Some time ago, in preparation for the move to a simpler way to live, I participated in a Permaculture Design Course. This course has helped with decisions around how to work with the Land on Greenhaven Farm, (where we live when we are not on SY Jerrican, sailing.) It has also informed the larger decisions about where to place a cottage, a food growing system, orchards, roads and dams.
Permaculture is a fast growing, grassroots movement for sustainable living, for living close to nature and in cooperation with it. It works deeply with food growing systems, both urban and rural, but also concerns itself with the regeneration of soil and with systems for self sufficiency, like the use of alternative energy sources and dealing with one’s own waste, all concepts we are very familiar with, on a boat. Permaculture is, however, most often associated with the growing of food in a diverse way, using nature rather than the Industrialised Farming method which emphasizes (and relies on) the inputs of Herbicides, Pesticides and Antifungal treatments for plants and the soil. The Permaculture way is to observe and to mimic nature. A food growing system which mimics a forest system, for example, does not need exterior inputs. In a more conventional sense this might be called “Ecological” or “Regenerative” farming. The shift is to see a piece of land as a growing system and working with what is already in the system and cycling things, the idea being that the growing of food needs very little outside input and only a small amount of energy.
So, with my “Permaculture Hat” firmly placed on my head (I tell myself daily that this is who I am, who I want to be) I prepared my Coffee Bean offering for the local Montagu Saturday Morning Market today, after a week of intense thoughts about Weed Killer. Today, the enemy, Mr MW, who sells Agricultural Chemicals, presented himself as a customer for a cup of coffee. Life/Nature always sends something or someone to level things out a little!
Mr MW, sells Agricultural Chemicals , but Mr MW is surprisingly approachable and open, and he enjoys a good cup of coffee so we talked. There is a certain large company with a name beginning with, well, M, which produces a certain herbicide which contains Glyphosphates. Mr MW explains that the company is delighted with all the publicity it’s Herbicide receives via the Internet, even if it is negative. It also knows it’s Herbicide’s days are numbered. But this does not concern them at all as there are newer formulations of Herbicide, which are little known to the general public and which are far more sinister and scary, being produced by other large Chemical Companies which may or may not have been bought out by the company with the name beginning with M. He described, by way of example, a Herbicide where, if a single drop is placed on a cigarette it can kill the person smoking that cigarette, instantly. He explained that Glyphosphates are rather benign in comparison. Mr MW, continues in his narrative about how Pesticides are far more scary as they are the ones most responsible for inadvertent poisoning. He believes that there is a role for Herbicides and all things Chemical as he believes that this is the only way possible to grow food in a mono cropped system. Mr MW, was interesting to chat to and open but on the drive home, to Greenhaven Farm, the thought of all those many people who are against the Industrialised Farming Model, model which involves high cost inputs in the form of Chemicals, into a “Mono Cropped System”, inadvertently “helping” those chemical companies by focusing on just ONE formulation makes me feel quite ill.
I am certain the Industrialised Farming Model is unsustainable, it will die a natural death. Mr MW agrees, and voiced his enthusiasm and support for alternative methods. He helped me understand some of the challenges to the change, but what is refreshing to know is that most farmers know that change has to happen. The Chemical Companies are looking at nature for inspiration too. They are looking at the use of
natural predators as solutions for the future. We all need to engage in discussions across the many groupings of ideas. It is simply not good enough to wear only one hat, the Industrialised Farmers need to talk to the Permaculturists, the Permaculturists to the Ecological Farmers, the Regenerative Farmers to the Organic Farmers, the Biodynamic farmers to the Industrialised ones. It occurred to me that perhaps, one cup of ethically grown coffee at a time, we can discuss, find common ground and learn from each other.