[permaculture] Farms of the future [was: svo/pollution]

Kai Vido kaivido at yahoo.com
Thu Mar 13 22:56:52 EDT 2008

I have long refrained from jumping into the fray of this lively thread
on veggie cars, pollution and horse farming. However, I feel moved to
contest and substantiate a couple of points:

--- Harmon Seaver <hseaver at gmail.com> wrote:

> However, another problem with converting to horse power is
> that all those big farms would have to be broken up first. 

Why is it a problem to break up larger fields into smaller ones?
Smaller plots could enable a community-supporting structure where many
landholders specialized in different crops or diverse permaculture
systems. If the scenario were reversed (trying to merge small distinct
plots into one big field), I could see your point.

>Look to the Amish to see what sort of field size is compatible with
horse farming.

As for the Amish scale of farming, I see no problem with their field
size, whichever way you cultivate said fields.

> But the main thing that would interfere with a switch to draft
> animals for farming is that it is absolutely trivial for a farmer to
> grow and make his own fuel for his tractors, and it would take only a
> very tiny percentage of his cropland to do it.

The main thing? Absolutely trivial? Very tiny percentage? Do the math,
and choose your words carefully, please.

Plausible scenario: It's 20 years from now, diesel fuel is $15 per
gallon and is rationed. Manufacturing is sketchy and long-distance
delivery sporadic, not to mention costly. What are you going to do when
your tractor needs a new tire? Oh, you have a plantation of rubber
trees on the back 40? Great! How about a new oil filter? Just get an
old flannel shirt, some window screen and a tomato can... Ever try to
make a new clutch disc or radiator on the workbench? If you're lucky,
you either have a neighbour with a junkyard of used parts, or you live
near a manufacturer of tractor [enter car/truck/chainsaw/rototiller]
parts. The fuel for the machine is only the first problem, and is the
easiest one to circumvent. That new clutch plate and tires might cost
you a year's worth of market crops (prices adjusted for The New
Economics). Call me a doomsayer--I'm not anxious to see this scenario
play out (even though it will ameliorate the climate crisis). I'm just
"predicting" based on the extensive research I have done on these
subjects, as well as my own experience in patterns of evolution.

*Qualification: I own an old diesel tractor which does much of my heavy
farm work. In the months that the mercury is above 40 degrees F., I
burn a mix of 80% filtered fryer oil and 20% diesel. Works great. This
is an example of using a food by-product for fuel, and is sustainable
only as long as the subsidized industrial food and transport systems
make it feasible for the fryolator owners to change their oil (imported
from at least 2000 miles away) every week. Point being, WVO is simply a
good "transition fuel" to take some of us from the petroleum trip to a
new sustainable system that fosters LOCAL food production, local
economies of all types, human- and draft-animal power, and independence
from the (corrupt and bankrupt) subsidized institutions of
"agriculture" and conventional "food production". I predict a major
resurgence of human- and animal-powered methods within the next 10
years. Draft horses and Amish-scale farms are in that equation. Ethanol
crops and soy-oil-powered tractors are not, on the whole.

> The exponentially accelerating price of fossil fuel based
> fertilizer and pesticides is a whole different matter, and it is that
which will
> serve to destroy the current industrial agribusiness. Hopefully.

As long as these methods are subsidized, they will continue to milk the
last drops of lifeblood out of an ultimately doomed system. I envision
a time when it will all change.  As Gandhi said: "We must be the change
we wish to see in the world". 

I'm trying.

--Kai Vido

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