Local Organic Farming and Living
“Reconnecting with the Earth”
by Jenny Rasmussen 2002
     When searching for answers to sustainability, we are lucky to live at a time when we can still study native cultures around the world who have lived sustainably for thousands of years.  One example of a sustainable community is Gao Village in China, where villagers rarely traveled outside their own village until recent times.  The story is inspiring and provides insight for things we can do to change our own lives.  One relatively simple and dramatic thing we can do is to eat foods grown locally and in season.  In Gao Village they produced all their own food, primarily rice and vegetables.  They also grew cotton and made their own clothing.  Although few people in our society would voluntarily spin and weave cotton for clothing, at least the thought of doing so helps us realize the amount of land and resources needed to make our clothing.  Buying organic cotton products or used clothing can help reduce the strain on the environment.  In Gao Village there was no need to travel outside the small community to exchange food or goods with other communities, so no energy or transportation was necessary.  Local aquatic food sources, nuts, and berries also provide nourishment for native peoples around the world.  Very few people in our modern society are taught as children how to live off the land around them.  It is never too late to start though, and there are many books and resources for those interested in the subject.
     In addition to learning from native cultures, we can also learn from local organic farmers.  With experience growing crops without pesticides and herbicides, organic farms are an ideal source of information for those yearning for the skills we may not have learned as children. The images of agriculture we grew up with may contain patterned fields and crop dusters, but local organic farmers are beginning to paint a new picture for us.  Crops planted amongst wildflowers attract valuable pollinator insects.  Purple martins, bats, dragonflies, and other natural predators are encouraged, rather than fighting nature with pesticides.  Crop rotation and organic fertilizers promote soil health.  The farmland itself is not the only thing that changes in this new vision of agriculture.  Some other benefits of eating local organic crops include the following:
     • The lack of pesticides and herbicides provides a water quality benefit for lakes and rivers.  Approximately 40% of U.S. lakes and streams do not meet basic fishable/swimmable goals for humans, yet local birds, mammals, and aquatic creatures eat and drink from these water bodies daily.
     • Transportation fuel and pollution are reduced dramatically by eating local organic foods.  Food often travels thousands of miles before reaching the grocery store.  Learning to eat foods that are in season locally can be an exciting way to regain contact with nature around us and reduce our heavy dependence on oil.
     • Water is currently being used unsustainably in many desert regions across the world (primarily for irrigated agriculture), drying up groundwater reserves and causing major rivers like the Colorado River in Arizona/California to run dry before reaching the sea.  Rather than transporting water out of the desert by eating crops from these desert regions, we can choose to buy our own locally grown crops and support our local farmers.
     • Local organic foods taste better and bring us closer to nature and the seasons, providing us with joy in discovering our own roots in this Earth.

     To find organic farms in your own community, visit www.localharvest.org

References:

Gao, Mobo. Gao Village: Rural Life in Modern China, (London: C. Hurst & Co. (Publisher) LTD; Hawaii: Hawaii University Press; Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press; Bathurst: Crawford House Publishers, 1999.

John and Jo Dwyer, owners of Angel Valley Organic Farm in Jonestown, TX.

Sayle, Carol Ann.  Eating in Season: Recipes from Boggy Creek Farm  www.BoggyCreekFarm.com