Perspective for the Future

"They're making more people every day, but they ain't makin' any more dirt."

—Will Rogers

"Population will increase rapidly, more rapidly than in former times, and 'ere long the most valuable of all arts will be the art of deriving a comfortable subsistence from the smallest area of soil."

—Abraham Lincoln here is an exciting challenge ahead of us. How can we revitalize our extraordinary planet, ensuring life and health for the environment, the life-forms of a myriad of ecosystems, humankind, and future generations? The answer is as close to each of us as the food we consume each day.

We can begin to create a better world from right where we are—in home gardens and mini-farms, in virtually all climates and soils. Millions of people are already doing this in over one hundred countries around the world, using sustainable grow biointensive® mini-farming techniques.

We "farm" as we eat. For example, if we consume food that has been grown using methods that inadvertently deplete the soil in the growing process, then we are responsible for depleting the soil. if, instead, we raise or request food grown in ways that heal the Earth, then we are healing the Earth and its soils. Our daily food choices will make the difference. We can choose to sustain ourselves while increasing the planet's vitality. In the bargain we preserve resources, breathe cleaner air, enjoy good exercise, and eat pure food.

It has been estimated that about V3 of the health care costs in the United States could be eliminated through an increase in exercise and by eating a nutritious diet. Gardening and mini-farming provide both of these, resulting in a win-win proposition. By doing something that is wondrous and fun—growing food—each individual becomes important again in the face of an otherwise overwhelming global environmental challenge. The Earth, the soils, and each individual will be better as a result of these efforts.

"Our future security now depends . . . on developing new, more productive farming technologies."

  • Lester Brown
  • Open-pollinated seed use to preserve genetic diversity.
  • A whole, interrelated farming system. The grow biointensive food-raising method is a whole system, and its components must all be used together for the optimum effect. If you do not use all of its elements together, the method's high yields can rapidly deplete the soil. In this book you will see the terms grow biointensive and Biointensive. The latter refers to individuals, projects, and programs before Ecology Action's 1999 trademark registration of grow biointensive and/or not using all of the grow biointensive features.

It is interesting to note that during the last 50 years, since mechanized and chemical agricultural approaches have been used in China (as opposed to traditional Biointensive practices), China has lost as much as 33% of her farmland.3 In contrast, when properly used, grow biointensive sustainable mini-farming's miniaturization of agriculture can build the soil up to 60 times faster than in nature,4 while making possible

  • a 67% to 88% reduction in water consumption per unit of production;
  • a 50+% reduction in the amount of purchased fertilizer required per unit of production;
  • a 99% reduction in the amount of energy used per unit of production;
  • a 100+% increase in soil fertility, while productivity increases and resource use decreases;
  • a 200% to 400% increase in caloric production per unit of area;
  • a 100+% increase in income per unit of area.

Up to 6 billion microbial life-forms can live in one 5-gram amount of cured compost, about the size of a quarter. Life makes more life, and we have the opportunity to work together with this powerful force to expand our own vitality and that of this planet.

Gandhi observed that "To forget how to dig the earth and tend the soil is to forget ourselves." In Candide, Voltaire points the way: "The whole world is a garden and what a wonderful place this would be, if only each of us took care of our part of the Garden!" Each of us is needed. Building a truly sustainable agriculture is an essential part of building sustainable communities. As we build soils, we also build a culture made up of healthy living and effective farming, as well as enduring communities. In order to accomplish this, we need to shift our agricultural perspective. We need to stop growing crops and start growing soils! Granted, in order to grow soil, we need to grow crops. But rather than growing crops for the sole purpose of

  1. New York Times, March 27, 1994.
  2. "Worldwide Loss of Soil and a Possible Solution," Ecology Action, 1996.

consumption, the goal changes to one of giving and creating life—producing, in the process, an abundance of food.

We must begin by educating ourselves, then sharing what we have learned by teaching people to understand the importance of growing soil. This new challenge will be to discover how to live better on fewer resources. It is possible! The way humankind is currently living and increasing in population, we will not be able to provide for our own food needs soon if we do not grow soils. The information on page xiii illustrates how, in as little as 12 years, there may be an average of just 9,000 square feet (or less) of farmable land per person to feed most people on Earth. But regardless of the amount of arable land available, as early as 1992, many countries had only enough water to irrigate 4,000 square feet per person. However, grow biointensive sustainable mini-farming can make it possible to grow all the food for one's own nutrition, as well as food for the soil, on as little as 4,000 square feet. This may be accomplished at intermediate yield levels, which can be obtained without a great amount of difficulty.

it is important to note from the examples given that at some point during the years 2014 to 2021, there probably will not be enough land to produce all the nutrition needed for most of the world's population using current standard agricultural practices. These practices currently require about 7,000 to 63,000 square feet of farmable land, and most people will have access to only 9,000 square feet of arable soil as early as 2014. Further, most of the current practices are growing only food in the areas indicated, yielding insignificant net amounts of organic matter to produce the soil-nurturing humus needed to ensure the development of a healthy soil. With many of these practices, an additional equal area will be needed to produce the amount of organic matter necessary to sustain soil fertility for both the food-growing farm area and the organic matter-growing farm area.

However, grow biointensive sustainable mini-farming alone (or any other sustainable farming practice) is not the answer. if not used properly, grow biointensive practices can deplete the soil more rapidly than other farming practices because of the high yields. in contrast, when used properly—so all wastes are recycled and enough organic matter is grown to ensure that each farm can produce enough compost to create and maintain sustainable soil fertility—grow biointensive sustainable mini-farming can create soil rapidly and maintain sustainable soil fertility. It is how each one of us uses grow biointensive, or other food-raising practices, that makes a living difference!

on the other hand, to use only one agricultural approach to grow food could be unhealthy. This would be another form of "monocropping" in a living world ecosystem that needs diversity. Agriculture in the future will probably be a synthesis, a sustainable collage, of:

"The Jeavons approach has done more to solve poverty and misery than anything else we've done."

  • Bob Bergland, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture
  • grow biointensive mini-farming
  • agroforestry
  • no-till Fukuoka food raising
  • traditional Asian blue-green algal wet rice farming
  • natural rainfall "arid" farming
  • indigenous farming

Also, to preserve the plant and animal genetic diversity upon which we all depend, we need to keep 1/3 of the world's farmable land in wild.

As we begin to use sustainable, land- and resource-conserving food-raising approaches, more wilderness areas can remain untouched so more of the endangered plant and animal diversity on this Earth can be preserved. This wealth of genetic diversity is necessary if the planet on which we live is to support abundance.

Alan Chadwick, the horticultural genius who taught us the basis for grow biointensive sustainable mini-farming practices, guided us: "Just grow one small area, and do it well. Then, once you have got it right, grow more!" Each of us can begin in this way to revitalize ourselves, the soil, and the Earth—one small growing area at a time. Before we know it, we will all live on a thriving, vibrant Earth consisting of many personal and community mini-preserves, reestablished with health as a vital, dynamic whole!

Each one of us has tremendous potential to heal the Earth. Let us begin.

APPROXIMATE AREA REQUIRED TO GROW ONE PERSON'S DIET USING CONVENTIONAL MECHANIZED CHEMICAL OR ORGANIC TECHNIQUES

High Meat Diet (fossil fuels available) currently

Average U.S. Diets5 (fossil fuels available) currently

Average U.S. Vegan (fossil fuels available) currently

Average U.S. Vegan Diet (no animal products) (post-fossil fuel era)

Average of actual areas needed for diets eaten in developing nations, using actual agricultural practices (fossil fuels available)

31,000-63,000 sq ft 15,000-30,000 sq ft 7,000 sq ft

21,000-28,000 sq ft

1977: 30,000 sq ft 1988: 22,000 sq ft 2000: 16,000 sq ft

5. Assuming average amounts of vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, eggs, milk, cheese, and meat are eaten. xii A PERSPECTIVE FOR THE FUTURE

ESTIMATED ARABLE LAND AVAILABLE TO GROW ONE PERSON'S DIET WITH DIFFERENT LEVELS OF WATER AVAILABILITY IN THE FUTURE

Year 2000, Developing Nations (where 80% of the world's population will be living) with water available 16,000 sq ft

Year 2014-2021, Developing Nations (where 90%

of the world's population will be living) with water available 9,000 sq ft

Year 2000, in water-scarce areas around the world 4,000 sq ft

AREA REQUIRED TO GROW ONE PERSON'S DIET WITH THE GROW BIOINTENSIVE METHOD, INCLUDING CROPS THAT PRODUCE A HIGH LEVEL OF CALORIES PER UNIT OF AREA (SEE PAGES 31-32)

grow biointensive intermediate yields with soil fertility sustained 4,000 sq ft

By the year 2014-2021 with an average of 9,000 square feet available (see above), sufficient land and resources may be available in many developing-nation areas with grow biointensive, leaving up to 5,000 square feet surplus farmland for the preservation of plant and animal genetic diversity in adequate water situations.

WILL THERE BE ENOUGH LAND TO GROW A COMPLETE DIET FOR ONE PERSON USING CONVENTIONAL MECHANIZED CHEMICAL OR ORGANIC TECHNIQUES OR USING THE GROW BIOINTENSIVE METHOD?

Diet

High Meat

Avg. U.S.

Vegan

Vegan

Vegan with special root crops

Land Available with Different Levels of Water

Agricultural Technique

Conventional or Organic

Conventional or Organic

Conventional or Organic

Conventional or Organic (post fossil fuel)

grow biointensive

(Intermediate yields/sustainable)

16,000 sq ft

(year 2000, water available)

Insufficient

Insufficient

Sufficient land and 9,000 sq ft surplus6

Insufficient

Sufficient land and 12,000 sq ft6 surplus

9,000 sq ft

(year 2014-2021, water available)

Insufficient

Insufficient

Sufficient land and 2,000 sq ft surplus6

Insufficient

Sufficient land and 5,000 sq ft6 surplus

4,000 sq ft

(year 2000, water scarce)

Insufficient

Insufficient

Insufficient

Insufficient

Sufficient land and no surplus

6. Number of square feet represents the area that is in surplus, not needed for food production, that could be left in a natural state to preserve plant and animal genetic diversity and ecosystems.

Essential Guide to Organic Gardening

Essential Guide to Organic Gardening

By gardening organically, the dependence on chemicals is removed. By eliminating chemicals used in regular gardening, your vegetables will be healthier because they will get the nutrients by natural means. Unlike traditional gardening; organic gardening will help to prevent potentially harmful toxins from entering your body. Lastly, it is much more environmentally friendly.

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