Farm Holds Key to Food Production Despite ‘Global Weirding’

We’re in for some climate chaos. The Copenhagen Accord means at least two to four degrees of warming over the next fifty years — and who knows how much “global weirding.” As greenhouse gases trap more heat, or energy, close to the earth, and that energy is used by large weather systems, which move faster and are more intense than ever.

This means more Category 5 hurricanes. More likelihood of Florida snow. My biggest concern about all this change? Eating. If crop yields drop 80 percent as they’re expected to, if we don’t adapt to a changing climate, I might get hungry.

So how do we produce food in a changing climate? How do we produce food with shortages of oil and fuel around the corner? Well we might start, like Joel Salatin’s family-owned Polyface Farm in Virginia, by decreasing inputs to the farm.

While 50 percent of the cost of most food comes from fuel to run the system, in Polyface’s beyond-organic, pasture-based system, only one percent of the cost is coming from fuel. That helps Joel Salatin sleep better at night.

The part that helps me sleep better is how resilient his system is to catastrophe. There is so much biodiversity, so much life, that it can withstand a lot of disturbance. Salatin grows his grass long and tall before bringing his cows in to eat it. And then the chickens follow the cows.

So when the rain comes, all those long grass roots hold the soil in place. When the cows come through the fields and eat the grass down to the ground, all the roots build the soil. And the cow’s manure is deposited right there. When the chicken follows the cow, it pecks in the manure, breaking it down into the soil.

All that organic matter holds water, as organic matter such as decomposing manure and grass acts like a sponge. In a dry year, the grass stays green, using water stored in the soil.

The most hopeful thing I can see is that farms like Salatin’s are the exception. As more farmers start doing this kind of work, results can only get better.

To hear Joel Salatin himself explain his farm’s resilience, go to 5:05 in the video below.

Article by Eliav Bitan appearing courtesy Celsias.

photo: WizardOne

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