HIGHLIGHTS

A few online stories highlighting our urban homestead/farming efforts that you might find interesting reads.

Who’s Who in Green: The Dervaes Family {EarthFirst.com}

In response to genetically engineered food, grown thousands of miles away from where it will be consumed and doused in chemicals, a rallying cry spread across the country – a homegrown revolution. People have begun to realize that the ultimate way to take control over their own food is to grow it themselves – even if all they have to grow on is 1/10th of an acre in a town like Pasadena, California.

… Jules, Justin, Anais and Jordanne have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s entirely possible to subsist on what your own tiny parcel of land can provide, no matter where you live.

Dervaes Family’s Green Score: 38,998

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It’s Not Rocket Science: Land Productivity, Food Rights {Huffington Post}

I am offering this piece by my dear collaborator, De, as an essential bit of counter-propaganda against Big Ag — one of the key players in the oligarchy that holds sway over the Obama administration every bit as much as they have Bush II, Clinton, Bush I… etc. etc., just go back and check.

The nascent food underground in this country is a mass movement in embryo form that offers us “food praxis” as a point of departure in redesigning our built environment for a post-imperial, and — yes — post-capitalist age.

We’re all familiar with the myth: we learned it in school. It goes something like this:

Once Upon a Time, in the 1960’s, a crew of brilliant whitefellas in lab coats Saved the World by revolutionising farming and eliminating world hunger. Their new, advanced mechanical/chemical farming methods — vast areas of monocrop, heavy tractors, giant combines, tonnes of artificial pesticides and fertilisers — and their new, improved, superior hybridised crops increased yields tenfold and more. Without industrial farming, billions would starve, even though other billions would be re-sentenced to the short lives of brutal, backbreaking toil from which they were rescued by industrial/mechanised farming. Therefore, anyone who advocates organic or “sustainable” farming practise is some kind of heartless elitist who wants billions to starve and the rest to live as dawn-to-dusk field slaves — for this is what will happen if we do not continue and expand the highly successful [and highly profitable, for everyone except farmers and eaters] model of industrial/corporate farming. There is no other way to feed ourselves. If there are “external costs” of the industrial farming system, we will just have to accept them.

That’s what I was taught in school — and probably you were too, if the subject of agriculture was even mentioned during your school years.

….So we have a first approximation: diverse polyculture mimicking a climax ecosystem may be two times as productive as monocrop.

In Pasadena, California, the Dervaes family has been working towards food self-sufficiency on their standard (American suburban) 1/5 acre lot. Their food garden occupies 1/10th of an acre or about half the lot. On that .1 acre, they are cultivating over 350 species of plant, and their annual food yields are worth noting: (2008) 4,300 pounds of vegetable food, 900 chicken and 1000 duck eggs, 25 lbs of honey. Four people manage to get over 90 percent of their daily food from this 1/10th of one acre. That would suggest that over 30 people — if not actually 40 — might be able to eat from the productivity of one whole acre; far more optimistic than our British estimate.

But of course that’s in mild southern California, with its year-round growing season. Surely in more northerly climes — without Great Britain’s good fortune in being situated near a warm ocean current — manual garden-tending could not possibly out-produce fossil-assisted, mechanised farming? Dr Leonid Sharashkin examined closely the contribution of Russian smallholders and gardeners to the nation’s food supply.

In 2003, 34.8 million families (66% of all households in the country) owned gardening plots (subsidiary plot, allotment, garden, or dacha) and were involved in growing crops for subsistence (Rosstat 2005b). By 2005, 53% (by value) of the country’s total agricultural output was coming from household plots (which in 2006 occupied only 2.9% of agricultural land), while the remaining 47% (by value — Rosstat 2006) came from the agricultural enterprises (often the former kolkhozes and sovkhozes) and individual farmers, requiring 97.1% of agricultural lands (Rosstat 2007b).

(recent research by Sharashkin, as reported by Dmitry Orlov)

Let us review those statistics for just a moment. In post-Soviet Russia (with a growing season of about 110 days in the area studied) smallholders — ordinary gardeners and market-gardeners — control only 3 percent of the agricultural land, yet they are producing over half the country’s total agricultural output (by value). Orlov highlights Dr Sharashkin’s results: smallholders are growing 90% of all the potatoes in Russia, 80% of all the vegetables, 50% of the meat and milk etc. In other words, very high proportions of certain products, including at least one calorie staple (potato). And they were doing so on about 3 percent of the available land. What does this say about the “efficiency” of the large industrial farms occupying the other 97 percent? Or about the potential of small-scale polyculture to feed large numbers of people?

And how can this be? How is it that these real-world results can co-exist with the repeated claims by monocrop/industrial farm experts that their methods are far more productive than “mere peasant farming”?

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Comments(3)

  1. Stephanie Rogers says:

    Sweet, thanks for linking to EarthFirst! I wrote that article and I’m a longtime reader of your journal. I’m personally very inspired by what you guys are doing and hope to have an urban homestead of my own someday. I rent right now, but I’m still growing organic food! Thanks for sharing your journey with all of us!

  2. Caroline says:

    I am printing off the picture of your homestead and it is going on my vision board. I have my first 4×10 raised bed in the backyard and this is my second year of beekeeping but I’m still working on how to convince the neighbors that chickens are a good idea. Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. Aspen says:

    I just have to say that I love to see photos of your garden. It always looks so pretty and tidy. I am working on my raised beds and orchard areas. I hope to be nearly as productive as you some day!

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