Enlightened agriculture


ON THE GARDEN PATH by Carolyn Herriot


It is evident that globalization is not working well when it comes to feeding people. Last year, the number of hungry people in the world topped one billion, which means that, under the current system of industrialized agribusiness, one in six people are going without food. Not to mention that the safety and nutritional quality of the food supplied is being questioned due to all the medical ramifications of eating it.

How different it could look if, instead of treating food as a commodity, we adopted an “Enlightened Agriculture” system, as outlined in Feeding People is Easy by Colin Tudge (www.paripublishing.com). Tudge notes that small-scale systems of diversified food production guard the safety and quality of food, while ensuring a healthy lifestyle that is not rooted in injustice and poverty for others.

Rather than the present monoculture scale of production, smaller scale farmers would join together to form cooperatives to meet distribution and marketing requirements. Countries would continue to benefit from the fair trade export of foods – grains and legumes from temperate climates and mangoes, avocadoes and coffee from tropical countries – but only after the people who live in those countries are fed first.

hands holding seedling

Another benefit of “Enlightened Agriculture” is the renaissance of all the various skills and crafts employed in our going back to basics. Traditions of winemaking, beekeeping, sewing, weaving, cheese making, cooking and preserving would be resurrected. Imagine how a simple paradigm shift like this could return us to a culture that slows life down from the frantic, overwhelming pace of modern life. I can’t wait.

Going back to the land to grow food begins and ends with seeds. Without a secure source of seeds (and water), there can be no such thing as sustainable agriculture. What better month to start planning your garden than January and there’s no better place to start than by checking out www.seeds.ca/ev/events.php to see if there is a Seedy Saturday in your area. Last year, 100 Seedy Saturday shows were hosted across Canada, with people coming out to share their seeds through community seed exchanges. Halls were packed full of local seed savers and farmers. At Seedy Saturday, you can find local, organic, open-pollinated varieties of seed that can be saved.

The fact that Seedy Saturday shows are springing up in so many communities shows that people understand the current threat to global food production and their own local food security. (Russia stopped exporting wheat this year due to extreme heat in the mid-40s that caused fires to burn down their wheat fields).

If we intend to feed ourselves by growing more food, we’ll need varieties of seed that produce maximum yields for home-grown food production and which can withstand the vagaries of ever changing climate conditions. The best seeds to start with are those that have become adapted to regional conditions, which is why we’ll have a much better chance at success if we create local seed banks in our communities. Happy enlightened New Year.

Carolyn Herriot is author of A Year on the Garden Path, a 52-Week Organic Gardening Guide and The Zero Mile Diet, a Year-round Guide to Growing Organic Food (Harbour Publishing). She grows ‘Seeds of Victoria’ at The Garden Path Centre in Victoria, BC. earthfuture.com/gardenpath/

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