine and herbal medicine, deep ecology and environmental philosophy, ecopsychology and psychotheraputic experience, shadow work, inner child work, extra-sensory perception and tracker skills. I just threw out a bunch of labels to point to a process that is more than the sum of its parts. To practice Earth Medicine is to commune deeply and develop a compassionate healing relationship with our own inner nature, which is guided, inspired, informed and blessed by deep communion with Earth Mother – Gaia – Mother Nature. This process involves developing our innate intuitive and psychic skills and developing a deep capacity for sensing with the heart-field as an organ of perception; the experience of these practices challenge the boundary we perceive between “us” and everything else. This work in integrative in the way it connects individuals with a sense of wholeness and oneness with all things “inner” and “outer.”

As I was reflecting with my school advisor on my decision to do a permaculture design for my senior project it became obviously, undeniably, irresistibly apparent that what I want most deeply is to continue to go deeper with “Earth Medicine” now and on into the future after graduation; thus, it would be most appropriate to focus my senior project around this area of interest to go deeper and get to know what aspects of it I am drawn to most. This would include actual physical work in the garden where I live – planning and planting a perennial medicine garden, writing a 30-page integrative paper on the subject, and offering a series of workshops on “Earth Medicine” to the community.

There is, however, an important consideration and responsibility that I must uphold – Doing the Permaculture Design. Since my original project proposal was for a permaculture design at the site where I rent and live, I need to consider my landlord’s expectations, since we agreed that I would do the design for his land. I am free – I was born free and I will die free -and I’m not bound to anything. But keeping agreements is something that is important both on karmic and personal levels. Thus, I need to re-negotiate my agreement with my landlord because the timing of everything is going to change. While my intention and interest still lie in doing an ever-so-necessary design for the land, my highest passion and most precious attention will be going toward Earth Medicine for the 2 months of my senior project. Fortunately, there is overlap between certain aspects of permaculture design (observation, analysis and assessment) and the process of Earth Medicine will help tremendously with the initial fundamental stages of any good permaculture design.

Fortunately, I plan to remain living where I am for several seasons after I graduate, which will allow me to continue to work on the permaculture design after I graduate. I also have a feeling that having more time to deliberate and research proposed aspects of the design will make for a more intelligent and appropriate design overall. Ultimately, what’s most important is that I’m being True to mySelf. So long as my thoughts and actions are grounded in the integrity of who I am at my core the outcome will be most evolutionary for all concerned.