Category Archives: agrarian

Global Forces Rile Farm and Food Realities

by Steven McFadden

Colossal forces—social, financial, technical, environmental, governmental, and climatological—are whirling emphatically this year, directly engaging, disengaging, and impacting our farms and food. Each human being on Earth has a stake in how it all settles out. It’s that basic.

Among the forces: climate extremes, environmental breakdowns, food security threats, the Covid-19 pandemic, all accompanied by a burgeoning corporate involvement in the realm, including big finance and the advance guard of data-driven AI technologies.

Those forces are met with the soul-yearnings of millions of human beings of all colors, faiths, and nations. They hunger and thirst for a planet-wide realization, a spiritual awakening that results in a sincere, whole-hearted, justice-based reckoning with the critical, foundational matters of our farms and food.

This is no time for co-opted or fake measures, no junk agroecology. Things are real.

The consequential vectors—big money, big tech, big GMO, big chemical, the human beings, and the poisoned politics of our times—are engaged for a defining moment, a moment likely reaching a crescendo in September, in New York, at the UN Food Systems Summit 2021 #UNFSS.

A classic yang-yin polarity thus emerges in sharp relief as we move through
critical points on the pathway to the future not just of farms and food, but also of all that rests upon the foundation that farms and food constitute. Mechanical, material, technical efficiency and profit reside in a yang zone, while the yin realm is home to the basic, upwelling needs of every human being for dignity, respect, justice, adequate clean food, a beautiful, sustainable world to live in, and a dynamic active vision that includes the full circle of life…

The rest of this blog post is at Mother Earth News…

CSA Farms: Exploration and Activation

This is a link to a Youtube recording of slides I created for an online seminar presented to a large group for KAIL (Kuncup Padang Ilalang) in Indonesia, Earth Day 2021. I invite you to check it out. The slides tell this important story in a concise, colorful way.

Although the first audience for this presentation is the people of Indonesia, the points I share about the context, purpose, and promise of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) are important, and universally relevant. The full 1.5 hour seminar, including both the slides and voice recording, is also available via this link on Youtube.

 

A Vision for Nebraska: Build a Cornhuskers monument

My wife Elizabeth and I are on our way out of Nebraska, work having summoned us once again to the southwest. In parting from this stalwart state, I want to share a vision.

The Lincoln Journal-Star, the paper of record for the state’s capital city, recently published an article about the intention of some local developers to establish an “iconic” building in Lincoln’s Haymarket district. That article prompted me to recall an iconic vision I had nearly a decade ago when I first moved to this Cornhusker State.

At that time my office window had a direct view of the Nebraska State Capitol, a 400-foot tall building graced at the top with an iconic image of The Sower—a universal and greathearted figure hard at work, purposefully sowing seeds across the land that we might have the food and fiber that sustains us all.

The Sower is an indisputably handsome and worthy icon for an agrarian state. I was always inspired looking out my window and up at his powerful figure. But then I began to think: Nebraska is The Cornhusker State, not The Cornsower State. Where was a statue depicting The Huskers: the people who husked, or harvested, the crops rising from the seeds?

With memory of that vision activated, I wrote a “comment”—basically a digital letter to the editor—and posted my comment at the end of the Journal Star story.

Here’s an updated version of my comment:

“Here’s my idea for an icon they can put on the roof of the proposed Haymarket building: a monumental statue of The Huskers. By that I mean a 20-25 foot high sculpture in the style of The Sower, using similar materials.

“Sculpt The Huskers as a man, woman, daughter, and son working their way (husking) through a field of sculptural corn 20′ or more high. Build the monument so that the four figures are universal human beings (as The Sower appears to be) bringing in the goodness of what The Sower has sown. Build the monument so that it’s facing The Sower, and is a pubic attraction with its own access and egress, so as not to disturb the businesses in the building.

“A monument like that would bring honest pride, dignity, and joy for all Nebraskans (and visitors) as they might walk among the sculptured people and their giant sculptural corn field. The two monuments (Sower and Huskers) would tell children and adults in a glance the story of the plains and the grains and the people. Such an epic sculpture of The Huskers would express the heart of the state, and thus would be ICONIC indeed.

“I’ve always felt that such a monument would be fitting for the north end of Lincoln’s Centennial Mall, but the Haymarket would also be fitting in many ways.

“The Cornhuskers” monument could complete what might be thought of as a sculptural yin and yang, bringing a visual and energetic dynamic into perpetual play. The moral lesson would be both implicit and explicit: you reap what you sow.”

A monument for The Huskers in combination with The Sower would distinguish Nebraska in a way the Gateway Arch marks St. Louis, the Statue of Liberty accents New York, and the Golden Gate Bridge signifies San Francisco.

Ginawaydaganuc 2021: from UN Code Red to Deep Agroecology

by Steven McFadden
As yet another United Nations Code Red warning flashes around the world, I join with those who propose that ginawaydaganuc is an essential and realistic mind set, and who encourage general, wholehearted embrace of all that it denotes and connotes.

What in our vast, entangled cosmos is this thing called ginawaydaganuc? Suffice for the moment to say that it’s a word from one of the original languages of North America, Omàmiwininìmowin (Algonquin). That language has been extant on North America for many thousands of years–a vital vernacular. 

This Algonquin word is easier to say than you might at first imagine. It’s pronounced with a soft ‘g’: gee-na-way-dag-a-nook. Try speaking the word aloud phonetically, and experience how the sound feels in your head, heart, and soul. Ginawaydaganuc denotes the fundamental reality that we are all related–with each other, with the natural world, with the cosmos.

There’s more to say. But before contemplating the ramifications of ginawaydaganuc, take a moment to breathe, and to absorb the full impact of one of the latest Code Red warnings. This one comes from the UN’s 2020 report, The Next Frontier: Human Development and the Anthropocene.

Unprecedented Moment of Human History

“We are at an unprecedented moment in the history of humankind and in the history of our planet,” the report says. Under relentless pressure from climate chaos, species loss, inequality, natural destruction, and COVID-19, our planetary and social warning lights are “flashing red”…

My complete blog post is live now at Mother Earth News.

Food, Farms, and Our Future – A video conversation about Deep Agroecology

My video conversation with Brooke Medicine Eagle about The Call of the Land and the accompanying slide show, is freely available now. To learn more about deep agroecology and the possibilities for our food and farms, follow this link.

American Ag Ambassador attacks agroecology

By Steven McFadden
The U.S. Ambassador to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has been using his public office to denounce the clean, sustainable, and socially just initiatives of agroecology while defending the toxic chemicals and processes of industrial agriculture

As detailed in The Hagstrom Report, during a speech last February at the USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum, FAO Ambassador Kip E. Tom complained about the agroecology movement for rejecting synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, and also genetically modified organisms (GMOs)…

…He’s correct about agroecology not sharing his core values and assumptions. The production and profit values of multinational ag and chemical corporations have contributed to profound imbalances in the environment, in world climate, and in the health and welfare of human beings and farmed animals.  The corporate industrial ag food system that Tom defends has remained determinedly oblivious to the ruination of the sources, and to the chaos of the climate…

The rest of the story is at Mother Earth News.

As Climate Chaos intensifies, agroecology stands as an essential response

by Steven McFadden
Based on political talking points, many people kiss off the reality of climate change. They go on with their lives as if there is no threat to be concerned about at all.

But climate change (now more accurately spoken of as climate chaos) is severely real. with raging fires, roaring hurricanes, and parching drought, it’s impacting farms, food, and millions of lives. The population of environmental refugees is swelling around the globe. This is factual way beyond politics or propaganda.

A recent survey by Stanford University, however, found that when people are directly impacted by climate change, political divisions evaporate. The impacted people immediately begin to take the intensifying reality of climate change seriously. How could they do otherwise?

The USDA’s landmark report Climate Change, Global Food Security, and U.S. Food System concluded that climate change is going to impact global, regional, and local food security. It will drive an overall increase in food prices, and also disrupt food availability.

That’s a grim outlook. But the USDA report also states emphatically that adaptation can make a positive difference. That’s where households and communities of all sizes and constellations need to place their attention and their energy: effective adaptation. And that is one of the key reasons why I wrote Deep Agroecology: Farms, Food, and Our Future.

Climate chaos is here. It’s not coming at some future date. Embracing agroecological responses now, while it is possible, is wise, worthwhile, and essential.

Toward positive, proactive responses, I strongly recommend the new film Kiss the Ground. It’s available now on Netflix, and via DVD.

Deep Agroecology earns a five-star review

This five-star book review just in. The review is by Kimberlee J Benart for Readers’ Favorite:

If you’re interested in integrating modern sustainable agriculture with ancient native wisdom to meet our future food needs while regenerating our planet, Deep Agroecology: Farms, Food, and Our Future by Steven McFadden is for you.

The term “agroecology” has been used since 1928 to refer to the merger of agronomy and ecology, but it’s now a growing international movement with broader goals.

“Deep agroecology” is “our next natural, intelligent, and necessary evolutionary step” for a better, cleaner, healthier, more just world through the transformation of agriculture from an industrialized and chemicalized agribusiness model to a holistic approach which supports a culture of respect for the earth and all life on it; a culture in which farmers are our heroes. An extensive list of resources is included and a subject index is provided.

In Deep Agroecology, Steven McFadden gives us an impressive and impassioned in-depth treatment on one of the most important topics of our day: caring for our earth so we can feed the people who live on it. Add the issue of water resources management, which is interconnected with agriculture, and we survive or we perish on the direction we take.

While in today’s world we’re accustomed to turning to technology to find our solutions, McFadden reminds us that we have deep cultural roots which need to be brought to bear as well: the wisdom, clarity, integrity, and spirit-centeredness of indigenous peoples.

With the skill of a seasoned journalist, McFadden ties together topics of agrarian science, economics, and ancient spirituality in an approachable style that gives the reader not only food for thought but inspiration for action.

Highly recommended.

Towards deep agroecology (The Ecologist)

by Steven McFadden
The world’s leading environmental platform, The Ecologist, has published my essay, Towards deep agroecology. The essay gets the story across concisely in about 900 words. Here are the introductory paragraphs:

“Agroecology presents an inspirational and pragmatic vision of what is necessary and possible as we strive to re-organize our food chain in response to this pandemic, and to pollution, climate breakdown, and the intensifying hegemony of multinational chemical, drug, and industrial corporations.

“Agroecology is an expression of practical, purposeful, and realistic hope. It’s a global vision that has been dreamed and then acted upon by millions of people around the world. But many millions more human beings, billions more actually, are needed to take up and follow the vision now…”

The full essay in The Ecologist is here.

QUIZ: What’s your LFQ? (Local Food Quotient)

by Steven McFadden
People often talk about IQ, the Intelligence Quotient, and certainly that can be important. But what about your LFQ, your Local Food Quotient? With all the changes taking place in the world, especially in the critical farm and food scene, that can be important as well.

As I define it for this non-scientific quiz, your LFQ is an informal indicator of how aware you are of the bountiful benefits of buying and eating locally grown fresh food. It also yields a glimpse of how engaged you are in supporting local growers and fresh food for your own health, for your family’s health, and for the health of your community and your natural environment.

To calculate your LFQ, answer these yes or no questions. Give yourself three carrots for every yes answer, and one empty basket for every no answer. Then forget about the empty baskets. Add up your carrots, and see where you fit on the LFQ scoreboard.

  • Have you ever grown any of your own food?
  • Do you know what a food desert is?
  • Do you have a neighbor you talk with who has a vegetable garden?
  • Have you ever picked wild berries, or any other wild food?
  • Have you ever enjoyed an outing to a u-pick berry farm?
  • Have you ever eaten eggs laid by a hen that you have personally seen (or heard cluck)?
  • Have you ever said hello to a local farmer and shaken his or her hand?
  • Have you ever picked vegetables in a garden or field?
  • Do you know where most of your food comes from?
  • Does the supermarket you shop at stock any food from local growers or producers?
  • Do you think they would if you asked them?
  • Have you ever enjoyed a tomato from a grower in the county where you live?
  • Have you ever enjoyed an apple pie made with apples grown in your county or state?
  • Do you know about any local farmers growing food for the community where you live?
  • Do you have a plan to grow more food, or purchase more local food, in 2020?

FIGURE IT OUT
Perfect score:  45 carrots
Your score:       ?

SCOREBOARD RANKINGS
0              carrots             Missing Out
3 to 12     carrots             Nibbler
12 to 24   carrots             Muncher
24-36      carrots             Provider
36-45      carrots             Community Chow Champion

N.B. I originally created this quiz for, and in collaboration with, Buy Fresh Buy Local Nebraska. BFBLN decided to print a shorter, edited version in their 2020 annual guide, so I thought I’d roll this version out on my Deep Agroecology blog. – Steven McFadden