Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Your Farm

In conversations about environmentalism and the power of an individual to change the world, I often hear it noted that the good any one of us do is inevitably undone by the overwhelming tide of humanity, most of whom aren't so idealistically inclined.  We're all going to hell in a handbasket anyway, so why make our lives difficult on top of it all?  Damn the torpedoes!  Live life to the fullest, eh?  (imho, a purposefull life is much fuller than a guilt ridden free-for-all, but that's another discussion)

At other times, people relating to our farming adventures note that they can't just go and buy a farm to start doing what we're doing.  So how do they change the world for the better?

The way I see it, none of us are responsible for changing the world, and shouldn't lament that fact.  We are, however, responsible for our portion of it.  The fact of the matter is that we *all* have a farm, and much more.  There is a portion of the planet that we each own and control, based on how we live our lives.  Each of us has a farm, a forest, a mine, a patch of ocean, and a bit of each environment upon which our lives depend.

If we purchase grass-fed meats, the pastures on our farms pull a bit of carbon out of the atmosphere, and our future looks brighter.  If we stop for lunch at a Subway or Taco Bell, our farm dumps a big plume of carbon and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere, our farm's weather goes nuts, and our patch of ocean turns into a dead zone when our nitrogen fertilizer runs into the sea.  The animals on our farm live very different lives based on how we eat.  How are your livestock faring these days?

Buy some "cheap" farmed shrimp, and our patch of formerly productive mangrove coastline gets bulldozed to put up a shrimp farm lagoon, destroying the life in your patch of ocean.  Buy the "expensive" wild caught shrimp (or none at all), and your mangroves remain a valuable nursery for sea life.  Everything is a trade-off; cheap goods usually have the most expensive long term costs.

My own farm has a sizeable patch of northern Alberta in it, and it looks like hell.   Literally.  It got a whole lot worse when I started commuting 300 miles a week last year.  I scraped off the boreal forest to get at the tar sands underneath, cooked them with fracked natural gas (sorry neighbors!), and dumped a big pile of carbon into the atmosphere -- and that's all before I even put any gasoline in my car.  The toxic tailing ponds I left regularly kill migratory waterfowl, and are leaching into my once pristine rivers and killing everything downwind and downstream.  I'm not happy about that, but I am proud to face the fact and not shy away from it.  My patch of the Gulf of Mexico doesn't look particularly good these days either, with a few emaciated corexit-contaminated dolphins washed up on the beach.  I've got work to do.

Just imagine what our whole world would be like if we each managed our farms as if we owned them.  We wouldn't have to change anyone but ourselves.


Brad Brookins said...


Good post. Thanks.

I have a question about the picture at the top of the page. I don't know if that is your hay equipment, but I'm wondering what the tractor is doing between the horses and the wagon?

David Veale said...

Yup, that's our haying setup. That's funny about the tractor -- I thought it looked like a tractor myself. It's actually our forecart (notice it's just a single axle), but my friend's leg looks a bit like the hood of a tractor.