Welcome to the Ecological Agriculture Australia Association (EAAA) October 2011 Newsletter
A warm welcome to our new members since the last August issue and welcome back to our perennial members! We have gratefully received a number of letters and feedback in response to the last newsletter. As always, we welcome your comments and invite members to share our experiences and stories. We hope you enjoy the October issue!
Letter to the Editor
I find your email that has been forwarded on to me interesting from several perspectives. I am involved in Organic practice certification and Permaculture. It is interesting to see the motivation for the EAAA and reflect on the motivations of the founders of NASAA (the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia).
I have worked with NASAA for about two years now and despite the fact that much of our business is focused around certification, many of the goals and motivations of the founders of NASAA were similar, although they came at a time when the “Organic agriculture” concept was in its infancy.
The Organic certification scene in Australia is far from simple and I thought I could offer a little clarity on its layout as well as correcting and error I noticed in your introduction to the newsletter.
NASAA is the oldest Organic certification body in Australia and, alongside BFA (Biologial Farmers of Australia), the largest. To confuse matters both NASAA and BFA have a subsidiary company that does the certification. NASAA has NASAA Certified Organic (or NCO) and BFA has Australian Certified Organic (or ACO).
The OFA (Organic Federation of Australia) is the peak body for Organic agriculture in Australia.
There are a handful of other certification bodies in Australia (about seven) that offer various levels of certification.
I hope this is useful and thanks (indirectly) for the link to your organisation and the newsletter.
Letters to the Editor are welcome. Please contact us if you wish to respond.
Welcome Joanne Dodd to the Natural Ecology Pillar of EAAA
Joanne has always had an interest in the science of the natural world. She holds a Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Soil and Horticulture) and Graduate Diploma of Aquatic and Terrestrial Ecology and Management, both from The University of Adelaide. To further her knowledge of agricultural ecology she has completed courses in IPM, Permaculture and Biodynamics. Joanne has worked in consulting and educational roles for businesses and NGO’s involved in integrated urban pest management, toxic chemical consulting, organic agriculture, and farm forestry. Working as a specialist Biodynamic gardening teacher fuelled Joanne’s interest in learning and lead to a Graduate Diploma of Education (UNE) and subsequent employment as a science and agriculture teacher. To complement and cement this background she has recently completed the Master of Sustainable Agriculture course at CSU in the Extension and Capacity Building stream. Her Dissertation research combined both her passions and investigated the role of ecological agricultural systems in NSW High Schools.
What is Social Ecology?
This field was first developed in the 1960’s by Murray Bookchin, a North American anarchist. He emphasised “unity in diversity and complexity, with complementary relationships, active participation and democracy”. Our environmental problems stem from deep-seated social problems.
At the University of Western Sydney (UWS), Professor Stuart Hill,(2009) the founding chair of Social Ecology stated that “Social ecology emphasises actions and reflective practice that integrate personal, social, political and environmental concerns and possibilities.” It has an applied philosophy basis and is informed by many disciplines, including all human knowledge, wisdom and creativity. We need to be as well informed as we can be, but open to accepting that there is unknowing and being flexible so that we can continue to learn. It is a dynamic system for learning and responsible action recognising the complexity of nature which has natural cycles (chaos to order to chaos). By working with living processes we come to respect all species and processes that regenerate rather than deplete our environment (Van Der Lyn & Cowan 1996).
For change and sustainability, Hill (2009) states that we need caring and meaningful relationships with equity, social justice for health and wellbeing, imagination and learning from nature and history. It is an ever evolving field integrating personal, social and environmental research and learning as opposed to economy first, then social and environmental.
This sits within the EAAA Vision: “to develop biodiverse landscapes, biologically enriched soil, healthy food and vibrant communities through ecologically, holistic and ethically driven processes.” “Outcomes are only as good and sustainable as the people creating and implementing them so start with the people and remember that we are a rational/social species (Hill)”
Cultivating Ecological Perception as part of Human Ecology at CSU
The photo, drawing and poem shown in the link below, were produced as part of an assignment during the unit ‘Human Ecology’ – part of the ‘Ecological Agricultural Systems’ degree at CSU. They were the result of a period of a few months where I went and spent some time, once or twice a week, in a degraded creek-weedscape near to where I live in Braidwood NSW. My task was to try to enhance my ‘ecological perception’ through reflection and the cultivation of creative responses to my surroundings.
EAAA Policy on Coal Seam Gas: For the advancement of soil, farming, food & community
The issue of coal seam gas has now risen to National prominence with more than 2/3rds of Australians or 68% supporting a moratorium on coal seam gas mining until more is known about its environmental impacts. Around 70% support a ban on coal seam gas mining in cities and towns, a view shared by resident in both city and regional areas. The Galaxy pole was jointly commissioned by the Australian Greens and the NSW Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham, and was conducted over 3 days.
We submit that the activities of the coal seam gas industry must be ceased until the nation’s’ resources can be properly safeguarded
The Ecological Agriculture Association of Australia submits the following points to the Coal Seam Gas inquiry for appraisal.
Polyface Farm – Reflections from a One-Day Workshop with Joel Salatin
In early August I had the pleasure of attending a workshop, presented by Milkwood Permaculture and RegenAg, with Joel Salatin on ‘Local Farms and Community’. Such is the popularity of this innovative and successful regenerative farmer that the gathering of some 200 people just outside of Jamberoo in NSW was somewhat large for a ‘workshop’.
Excerpts from the article: Self-described as a “Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-capitalist-lunatic-farmer”, Joel calls ‘grass’ a “forage biomass accumulator”, his animals “co-conspirators in the land healing ministry” and what we would call ‘tree-changers’ as “Dilbert Cubicle Urban Refugees”. Joel describes his grazing practices with the term “Mob stocking herbivorous solar conversion lignified carbon sequestration fertilisation”. Like all great public speakers, Joel takes you on a journey through his experiences with many wonderful stories and anecdotes highlighting the way. Joel suggests that the disconnection of humans from their environment is a major reason for the problems of agriculture today. After assisting a neighbour with water management on his property, Joel noted the response: “When my neighbours move their tobacco from one side of the mouth to the other, then that’s a big deal”. To Joel, his ideas were intuitive, logical and practical; to his neighbour they were revolutionary. Although he acknowledges that ecological literacy is growing, he suggests that there is still a weakness in ecological integration, “we still think and act in terms of ecological compartmentalisations”. Polyface farm operates from what Joel refers to as a truthful paradigm, “where ecology and economics are both satisfied”. He referred to the ‘truths’ of knowing you’re onto a good thing as size neutral technology and widespread applicability. Another thing about Joel that I admire is his acknowledgment of the role of spirituality in relation to farming.
Soil Foodweb Interactions & Benefits to Plant Production – A Review
For the past few weeks I have been at Southern Cross University in Lismore participating in the Soil Foodweb Institutes biology and chemistry course.
Presented by Dr Elaine Ingham and Graham Lancaster, this course is back for its seventh year and provides a melding of both the soil biology and soil chemistry, into a comprehensive method for managing soil productivity.
Dr Elaine Ingham’s work would perhaps be well known to many, and she delivers it with intensity, to a broad cross range of audience members: from crop farmers to ex-fertiliser consultants. I would dare say, all left feeling inspired with what is possible with biological farming.
The soil food web model describes the various trophic interactions that occur between the biology within the soil: namely bacteria, protozoa, nematodes, and micro-arthropods. Dr Ingham’s research has been able to demonstrate that soil fertility is driven by the interactions of these microbes rather than only the soluble and exchangeable minerals in the soil solution (as has been the conventional science for some time).
While I don’t hope to fully describe the process in this article, I will try to give a succinct description to fuel your further investigation.
Integrated landscape management and the need for change
The need for sustainable land management
Last month, as part of World Water Week the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) released an important global report which identifies healthy ecosystems as the basis for sustainable water resources and stable food security for people around the world, including Australia. Director of CSU’s Institute for Land, Water and Society (ILWS) Professor Max Finlayson was a co-author on this report which highlighted the need for a change in how we view our ecosystem assets.
“This means shifting from a focus on the protection of discrete ecosystems to management of larger landscapes—addressing them in bundles of interlinked services, including those that support food production.” (Boelee et.al., 2011, p 20)
The report also identified the need to move from an environmental protection paradigm to that of sustainable management.
“…greater understanding and appreciation of the role of the services provided by a variety ecosystems, including agroecosystems, could help break the cycle of declining food production as a result of degradation and reduce the need to convert more land and divert more water to agricultural production, which would further decrease resilience and increase vulnerability.” (Boelee et.al., 2011, p 24)
I believe this is a very timely report and an important message, especially when climate change is predicted to exacerbate environmental problems across the world. Sixteen years ago I started working in the field of ‘systematic’ biodiversity conservation planning which is a very logical and mathematical approach to biodiversity conservation planning. But since then I’ve come to believe that a more holistic and integrated approach is required that also recognises the important role of people in the landscape. I’d like to share some of my thoughts with you after working on many different conservation planning projects but especially those dealing with conservation on private lands.
Read More on: The need for an integrated approach to landscape management. Good science is important but it’s not enough. Communication. How is a landscape like us? How do we know if a landscape is ‘healthy’? Take it to the doctor? The future.
“Dance, don’t drive: resilient thinking for turbulent times” a paper by Chip Ward (2010)
Sometimes, one comes accross an article that encompasses ideas, suggestions and observations so very well, and it is one that you end up forwarding to almost your entire email list. This was one such article for me and one I would very much like to share with our members. Because it does so well to encompass the complexities we are observing in the address to self responsibility, as being the same as our responsibility to our natural environment, I won’t attempt for overwrite the message with my own interpretation and will let you enjoy the journey and the dance.
“Dance, don’t drive: resilient thinking for turbulent times”
Video Link is here | Link to Paper is here | Link to Paper is here #2
Directly from the article (Chip Ward 2011)
“The culture of ‘faster-biggermore’ will not yield easily to a new orientation where sustainability is the rule. We are going to need all the expertise we can muster to understand how we have overloaded the carrying capacity of our planet and its ecosystems—and how we can tread from here on with a lighter footprint.”
“After centuries of driving economies, we must learn to dance with ecosystems.”
“If you see yourself embedded in an ecosystem that is fluid, that has thresholds, that is so thoroughly interconnected, self-organizing, and emergent that is not only more complex than we thought, but more complex than we can think, then you don’t drive Nature, you dance.”
“Participation in a community requires commitment and commitment is an investment in precious time and energy.”
“Does homegrown agriculture sound unrealistic?”
“Eco-literacy, then, replaces a delusional context—the notion that humans live above and beyond the boundaries of the natural/physical realm without need for restraint, responsibility, respect, or reverence—with a context that sees us embedded in that natural realm and that realm embedded in us, in our bones, our lungs, our guts, our hearts. It replaces an orientation than engenders alienation with one that fosters affiliation.”
“Hopefully, ecological fluency leads us away from reduction, fragmentation, and an obsession with prediction and control. The self-organizing, emergent, evermorphing, complex, dynamic, interconnected, nonlinear world that ecological fluency describes is not a world of things, but a realm where relationship and process reign—a dance.”
“If we take our dancing lessons to heart, we may become not only resilient but grateful, humble, and reverent. Wisdom and grace, or business as usual? The choice is here and now.”
Chip Ward organised and led several successful campaigns to make polluters accountable. Described his political adventures in Canaries on the Rim: LivingHas served for eight years on the board of the Southern Utah Downwind in the West Wilderness Alliance and wrote about bold conservation campaigns in Hope’s Horizon:A contributor to Tomdispatch.com, and the Three Visions for Healing the American Land author’s essays are gathered at www.chipwardessays.blogspot.com. The author also was an administrator of the award-winning Salt Lake City Public Library System for several years. (Chip Ward 2011)
Mothers Are Demystifying Genetic Engineering known to us as MADGE, have recently released a simple and no-nonsense explanation of the issues surrounding Genetically Engineered foods in a convenient leaflet format. The leaflet is available to read and print out at the MADGE Web Site. Please consider using this simple information to spread information on the issue of GM foods in Australia.
Member Community Corner
Interested in becoming a member? Membership is free for 2011. Contact EAAA here in regard to membership.
If you would like to introduce yourself to our community via the Newsletter please email us with your story or send through articles of interest.
Ecological Agriculture Australia Association (EAAA)
The Ecological Agriculture Australia Association (EAAA) was formed in November 2009 at Orange in Central West NSW. The EAAA vision and objectives are outlined below with key foci of the EAAA nested within ecology in the management of our natural resources and the communities that reside there. The key activities of EAAA are expressed through the five pillars of ecology (natural & social), ethics, education, farming and food. The aims of the EAAA are outlined in each of the pillars, which are managed by EAAA members who express a particular interest in that area.
We invite you to become involved in creating stronger visions for ecologically sensitive approach to agriculture and horticulture and a regenerative energy in the life of rural communities. Membership fees for 2011 are waived and are free over this time.
Vision: Bio-diverse landscapes, biologically enriched soil, healthy food and vibrant communities through ecologically, holistic and ethically driven processes.
Mission: To coordinate the activities of the five pillars to ensure a strong connection between the vision and the objectives as outlined.
1. Implementation of the objectives as outlined for the pillars of the organisation: ecology, farming, food, education, and ethics.
2. To foster ways of thinking that enhance an understanding of biodiversity and its value, to reflect awareness of connections and relationships, and appreciate the power of systems and emergent properties.
3. To raise the profile of ecological farming/horticulture processes and its relevance to the needs of an Australian society facing diminishing oil reserves and concerns regarding climate change.
4. To appreciate that humans are one thread amongst many threads in the web of life. To recognise and respect all forms of life.
5. To promote an ecological approach to sustainability in the interest of generations to follow.
6. To support policies that encourage the growth of communities as a fundamental component of ecological thinking and behaviour.
“The great work: our way into the future”
~ Thomas Berry
The future can exist only if humans understand how to commune with the natural world rather than exploit it, explains Thomas Berry. “Already the planet is so damaged and the future is so challenged by its rising human population that the terms of survival will be severe beyond anything we have known in the past.”
Published by: Harmony/Bell Tower, November 2000
Soil Foodweb Institute have been soil rehabilitation specialists since 1986 and by utilising their services you will learn how you can manage and maintain a balanced and healthy soil. A key benefit is the reduction of artificial chemical inputs and an increase in the soil biology. Disease suppression is substantially enhanced and water usage generally declines.
The team at SFI is fully committed to assisting growers achieve true sustainable soil fertility without the need for toxic and costly chemicals thereby enabling you to improve crop yields and the returns on your investment. You’d be amazed at how cost effective our programs actually are and how beneficial it can be to have a professional on your team to guide you through the processes involved. In effect Soil Foodweb Institute offers a window into plant-soil and foliar relationships.
Achieving the right biology enhances these key functions: Disease protection, nutrient immobilisation &availability, decomposition of toxins, root health, root depth, water retention, aerobic conditions in soil and improved soil structure.