I returned home last night after this 26-day speaking tour through Germany, Spain, France, Menorca, and Australia. My what a delight to walk out this morning to tall green grass and contented animals. I'll look forward to getting acquainted with the new intern team as well.
So what is my primary reflection on this trip covering so much area and meeting more than 500 farmers around the world?
Number one is surely that the level of landscape management and care around the world is atrocious. When you know what can be done and what should be done to keep green vegetation covering the soil, seeing the flogged and eroding acreage is heartbreaking. And it's everywhere.
The growing worldwide indictment of livestock generally and cattle specifically is certainly warranted. But eliminating them is not the answer. The answer is using them like mega-fauna throughout the centuries. How is that? Moving, mobbing, and mowing. It's quite siimple, but the profoundness of this simplicity is lost on most of the world.
The whole trip reinforced just how unusual I am. And all of those who understand how to mimic historic normalcy. As a world, we have collectively taken and not given back. We have been lazy. We have not observed. We have not built resilience. We have exploited and reduced the commons.
I'm acutely aware of this mismanagement among the farmers of my own community. But to see it on such a global scale is shocking and disheartening. That what we do here at Polyface is this unusual is a modern tragedy. It should be normal, practiced by the mainstream around the world.
That is not to say I failed to see some amazingly positive things. I saw earthworms and trees in Australia. I saw fledgling attempts at mob grazing in Germany, France and Menorca. These points of light notwhithstanding, the overall impression was of landscape degradation and refusal to adopt the most rudimentary understanding of ecological function.
Those of us who live in the integrity food movement space find great encouragement among our friends and the young folks entering the integrity farming opportunity. More people are coming to this. But the overriding management of the world's agricultural land base is negative and destructive . . . still. When will it turn around? I have no idea, but it certainly can't occur too soon.
The other big take away is about regulations. I did not go to Africa or China or southeast Asia where I'm told these are not problems. But certainly in the European Union and Australia, the so-called highly developed tier, regulations are a major obstacle to these points of light farmers accessing their communities with good product and good practice.
Whether it's the inability to cut a tree or process a chicken and sell it to a neighbor, the "it's forbidden" phrase hangs over the head of every innovative farmer. Fighting through red tape and just trying to implement the most basic healing options in the farm and food system is fraught with inspections, licenses and bureaucracy. What started to control the bad guys now precludes the viability of good guys.
"You can't legally do that here" was certainly one of the most common phrases I heard throughout the tour. What a shame that good landscape management practice is more often than not thwarted by regulatory intrusion. It begs the question: "How much progress could we make if the government just got out of the way?" More than you can imagine.
What will you do today to move the healing agenda forward?