The Guardian this week ran a story about a farmer in Portugal who is re-creating the ancient "montado" system of farming--highly complex integrating trees, grasses, and animals.
He's been at it now for nearly 20 years so the results are becoming measurable. He's attracting the attention of mainline ag folks as well as climate change scientists.
What struck me about his operation, in addition to being in the same vein as what we're doing here at Polyface, is yet another confirmation that solutions must be opposite the problem. Take any facet of mainline industrial agriculture, and the solution is the inverse.
Where today's commercial agriculture orthodoxy loves mono-crops and mono-species, we love multi-crops and multi-species.
Where today's conventional thinking highly segregates components, including animals from their feed sources, we highly integrate components, putting animals on the same land from which their feed is derived.
Rather than simplicity, like just corn or beef, we promote complexity. For sure, that means you have to juggle more pieces, so it's harder, but I argue that the hardness is mitigated by the resiliency of the system. Who wouldn't trade some complexity to eliminate disease and sickness? It's a no brainer, and yet most farmers still would rather wake up in the morning wondering what will be sick than what will be happy.
Instead of grain being the holy grail, we see perennials as the holy grail. The more we can move the farming system to trees, grasses, and shrubs that don't need tillage our annual planting, the better. And remember, all fake meat comes from an anti-ecology type of thinking.
The featured farmer, who majored in agriculture in college, never once heard the word ecology. Can you imagine attending 4 years of college to get an agriculture degree never hearing the word ecology? It's like medical doctors never hearing the word nutrition. Sad but true.
Fertility doesn't come from outside, but from in-situ carbon. That means the leaves that drop from the trees, manure from animals, and other rotting material is the foundation of soil development rather than chemical fertilizers. Few people can grasp the magnitude and profound cultural impact of these inversions, but everyone who embraces a regenerative path in food and farming embraces this shift in paradigm. It's not a little course correction. It's a complete conversion; upside down.
Oh, one more thing. Rather than selling commodities wholesale, he's selling 50 percent of his production directly to consumers. So he has a meat smoker, a bakery, and other value added infrastructure to take his farm products beyond raw production. This creates a farm community and economy, where ultimate resilience rests. Instead of producing a couple of things, he produces a few hundred. And animals--every ecosystem requires animals.
This is a guy I can befriend. We're on the same path, the same mission. Healing the planet not in isolated government programs and dubious UN grants, but practical entrepreneurial on-the-land implementation of nature's principles. It's that simple, and it works beautifully. We really should get started.
Why do people think the solutions will come from the government and big business?