Finally! A Technical Solution for Saving Dying Cropland!

Posted in Uncategorized on May 14th, 2014 by dhawkinsmo

HeenanDohertyPlanI have two careers – one which pays the bills and one which will save the world – Permaculture.  OK, well, maybe that’s a bit optimistic and simplistic, but one can wish and hope and dream, right? Lately, my “bill pay” job has been taking me through a lot of dying cropland … ground that is being plowed year after year, sprayed year after year, planted in monoculture year after year, left uncovered year after year, and, thus, is eroding year after year and slowly becoming a desert. (See note below)

I’ve spent lots of brain cells (there are precious few to spend LOL) in the past few years trying to figure out not only a technical solution for turning this problem around, but also an economic solution. I’m getting closer on the economic solution, but I think I have arrived at the technical solution. I say “I have arrived” but I really mean that I have stumbled across the solution developed by P.A. Yeomans, via the man who appears to me to be his leading practitioner, Darren Doherty, who also just happens to be the International Agent for … [drum roll] … Joel Salatin.  Heard that name a time or two in my writings? All I did was search and search and search and finally ran across his work. It’s fitting that Darren is Joel’s International Agent (Joel obviously thought so too) because I first read about “keyline planning” in Joel’s books. Let me tell you about Darren and what he’s doing. It’s exciting stuff!

First, P.A. Yeoman’s work is all about two extremely important things in our world today:

(1) maximizing water retention on farms via keyline planning and

(2) creating deep topsoil quickly by keyline plowing.

WATER – Keyline Planning. TOPSOIL – Keyline Plowing. Easy, right?

Water and topsoil (real, living topsoil) are foundationally important to everything else in life … without food and water, nothing else matters … at least with our physical life. (Spiritual life is another discussion) Yeomans recognized a long time ago that the problem with most farms is NOT “not getting enough rain.” The problem is that most farms don’t “holdCenterPivot onto” the rain they do receive long enough to do any good with respect to growing food. This is why millions of acres of farm ground now have those giant “center pivot” irrigation systems (pic at right). This is totally unnatural and enormously expensive and completely unnecessary for producing food … IF … the farm was planned correctly in the first place (most aren’t). As an aside (whole big topic for another day), planning farms correctly on a large enough scale can actually cause it to rain more, thus it is theoretically possible to “regreen” places like the Sahara desert. See link here.

Back to Darren. Darren has now taken P.A. Yeoman’s work and is using it to transform dying cropland (he calls it “broad acre agriculture”) into what I would call “Perennial Polyculture Paradise” similar to what Mark Sheppard has done. Click here for the page on Darren’s website entitled “Farm Design Process” which shows step by step what is done. The example given is a 570 acre farm called “Savannah” in Australia, the site where Joel Salatin appeared a couple weeks ago for a big event called “Tasting Australia.”

MobGrazingBeauty1Anyway, stumbling across Darren’s work has literally given me goosebumps about what is now possible! Keeping in mind the work of Dr. Michael Sands, showcased in the report “Building Communities With Farms” and work by others thinking along the same lines like Lee Foster and John Shreve with their remarkable project called “Prairie Commons” in Olathe, KS … how cool would it be if some wealthy, philanthropy minded investors got the bug to buy up dying cropland all over the country and plant “Perennial Polyculture Mob Grazing Paradises” complete with earth friendly housing / infrastructure for all ages and incomes. How cool would it be to live in a subdivision where virtually ALL your food is produced right inside the subdivision – super healthy pastured meats, milk, eggs, “beyond organic” garden produce – everything! Right there on site. Do it yourself and/or buy it from the on site farm because the “farm” is not “somewhere else.” It’s right there, integrated with dwellings and common buildings. As it should be. Farming done correctly is BEAUTIFUL! I know because I lived and worked on a farm like this for 6 months. It was one of the most soul restoring things I have ever done! I gave a tour to a visitor one time who was skeptical that standing in a cow pasture could be a beautiful thing. Cows are yucky right? Wrong. She stepped into that cow pasture and fell in love with the cows and the pasture right then and there! (I would post a picture of her face but she would be embarrassed)

How about food cost? Can you imagine what this sort of thing would do to the cost of food? It would drive it down. Significantly. With food being produced locally, trucking would not be needed. Subdivision residents could be involved with production and harvesting labor if they chose to be, driving cost down further under the right structure. What about cost to live there in the first place? Land cost and housing cost. Well, I don’t know yet, but my hunch is that this could be lowered significantly as well through innovative planning. More on this in another post.

Out of time for now. I hope Darren’s work gets your creative juices flowing as much as it has mine. In closing, please have a look at Darren’s short, information rich video here. Worth your time I promise you, if for no other reason that to be entertained by Darren’s Aussie accent!

Dream big dreams!

Dave Hawkins

[NOTE: In the article I linked entitled "Mother of All Problems" I used the word "rape" to describe what is happening to our cropland.  I'm now sorry I used that word and will not use it again because it could be taken offensively by cropland farmers.  I do NOT mean to imply that cropland farmers are "raping" land.  There is NO mal intent on the part of farmers that I am aware of at all.  Cropland farmers are just doing what has always been done for centuries - plowing, planting, harvesting.]

Founding Wai Wai Elder Mawasha Dies

Posted in Biblical, Healthy Food & Agriculture on May 9th, 2014 by dhawkinsmo

WaiWaiEldersToday is a sad day for me.

Mawasha (second from right, the tallest), one of the founding elders of the original Wai Wai church died yesterday in a hospital in Manaus, Brazil.  The founding 5 elders from left to right are Melsha, Kirifaka, Elka, Mawasha and Yakuta.  As far as I know, Yakuta is now the only remaining original elder.  I knew and respected ‘Taam’ Mawasha (‘Taam’ is loosely translated ‘Mister’) when I was a boy growing up on the jungle mission station of Kanashen, deep in the jungles of Guyana, South America, established by my Dad and Mom, Bob & Florine Hawkins and by his brother, my uncle Neill Hawkins. The name of that station which means ‘God Loves You’ lives on in the current name for the entire district in Southern Guyana encompassing the original station which is now overgrown with jungle. Read more »

Joel Salatin on the Netherlands, Bicycles, Living Roofs and Earthship Village

Posted in Healthy Food & Agriculture on May 9th, 2014 by dhawkinsmo

Young, old, rich, and poor all ride bicycles everywhere. With no hills, it’s a bicycler’s dream. Five miles is a gentle 15-minute ride. I haven’t seen any fat people yet. None.” –Joel Salatin

Joel Salatin’s stuff is too good not to repost, so here goes … again, hoping Polyface doesn’t mind … I’m particularly fascinated with the “Earthship Village” consisting of 20 households who pooled their money and bought 5 acres … living roofs, composting toilets, grey water recycling, etc. I have for a long time wanted to live on a piece of land with a perennial polyculture food forest and rotationally grazed animals, but to make it work well, several families are needed. I’m getting closer to this goal! Here’s Joel’s message …

I arrived in The Netherlands (Amsterdam) yesterday … This is a flat country. Everything is flat. In fact, when we landed the altitude on the runway was 22 feet below sea level. Does that give you the shivers? Water is everywhere and
canals drain it off. The soil is dark without rocks and the fields are flat–did I mention it’s flat here?

Yes, I’ve already seen some classic windmills. The tulips have already bloomed and are gone–spring was a month early here. At home, spring was a month late. They’ve already harvested their first cutting of hay. At a farm where I was yesterday the timothy was already in full bloom. At Polyface, it’ll be another month before we see timothy heading out.

The most amazing thing to me is the bicycles. They are everywhere. Of course, trains criss-cross the country, running smoothly and on time, so many people do not have cars. At the train stations, massive bicycle parking lots–I mean thousands of bicycles–adjoin the station. Young, old, rich, and poor all ride bicycles everywhere. With no hills, it’s a bicycler’s dream. Five miles is a gentle 15-minute ride. I haven’t seen any fat people yet. None.

To see gray-haired grandmas and grandpas cycling not for fun, but in the course of their day, is truly amazing and wonderful. All the roads, which are half as wide as American roads, have wide bike paths marked. This is perhaps the most bicycle friendly country in the world. Gas sells for $8 a gallon (US)–don’t worry, I already did the conversions. How do you think America would look if gas was $8 a gallon? Would we ride public transportation more, and bicycles more?

The village concept is real here. Clusters of houses and then farmland. Clusters of houses and then farmland. Many of the houses still have neat thatched roofs, and the skill to maintain them is widespread in the country. Very steep roofs. I don’t know what the ratio of bicycles to cars is, but judging by our travels yesterday, I’d say it must be 4:1–actually on the roads. Bicycles are everywhere–did I say that already?

Yesterday I visited an Earthship village. This is a group of 20 households who pooled their money and bought about 5 acres. They’re building their houses primarily out of discarded materials but they are sharp looking. Built in clusters of 2 or 3, with firewalls in between, this maximizes open space, which is held in common. Only 3 households are left after the initial project started, but a waiting list exists of people wanting in. When people discontinue, others quickly step in. The first
construction began about 18 months ago and is due to finish in another 18 months.

They are primarily professionals between the ages of 35 and 45 and are working on each others’ houses with coaching from construction experts along the way. All the houses have composting toilets and run their gray water to a common reed-recycling area. It’s a 3 foot deep bed lined with plastic and filled with pebbles and other medium to grow hydrologic plants. It’s about 30 feet wide and 40 feet long. The grey water comes in one corner and exits the other, clean enough to drink.

All the roofs are living roofs, with about 8 inches deep and then 2 or 3 inches of sandy clay soil on top. They’re all green and growing–it’s fantastic. The insulation value is hard to measure, but it’s huge. Each house has a tiny wood heater. Some have rammed earth tires as a wall, some are straw bale, but all use things that are available locally–some nice local fir adorns several– or would otherwise go to a landfill.

I’ll be touring a couple of farms today, speaking to numerous folks and enjoying this wonderful country.

Joel