[permaculture] Pc and large scale farms

Kirby Fry peace at totalaccess.net
Fri Aug 30 08:24:32 EDT 2002

----- Original Message -----
From: jamie nicol <jamie at tiscali.fr>
To: <permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Thursday, August 29, 2002 6:44 AM
Subject: [permaculture] Pc and large scale farms

> Hello Kirby and anyone else following this thread. I can imagine how
> subsidies for a more nature friendly, farm-integrated approach might
> encourage larger farms down the Pc road, the growing interest in Whole
> Planning that I have seen (Rhonda Janke at Kansas University) might be
> such a vehicle for this. However, it has always seemed to me that Pc
> small, intensive systems and not larger cropping systems - although Mark
> suggested some intriguing possibilities in another post.
> I'm trying to extract an ethic that I feel present in Pc that somehow is
> anathema to larger farms and not just those awash with industrial
> It has to do with the nature of our interaction with the land we work.
> Larger scale has meant in modern times the use of ever more and ever
> machinery to achieve a certain operation whether it be clearing, plowing,
> harvesting etc. It often means the landowner employing others to do much
> the work. The result of the machinery and the workers is to create a
> distance between the farmer and his land, a distance not present in the
> real, hands on (and often non-machine orientated) world of Pc. It is
> alienation from the land that leads to the environmental problems only now
> being faced up to. However, these pressures toward larger and larger farms
> in the desire for greater and greater efficiency, is not new. The
> wastage of once prime agricultural land has been seen before. Look at the
> quote below and I wonder if you will be struck, as I was, by the
> similarities between today's agricultural pressures and those of the Roman
> Empire:
>  Reconstruction by Way of the Soil
> by G.T. Wrench (1946 if I'm reading the roman numerals correctly)
> Chapter 2
> Rome
> Rome and its civilization constitute the progenitors of the civilized
> Western world; consequently, without a knowledge of Rome's relation to the
> soil, it would not be possible for us to extract from history the
> of reconstruction from the soil.
> We have to study history, because in no other way can we tell what the
> land was like and how it looked. History reveals that if, by some magic,
> could transport ourselves back to the days of the early Latin farmers, we
> should see a picture of a well-populated countryside with the land divided
> up into a number of small farms, often not exceeding five acres in extent.
> As each small farm had to support a family, the farming, we should see,
> intensive; in other words, each particle of soil would be in use, so that
> the fields appeared quite crowded with a variety of crops. The whole food
> the family would come from the farm, and not only the food of the family,
> but that of some of its domestic animals. By day we should see the various
> members of the family hard at work upon the farm, the males -- and
> females -- busy upon the land itself, and the womenfolk in the home and
> dairy. We should see also a large number of villages with a pleasant light
> of prosperity shining upon them. Other things would also be there of great
> importance, soon to be described, some of which could be seen, and some
> found under the earth.
> Then let us be allowed to look at the same land some five centuries later.
> The picture is now quite different. We should see but few villages and few
> small farms, and upon the farms we should see what farmers call foul
> and even land that was derelict. In place of the small farms we should see
> mainly orchards, vineyards and dairy farms. It would, indeed, be quite
> to us that the main object of this different form of farming was to supply
> fruit, grapes, olives, milk and cheese to people who did not work upon the
> farms or in the villages at all, but who lived in the proud, neighbouring
> city that had now become the chief city of all Italy and was soon to
> the capital of the Mediterranean world. We should also see that these
> estates were no longer worked by Latin farmers, but by quite a different
> sort of men, clearly not Italians, and men lacking the buoyancy and
> of the older farmers. We should, indeed, have reason to rub our eyes, for
> some of these men, incredible though it might seem to us, would be
> with iron and some even chained to each other while they worked. These
> the slaves, some of whom were strong, fierce men and some weak and
> depressed. These two pictures we should see; the first would be that of
> family farming, the second that of capitalistic farming.
> Transporting ourselves to a yet later date, we should see a third picture.
> The land is now swampy and derelict, and its most significant product
> of mosquitoes, which caused the fevers that permitted only a few wretched
> men and cattle to scrape together some sort of livelihood and that
> with lethal effect, the inhabitants of the great but waning city itself.
> This would be the picture of debased soil fertility.
> Just as was seen 1500 and more years ago, the most suitable form of
> agriculture is family orientated, erected on the same principles of
> practical concern as the family itself- the two so closely intertwined as
> be inseparable. It is just this connection that I see Pc making, if only
> an implicit guise. Family's fortunately have the ability to be whatever we
> chose to make them now in our post nuclear (family) society, but I suspect
> that such a unit, whatever its actual make up of sexes, offspring or age
> groups, is essential to the ties and thus husbandry (sustaining care) of
> land. When crops are grown for money (as it is explicitly on large farms
> some medium and small scale farms too) and not for the sustenance of those
> who tend the land, then another relating layer is stripped away.
> If I making sense here, then I should have drawn a connection (however
> tenuous) between Pc and it's favouring of small, family sized, integrated
> and intensively cultivated farms. If true then large farms are anathema to
> Pc, period.
> Jamie
> Souscayrous
> -----Original Message-----
> From: permaculture-admin at lists.ibiblio.org
> [mailto:permaculture-admin at lists.ibiblio.org]On Behalf Of Kirby Fry
> Sent: Thursday, August 29, 2002 5:42 AM
> To: permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org
> Subject: [permaculture] Theory of Everyhting
> Hi Jamie,
> Good to hear from you.  In the midst of all this text flying around there
> ARE actually people behind the words.
> >>  though I might have toned down your 'no exceptions'  <<
> Yes, that was certainly overstated.  By 'no exceptions' I believe I meant
> that, non-native plants should fall under permaculture ethics as well as
> natives they may be displacing, that they shouldn't be an exception to Pc
> ethics.  I didn't mean 'no exception' to my interpretation of, working
> Nature rather than against it.
> >>  It is for this reason that I'm not quite sure to what you were
> responding.  <<
> Apparently, I misunderstood Steve's question.  What I have been studying
> why folks have it in for non-native plants and if steady eradication
> regimens are what they are recommending we carry out.
> So I think I misinterpreted Steve's post as using scale of operation as
> justification for persistently removing non-native plants.
> >>  big from a European perspective  <<
> Are you from Europe?
> >> I certainly agree that 'industrial agriculture...is anathema to
> permaculture' but does that also hold true of all large farms?  <<
> No, not inherently, though the scale of mistakes increases right along
> scale of size.
> I worked on a dairy farm in California for a few summers growing up.  It
> a big farm and could keep 1,000 cows milking three times a day.  I believe
> now they are milking 3,000 cows twice daily.
> There was a lot of manure and illness but I believe that the operation
> have eventually been run sustainably since my cousins were always open to
> better and cleaner ways of doing things.  I hope to take my two girls
> (now 3 and 6 years old) for a summer in the near future.
> >>  Should larger farms be broken up so Pc principles can be applied?  <<
>  Pc principles, of course, can be applied at all levels of scale.  I don't
> think anything but market factors or disaster will lead to the break up
> large farms, but large farms at least should be given more government
> incentives to work with nature, i.e. better utilize their waste, improve
> treatment of their workers, and the plants and animals they harvest.
> Hopefully, one day soon, our markets and natural resources will achieve
> equilibrium.
> >>  What I'm after is a similarly coherent Pc strategy on the large scale
> (within the resources of current large farm owners) to that many of us
> practice on a small scale.  <<
> Funny that you mention this.  I recently read Ken Wilber's book called,
> Theory of Everything."  He talks about there being four quadrants that we
> operate in:  internal singular - our individual perceptions and emotions;
> internal plural - our collective behavior as a culture and society;
> singular - examination of the human body as an organism; and, external
> plural - all of the natural world around us.
> A genuinely integral Pc strategy or ethic would be able to serve all
> of production and operate in all four quadrants of thought.  Larger scale
> operations, hopefully, would not expand beyond their ability to meet the
> emotional and social needs of the people which create and operate the
> business.  Neither would the medical health of the individual nor the
> biological health of the land and bio-systems supporting the business be
> diminished.
> When we factor in the well being of all four of the quadrants we really
> can't go wrong.  IMO, Pc needs the most work on the inner two quad's.
> Re: my frustration with industrial agriculture...
> I believe when I was talking about industrial agriculture, I was referring
> to those sectors which are doing everything they can to dump their wastes
> inexpensively as possible.  Here in Texas there are suburban developers,
> chemical companies, oil refineries and commercial farmers pushing every
> button they can to make their operations as inexpensive as possible at the
> expense of everything except the value of their stock or profits.
> I speak from first hand experience...  We live right next to an aluminum
> smelter that is about to annex another 16,000 acres of land for coal
> mining - 2 miles away from our land.  This coal will fire the power plant
> for the ALCOA Rockdale smelter which is the dirtiest energy plant in
> Texas is the number one source of air pollution in the U.S.A.
> The former CEO of ALCOA is now the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.
> So guess where that puts us, back in the realm of politics and graft.
> However, there's plenty of hope for businesses who are willing to work
> towards being more integrally sustainable in their operations.
> >>  If we could come up with such a coherent structure we could then keep
> these farmers away from the 'machine and influence
> <<
> I really like what Ben Cohen with true Majority, once of Ben and Jerry's
> Cream, is doing here in the states.  True Majority sends out an e-mail
> covers one social or environmental issue per month so that you can send a
> fax, write a letter or call your congress person about that issue.
> Those of us concerned with our natural resources and food production also
> need to know more about our tax and trade laws and when to collectively
> apply pressure on our governments and steer them towards an integral
> Right now in Johannesburg, the World Summit is going on.  I wonder what's
> their agenda?  Who should we call?
> You bring up Mark's response to my description of a Pc course.  Does that
> seem like brain-washing to you?  I would only ad that most cultural
> epiphanies happen when we let go of what we're sure reality is for a
> bit, when we seen something so many times that we finally see through it.
> Kirby Fry
> For the real scoop on environmental and social justice issues check out
> archives of Democracy Now!
> http://www.webactive.com/webactive/pacifica/demnow/archive.html
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