Pushing the Limits
Challenging the Norms
In life, there are times when we must stretch ourselves. This thought came to me as I was undergoing my first of a dozen rehabilitation sessions on my recently repaired right shoulder. I presented to my appointment with the expectation that it was going to hurt quite a bit. I was informed by many people that the physical therapy for shoulder recovery is extremely painful.
During the appointment, the therapist evaluated my range of motion and the strength contained within my forearm. The range of motion was very limited and the strength not great. After an initial assessment, the therapist reviewed my surgical procedure and designed a regimen for recovery. She proceeded to start my therapy.
Therapy began with her lifting my arm directly in front of my body. Had it been up to me, she would have stopped at the point in which my arm reached about 6 degrees above simply hanging straight down at my side. It was at this point that intense pain flared up at the surgery site. As I stated, I would have had her stop here, perhaps content with my lack of flexibility (though not really). Thankfully, she continued past that point, which was simply resistance to the new range of motion. It was necessary to gently pass my arm through this point in order to progress me to the point of full recovery.
The point is this, we sometimes need to push the limits and challenge the norms. I see this all around us, as we look at the history of many things. Things need to adapt or they begin to deteriorate and eventually cease to exist. This is evident in many business and I fear that it may be the path that some forms of agriculture are headed. I have stated before that conventional agriculture is based upon the pillars of large chemicals and mass production. This is based on the need to maximize production for an ever increasing population that is being served by an ever shrinking farming constituent. The question is what is the true cost of this rapid production of food? What are the long term effects on the land? Is it possibly time to adapt, by returning to the practices of yesteryear?
Even as late as the 1950′s, mass production of fertilizers and chemicals was limited. Many farms were unable to purchase these inputs due to lack of capital or lack of availability. For many reasons that I will not discuss at this time, mass fertilizers made their way onto farms. These bulk fertilizers replaces the previous emphasis on organic matter as fertilizers. Farming also began a transition to what I will call confinement or captivity. These operations began to move away from pasture based systems, replacing them with confinement in buildings. This helped to concentrate the animals, which likely led to increases in diseases. These animals were stressed due to crowding, malnourished due to competition for feed and immuno-compromised due to the stress and malnourishment. The diseases also spread more rapidly due to the lack of airflow and the close proximity of the concentrated herds. The confinement of the animals, led to an increase in disease, which led to an increased need for antibiotics, dewormers and vaccinations.
I find it interesting that there are more and more farmers looking into sustainable methods of farming. These methods are a return to the ways of old, yet feature a lot of science behind their practices. mow that confinement farming has been the norm for many years, I feel that it is time to challenge the norms. We need to return to pasture based management systems. These systems spread the manure and limit disease by allowing greater airflow, UV light exposure, and he spreading of animal waste. The waste (manure and urine) serve to replenish the soil by placing organic matter throughout the field. It is important to note that too many animals in too small of a space is a great concern as well. This scenario will lead to bare ground, concentration of waste and erosion.
I believe that we should look at using the land, yet being stewards of the land. (Click Here for one of our articles) I have been reading a lot about sustainable agriculture practices over the past few months. Joel Salatin is a big proponent of emulating nature on his Polyface farms. He observes that birds tend to follow ruminant herds across the plains. The birds sift through the manure that is left behind and they eat the bugs that tend to follow the large herds. Salatin mimics this system by following his rotationally grazing cattle with his portable egg mobile.
I was in a discussion with my life coach just yesterday about this very topic. I will paraphrase what he said:
“The great people are the ones who life on the edges and challenge the norms.” He said this in reference to our conversation about alternative, sustainable farming practices. We were discussing the local food movement that is going on in California. It is a huge movement to eat local, and particularly organic. This may be the one instance that I feel it is good for the rest of us to follow the lead of California.
In closing, I want to encourage farmers to look toward sustainable practices. These practices are possible to utilize an yet, they allow for an income as well. By being sustainable, we are able to both use the land to our benefit for production AND preserve it at the same time. We should be grateful stewards of the land.