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Why Is change so difficult?

Advocating for certain ways of being, growing, or thinking creates and perhaps limits ones ability to appear open minded.  As a result, terms to describe differences emerge.  Hippy, treehugger, environmentalist are descriptive terms. Ways, to describe those that have some sorta of feeling about having a positive impact or a lessened impact on the planet. Right winger, climate Denier, polluter are the opposite.  These two groups are enemies, on the other side of the fence, or basicilly agree to disagree.  Truth is we all have one thing in in common the need to eat.

 

Really it doesn’t matter where a person’s politics lay or how many trees they hug.  I recall one thing that my father said to me many years ago. “You can’t tell me how to spend my money”.  In reality, what he meant was something bigger than his average lesson.  Changing someones mind is impossible, unless they want to do so.  Like all sales pitches it is important to focus your commonality with your audience. Once, it is understood that both parties can relate to the same challenge, then drop a seed.

We all gotta eat right?

Turns out that it is easy to connect through food.  Ham, soy, and bean- burgers all taste good, but we all have our preferences. And, for different reasons people eat what the like.  More often than not preferences are actually bases on accessibility.  Inuits are eating a lot less advacados than Mexicans. And that, is based purely on regional specific accessibility.

Big agriculture has knitted the world together through the magic of progress.  This progress has often been made at the expense of culture, people and the land.  Pipe lines zigzag across countries delivering liquid resources to the more fortunate and striping it from its source.  Rivers no longer reach their destination as non-native plants squeeze the final drops through their roots.

It’s not all evil, modern technology has provided us with the ability to learn how to do better.  So often it is said that “we can learn from our surroundings”.  Agroforestry presents us with solutions that are exemplified in our natural surroundings.  Agriculture, the Agroforestry way, is as simple as it gets.  Basiclly, grow like a forest.

Why do we need a new term?

Truth is, all of the so called environmental movements say their way is the way. For this reason, skeptics bang at their door.  When the greenies wanted to switch from global warming to climate change, semantics got in the way of progress.  Agroforestry is a simple enough word that skeptics and naysayers won’t get confused. Not all environmentally progressive forms of agriculture are as good as others.  But, trees should be certainly be used in association with traditional food crops.

Hows it work?

Coffee growing under forest remnants in Ladalia, Nicaragua. Photo C Watson/ICRAF

 

The basic gist of Agroforestry is simple. Opposite of the dreaded monoculture, it incorporates diverse inter-species plantings.  What is that? Trees, Shrubs and ground-covers. These groups of plants or guilds act together to benefit the whole system.

 

 

 

A friend of mine once said “there are no straight lines in nature”. This theme echos throughout Agroforestry.  Working with the lay of the land, or contour planting, minimizes impact on the land and creates microclimates for specific plants to thrive.  Working with the land is easier and a more effective use of time and space.

Think of a an idealic forest. Imagine, small plants at your feet, berry bushes at hand height and trees over head providing a canopy of shade.  Nature maximizes its space naturally. Thats why, all the nooks and crannies are filled. The methodology behind Agroforestry mimics what we can observe so we can grow more effectively.  Nature has provided us with a template that already works, the forest garden.

India Agroforestry, LEISA – Low External Input Sustainable Agriculture

Look around

It is important to recognize that a successful gardener has explored many techniques and methods of gardening.  Resulting in a more successful a garden.  Lowell said “One thorn of experience is worth a whole wilderness of warning”.

A protected garden does not have to be closed off by fences. Rather, a living hedgerow that provides nutrients to the soil and habitat for pollinators. A buffered riparian zone, aka a stream and its surrounding banks, protect ground water from pollution.  And, mixed crops create a diverse ecosystem that is healthier, more productive, disease and pest resistant.  Think of agriculture as cities, a diverse community is an empowered, secure, and resilient community.

Agroforestry works because it relies on principles that work. Moreover, principles that are ingrained into what we already know to be successful. If the spaces are filled and then can more can fit in. No sooner are things mixed it up, then new things take hold.  Certainly, the agriculture system is in need of change.  Due to the growing need for land stewardship, Agroforestry offers a solution to many environmental challenges.