Re: Practical = BS -- a couple more comments
Mon, 24 Aug 1998 02:03:28 EDT
> Date: Mon, 17 Aug 1998 18:39:44 -0400
> From: Cass Peterson <email@example.com>
> Subject: Re: Practical = BS
> I missed the earlier post that prompted Lion Kuntz' reply, so forgive me if
> my response is not entirely in context, but I must take issue with some of
> his statements.
> >I'd love to have 175
> acres, because I could turn so much of it into wildlife sanctuary. I would
> shrink down the worked portion to just so much as meets my monetary needs,
> without necessarily providing for the monetary needs of the many off-farm
> families you must be supporting.
> Of our 65 acres, 15 are in intensive cultivation, 30 in permanent pasture,
> and the balance in woodland and farmstead/roads/etc. The farm provides
> considerable wildlife sanctuary. Unfortunately much of the larger
> wildlife--deer, groundhogs, and rabbits in particular--find their best
> sanctuary in the cultivated fields.
Lion >> I have battled deer, gophers, bugs. I found that my attitudes
changed over time as I merged more into the ecology and threw out my ideas
that human means separate from the ecology. I now embrace the ecology, but I
use hardware cloth to keep the gophers honest, fences to keep the deer honest,
and herbals to keep the bugs honest. I also do unorthodox things like
tolerate the cougar who helps keep the deer honest and athletic. I also have
in the past made plantings especially for the deer, and other wildlife.
> Cultivating 15 acres of specialty crops and flowers by hand cannot be done
> by two people. So we employ people. I'm very proud that we're able to
> provide for the monetary needs of off-farm families, and I'd like to hire
> more. We don't farm in isolation here. We're part of the economy of our
> rural community.
Lion >> These are not what I call off-farm families. What I mean by off-
farm are the lenders, the salesmen, the wholesale buyers, the equipment
dealers, the accessory vendors, and other people who spend their days in
showrooms and offices selling agricultural paraphrenalia. People who come on
your farm and work for a living ought to make a living -- these are on-farm
families as much as you are.
> >It seems to have gone unnoticed that I have been promoting two to ten
> acre farmsteads in my writings ~ designed to produce a satisfactory middle-
> class income with low-debt, low-work, low-stress systems, tightly compact,
> using intensive productivity almost year round to compensate for the small
> I, too, would love to see more 2- to 10-acre productive farmsteads, and our
> apprentice program is designed to give practical experience to young people
> who have leanings in that direction. But I cannot agree that such a
> farmstead will provide a middle-class income with low work and low stress.
> Intensive production is, well, intensive. Succession plantings, marketing,
> dealing with the daily crises of weather and pests--even over-abundance is
> a mixed blessing (what am I gonna DO with all those pickling cucumbers?
> People don't PICKLE anymore!)
Lion >> Feed the excess cucumbers to the animals. Worms prefer that you put
them through a blender or garbage disposal unit first, as they have no teeth
and have to wait for them to rot before they can eat them. Feed all your
excess to the worms and the other animals. Raise your plant starts in cold
frames or hot houses, and plant the robust starts. If your plant containers
are big enough (I prefer 4" pots as the smallest) the plants go in easily,
take readily, and even ones who don't like transplanting, like beans, mostly
survive. Do all your nursery in one compact location designed as an
ergonomically pleasant workplace, and save yourself a lot of backache in the
fields. When something comes out, there's something ready to go in
practically immediately. Designing an operation to be low-stress, low-work
requires that you make these sufficient priority in your scheme of things that
you are motivated to make the changes to achieve it. Anybody can make any job
harder and less pleasant if they try hard enough -- but why would one design
their daily work to be that way?
> We start our marketing season in late March and push it to the end of
> November. Lion, I do not want to produce "almost year round". By the end of
> the season, I've been on adrenalin overdraft for months, and am tired to
> the point of catalepsy. I want the winter off.
Lion >> So, take the winter off. I am not the farm dictator. Do what you
want to do. I advocate spreading the workload out instead of bunching it up
into stressful intensity, but you do whatever you want. The reason that most
farmers bunch their years activity into a few months of high-stakes gamble
eludes me. A properly designed economically sustainable farmstead should not
make the stewards old before their time. I was a taxi-driver in my twenties
and got gray hairs that young. The wrong lifestyle wrongly pursued leads many
to an early grave. Phaaa, who needs it. I want time to enjoy life and pursue
other interests -- I work to live, not live to work.
> >A large ten acre farmstead would have more orchard than a five acre or
> smaller one. Even the tiniest could accommodate some dwarf trees.
> We have 200 dwarf and semi-dwarf fruit trees, which are totally neglected
> most years because we cannot provide the careful monitoring and quick
> action needed to manage them organically while at the same time planning,
> planting, and cultivating the vegetable and flower crops. On a homestead
> farm, there is possibly no limit to diversification. On a commercial farm,
> there is.
Lion >> Rent the trees to somebody who wants to take care of them properly.
Or maybe chop down some, because untended organic orchards are a pestulence to
other organic orchards in the neighborhood. Keep only what you want to keep-
> > Profitable
> herb farms are measured in half-acres, so we both know it is how smart you
> the land, not how much you use which is the biggest factor.
> We got out of herbs when too many get-rich-on-a-half-acre people got in.
> >A lady publishing
> the book "The Flower Farmer" promises you can make $15,000 on half an acre
> you follow her recipe in the book.
> Lynn Byczynski's excellent book (Chelsea Green, 1997) offers plenty of
> pointers, but she'd be the first to say there is no recipe. Her monthly
> newsletter *Growing for Market* is full of useful, realistic articles on
> market gardening, the income potential, and the difficulties in achieving
> that potential. I recommend it to you.
> >Some people never have enough, in fact, don't know what "enough" means. I
> know, and I usually have it.
> "Enough" for most farmers doesn't encompass jet-setting vacations and new
> BMWs. It means enough to pay the bills, enough to pay the help a decent
> non-exploitative wage, enough to afford health insurance and a little for
> retirement, enough to invest in the farm to make it more productive over
> the long term and even more of an economic asset to the community.
Lion >> That not only meets my definition of enough (most times) but also is
a definition that most working-class Americans agree on.
> I can't quarrel with any of your advice on composting and worms. I'd do it
> that way myself, probably, if I had a farmstead aimed primarily at
> sustaining myself. But I really want the farm to influence and sustain
> other people as well, and because of that I have adopted some practices
> with which you would no doubt find fault, and rejected others that you no
> doubt employ. Folks who disagree with conventional ag's "cookbook"
> approaches shouldn't attempt to enforce them in sustainable ag.
> Cass Peterson
Lion >> I advocate, not require. I have no army of thugs to enforce my
whims. I speak from a point of view that would like to see a lot less waste
of the ecology, and more intelligent use of resources. The practices I find
fault with are experimental poisoning of the environment over 1,080,000,000
agricultural acres to try to discover how many toxins the world can accept,
the extinction of three species of life every single day out of greedy over-
consumption by one species of everything there is, and the turning into
garbage of the only habitable planet the Hubble telescope can find in the
entire sky. On some particular issues I would vote along with my neighbors to
pass laws to force the halt of egregious practices, forceably, with armed
police putting violators in prison. You and I might be on the same side on
some of those votes. So far you haven't admitted to any particularly
felonious negligent homicide or widescale ecoside associated with agriculture.
Anyway, why do you give a damn what I think?
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