“What drives me to make our farm a farm of the future is the knowledge that I have no other choice but to try,” said Rebecca Hosking.
Hosking, a wildlife filmmaker, came home to Devon, England to take up the work on the family farm. During the last fuel crisis when costs skyrocketed, she realized that the only way she knew how to farm was not sustainable. Oil isn’t something that farmers are going to be able to rely upon for much longer, but how do you farm to feed the world without tractors, tillers, semi trucks, and jets? Oil is in every part of what we eat, be it in the farm equipment to plant and process to the transportation to the grocery store. When it comes to that fossil fuel dependence, the future of our food looks pretty bleak.
That bleak horizon sent Hosking on a journey of sustainability, and the things that she learned were fascinating. How about having a diverse pasture for your cows and sheep? One family, through a lot of attention to detail and hard work, discovered the diversity of grasses they needed to be able to pasture their livestock year-round without the supplement of alfalfa in the winter. Plus, that diversity created a root structure that was so strong, the pasture wasn’t destroyed by the traffic of livestock. Even more, their discovery of what made their pastures strong and healthy lead to one of the most revolutionary ideas in farming – no tilling! They likened it to taking the skin off of a human being, and their logic was as strong as the land on which they farmed.
The fascinating discoveries continued as she explored Permaculture farms. The biodiversity made the land healthier and lead to high food yields. Plus, it aided in thinking outside the box, such as in using trees as a fodder crop for livestock. Maybe even better, Permaculture farming is low maintenance and low on energy use, and you maintain a healthy, symbiotic relationship with the land. The one drawback to Permaculture is that you can’t grow cereal crops. However, nut crops can grow in this manner and can supply what humans get from cereals. With all of that wild land, though, how can you farm for more than just your family? Actually, and I thought this was wonderfully astounding, Permaculture can yield enough food for 10 people for every acre.
So while the way we do farming now can in no way, shape, or form be how we continue to farm – even in the near future – there are options. Our reliance on oil is a major issue, a scary one at that. But thanks to pioneers like Hosking, we may just have successful farms in the future. Let’s hope so, for all our sakes.
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