Farming, who’d do it? Farmer’s are stuck between the chaotic natural world and trying to determine some kind of order from that chaos. In recent times the perceived need to control nature has become overwhelming. For example aquifers are drained to overproduce grain in areas of insufficient rainfall. Rivers are straightened and walled in to drain floodplains to make use of alluvial soil but the floodwaters grow and break the walls to spoil the crops. more and more energy is required to produce the same yeilds and if you hem nature in, even with small changes, she responds with big events.
Now with anthropogenic global warming things are becoming even more chaotic, if you add energy (heat) to a dynamic system (our global climate) you’re going to see your system become increasingly unpredictable. The picture above shows the classic double pendulum trick. If you swing a double pendulum gently it acts like any other pendulum. If you give it an almighty shove and loads of energy it swings about all over the place. Our global climate can be viewed that way. We’re going to see more and more extremes in our weather as nature tries to balance her equations. This is the headline chaotic problem that global agriculture will face in the next 100 years.
So what do the conventional farmers do to manage climate chaos and the other negative effects of the intensive industries? They fight back with bigger machines, biotechnology, genetic modification, herbicide ready crops and pour more and more resources into growing the crops they always have grown, because that makes sense right? To try to increase yields in the same system that is stretched to the limits? The world of sustainable farming which focuses on organic methods, nurturing people, creating jobs, short supply chains, high margin marketing, working cooperatively, speciality crops, micro-enterprises and treading lightly on the world is surely just another chaotic system to be avoided?
Perhaps not. Sustainable farmers accept the chaos of nature and try to work with it, even embrace it. The margin between chaos and order is, perhaps, where the best things happen. Where chaos can effect its own change and a small measure of order applied to adapt to those changes. When sustainable farmers lose crops to drought, floods, pests or diseases they change to more suitable crops, move their fields, change crop rotations and do whatever else they can to accept and use what nature has given them on their farm.
So where conventional farmers try to enforce complete authority over nature, sustainable farmers work with nature and use it to their advantage. There’s maybe a lesson for the whole of society there. Perhaps we need to stop trying to evolve or mend our current systems and allow a little chaos in to show us the way. Some blue sky thinking in our, soon to be, post fossil fuel world might help humanity along a bit.
Where did this ramble come from? The imminent change of season. There’s nothing more ordered than the move from one season to another and nothing more chaotic than the weather that it throws up. It gets ALL of us farmers birlin’. Waiting for the things to settle down so we can get on with our plans. That’s where we are at the Cyrenians Farm now, waiting with certainty for the new growing season and bubbling with anticipation to see what that throws at us. We’re a resilient bunch and our resilience comes from our complex systems. The singular, conventional order is very fragile.
TLDNR: DINNAE PUT ALL YER EGGS IN ONE BASKET.