Welcome to our February Edition and to the Year of the Farmer!
Congratulations to the EAAA Vice President Ben Gleeson on his graduation from the Bachelor of Ecological Agriculture at Charles Sturt University! We wish Ben all the best with his future endeavours and we are lucky to have him as part of the EAAA community.
EAAA Annual General Meeting
The EAAA will be holding our Annual General Meeting on the 1st April 2012 in Orange NSW (time TBC). The EAAA will be screening FRESH the movie during the day so please come and join us! In addition to reflecting on the past year’s busy undertakings such as in education, the EAAA ecological endorsement scheme, ecological soil assessment project, policy, our social media strategy and ever growing presence on Facebook, our growing relationships with other networks; we look to a vibrant and fruitful future in 2012 with our members. Please stay tuned to our communication channels for more details of email the President Kerry Cochrane for more details firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to join EAAA please email David Savill email@example.com.
Polyface Farm – Ecological Principles in Action
Following the workshop I reflected upon in the EAAA October newsletter, I have delved deeper into the philosophies and practices of Joel Salatin and Polyface Farm through reading his book “The Sheer Ecstasy of being a Lunatic Farmer”. As with his seminars, Joel’s written language engages the reader in stories to express his ideas and opinions. Whilst this book doesn’t go too deeply into the specifics of each production system on Polyface, it is nonetheless a great book to gain an overview of the ecological principles applied on the farm. The latter part of the book is concerned with promoting community and the image of farmers and agriculture and will be the topic of the next instalment in this Polyface series. By Joanne Dodd.
Feeling What We Know
All over the world each morning, it is said, the sun rises in the east and lights our days, dispelling the dark and the cold of night. It provides energy for the growth of plants and animals, the evaporation of water, the movement of winds and all other cycles of our climate. Here in Braidwood though, I’ve noticed the sun doesn’t rise in the east each morning. I know this because when I look, I can see that the Earth rotates towards the east and in fact it is this rotation that brings our relatively-stationary sun into view. I’m sure the sun rises elsewhere though because wherever I go people refer to the sun-‘rise’. It seems that, where they are standing, the Earth isn’t turning. For them the sun is gently floating ‘up’ over the horizon and drifting like a cloud across the sky. By Ben Gleeson.
The EAAA equivalent in the USA
Meet the Quivira Coalition. It was founded in 1997 by three people who wanted to show that ranch management could be both economically sound and ecologically sensitive at the same time. Their focus was on “an emerging progressive ranching movement operating on the principle that the natural processes that sustain wildlife habitat, biological diversity and functioning watersheds are the same processes that make land productive for livestock”. After five years the mission of The Quivira Coalition evolved “to build resilience by fostering ecological, economic and social health on western landscapes through education, innovation, collaboration and progressive public and private land stewardship” to meet increasing challenges. Resilience became the most important factor and they now work on improving health of the land, reversing decline of ecosystem services which provide healthy food, water and fibre, encouraging biodiversity, strengthening relationships, networking, sharing knowledge and increasing local capacity. They publish books, field guides, journals, newsletters and have extensive links to aid interaction and improve networks and education. If you would like to know more go to this link. From Meg Hoskin.
The EAAA takes an anti position re GMOs. We do so due to the lack of scientific research into the impact of GMOs on the human body. The EAAA also believes that food drawn from traditional plant breeding systems is more than adequate to produce food for a growing world population. If organisations such as Monsanto insist on releasing GMO plant varieties then this should not happen without extensive longitudinal studies on their impact on humans and the wider environment, and that any product with GM in it must be labelled as such. If you haven’t made up your mind as yet pause for ten minutes to view the five videos in this link. From Kerry Cochrane.
Self-Compassion in Agriculture
What has self-compassion got to do with agriculture? Everything! Once upon a time we beat the drum about the importance of self-esteem and of course that led to people developing their self-esteem which apparently has led to a massive expansion of people displaying narcissistic behaviour. People sure feel good about themselves but don’t see much past themselves either! At this point self-esteem gives way to another concept called self-compassion. To read more go to the following site which is the IONS website which the EAAA endorses as being aligned with our values. From Kerry Cochrane.
The Whole Metaphor
We often heard it said that today’s person is too reductionist or too analytical, who fails to see the big picture, the whole if you like. We are in effect bit of thinkers rather holistic. Well Iain McGilchrist author, scientist and psychiatrist has added his interpretation and interestingly puts a large slice of the problem down to our misuse or should I say abuse of the right side of the brain. It is commonly known that the left brain controls analytical thinking and reductionism generally and this is what our education system seems to favour. As an outcome gets the only outcome that is possible – a bits and pieces way of thinking that uses the machine as its metaphor. Here is what McGilchrist has to say: “If we see things as separate, fixed, certain, and interacting only as billiard balls may be said to interact – clashing and flying apart unchanged by the interaction – then we have a rather skewed view of our relations with one another and the planet, and we have a skewed view of what it is we do when we learn and when we begin to understand the world. Our sense is radically impoverished and misled. It becomes as if we exist only as processors of bits of information in a world that also exists only as a heap of bits. Our governing metaphor is the machine, something we put together from parts. But in my belief our governing metaphor should rather be the tree, or the river, or the family, something that grows organically, changes, and evolves, and where the fretting about the relationship between parts and whole reveals itself to be based on a misunderstanding It is recommended that you go to the end of the page/article and listen and view the YouTube on Iain McGilchrist talk at Shumaker College in the UK. Worth the time. From Kerry Cochrane.
GMO and Agricultural System Disruption
Who is Dr Huber? Well he is an expert on GM crops and food. This is what Dr Huber said recently: “When future historians come to write about our era they are not going to write about the tons of chemicals we did or didn’t apply. When it comes to glyphosate they are going to write about our willingness to sacrifice our children and to jeopardize our very existence by risking the sustainability of our agriculture; all based upon failed promises and flawed science. The only benefit is that it affects the bottom-line of a few companies. There’s no nutritional value.” Now to some more detail on Dr Huber. Dr. Don Huber, an agricultural scientist and expert in microbial ecology, has issued stern warnings about shockingly devastating effects of genetically engineered food crops after discovering a brand new organism in GE animal feed—an organism that has since been clearly linked to infertility and miscarriage in cattle, horses, pigs, sheep, and poultry. If you have read this far it is recommended you go the whole ‘hog’. Read the following and view the YouTube. It is important. From Kerry Cochrane.
2012 National Soils Forum Bendigo: Soils for a Future
The North Central Catchment Management Authority’s (CMAs) 2012 National Soils Forum will be held in Bendigo on 8 and 9 March. As Australians we are concerned about where our food comes from and our capacity to secure it into an uncertain future. As a nation we appreciate that food production and the health of our natural ecosystems are intimately linked. In a world filling with more and more people, and a time when the fundamental resources we need to sustain ourselves show signs of running out, we need to be certain to maintain the integrity of our soils. From the NCCMA Victoria. From Adrianna Marchand.
Weed Identification App from GRDC
Weed identification is the first step to lessons on what weeds can tell us. The GRDC has released a smartphone App that allows users to identify weeds and share these with their networks. Although a few of us carry a weed identification glove box guide, perhaps more of us carry a mobile phone with us more of the time? This App has been released as part of the Soil Biology Initiative. From Adrianna Marchand.
St John’s Wort – Can you Help?
Recent conditions have seen prolific growth of St John’s Wort around many regions including on one sheep grazing property near Cowra, in Central West NSW. The challenge was put to EAAA and our members to gather information on how St John’s Work can be managed ecologically where it is presenting a problem. If you have had any experience with this please email us (firstname.lastname@example.org) or join in the EAAA Member Forum discussion on the topic. From EAAA and members.
A new website for Australian rangeland graziers is helping to build knowledge and close the kilometres between those who live some distance from each other. It is worth a look and also a bookmark. Visit Grazebook. From Kerry Cochrane.
Seeds and Soil – Research Corner
Have you wondered why certain plants tend to germinate more so some years than others? Science has looked at this be combining modern molecular biology with traditional seed ecology. Dormant seeds in the soil detect and respond to seasonal changes in soil temperature by changing their sensitivity to plant hormones, new research by the University of Warwick has found. From Adrianna Marchand.
Agriculture and Rural Development Day Blog
“Although the outcomes from Durban do not go far enough to hold global temperatures at a two-degree warmer world, nor is there sufficient finance or appropriate mechanisms in place to tackle the major adaptation challenges faced by least developed countries, at least there were some outcomes that may eventually help poor farmers deal with climate change.” From Adrianna Marchand.
Soil Biology at Ground Cover
More information about the soil biology research initiative is available via the GRDC web site. A special supplement on the initiative appears in the January-February edition of GRDC’s Ground Cover magazine. From Kerry Cochrane.
Where do we draw the line on GM?
News from the University of Wyoming that researches are intent on incorporating spider’s silk-spinning genes into goats’ milk is of serious concern. According to the site below the advantages lie in its strength and elasticity, spider silk fiber could have several medical uses, such as for making artificial ligaments and tendons, for eye sutures, and for jaw repair. The silk could also have applications in bulletproof vests and improved car airbags. Do we say this is fine because it means we can have bulletproof vests and improved car airbags and therefore playing God with nature makes sense? On ethical grounds alone one can question the proposition of taking a gene from a spider and adding it to goat’s milk but when the outcome of this ‘marriage of strange genes’ is mostly tested by the corporation doing the research and the longitudinal studies are exceeding brief in terms of years, then the whole issue is doubly worrying. The question is how to do stop what seems to be a very fast moving ‘train’. Go to this site and see what you think. From Kerry Cochrane.
Fracking could do more to exacerbate climate change than what you find with coal mining according to Cornell Professor Robert Howarth. The problem according to Howarth is not CO2 but methane which predominates in coal seam gas. Read his story. From Kerry Cochrane.
Lower East Side Ecology
The urban ecology movement is alive and well in New York. Operating since 1987, last year saw the organisation Lower East Side Ecology Center compost 416,000 pounds of food waste, divert nearly one million pounds of unwanted electronics from landfills, taught over 2,000 students more about their local environment and logged 3,500 hours with over 1,000 volunteers sprucing up East River Park. From Adrianna Marchand.