Fit Farmers for the Future


| 7/9/2014 4:25:00 PM


Tags: fitness, yoga, food policy, Center for an Ecology Based Economy, Maine, Scott Vlaun,

A few years ago, I had the privilege of presenting a slide show celebrating “Seed People” at the Organic Seed Growers Conference hosted by the Organic Seed Alliance. As the last presenter of the day, I spent the day listening to speakers reflecting on the importance of conserving genetic diversity in the seed world, and  of adapting seed varieties to low-input organic conditions and climate instability. In the face of seed industry consolidation and the GMO monocultures which dominate the agricultural landscape, this all seemed like critical work; the very work that the folks in my slide show (many of whom were in the audience that day) were doing with a passion. As the day moved on I was feeling confident that my presentation would be a fitting ending for the day and leave everyone inspired to continue the important work of breeding, adapting, and growing organic seed to forge a foundation for the burgeoning organic agriculture movement.

True Food System Sustainability

What I was unprepared for that day was the speaker who directly proceeded me. I had the great fortune that afternoon of hearing Fred Kirschenmann of the Leopold Center reflect on the future of agriculture in this country. His talk was both inspiring for the vision he had for moving towards true food system sustainability, and terrifying for the extreme challenges he saw ahead. (Also terrifying for me to have to speak after him!) 

One of the many things I gained from Kirschenmann’s lecture was his reference to a paper by Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute entitled "50 Million Farmers," which I have since read many times. In this seminal essay, Heinberg points out that in a post-fossil fuel era, which is of course inevitable, that it will take one in six of us with our hands in the soil to grow enough food for humanity, as opposed to the current ratio in the U.S. of about one farmer to one hundred eaters. The vision of living in a society where nearly twenty percent of us grow food has been an inspiration for me ever since that day. A lot will have to change to get us there, not least the health of our population.

We often equate the health, or lack thereof, in our food system with the health, or lack thereof in our communities. Our current food system has lead to an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease to name a few ills. Where does this leave us as we look to develop a robust and sustainable, post-carbon food future? Surely one in six of us are not ready for the challenge. While there is a fit and even ultra-fit percentage of our population running, swimming, biking and pumping iron in the gym, many of those folks have little knowledge, time or inclination when it comes to gardening or farming. Those that do have the knowledge base for producing food at scale are largely late middle age, or older and are not necessarily in robust health due to the nature of modern, fossil fuel-based farming and the American lifestyle.

Yoga In The Garden

Photo, above: The author and his son, Jasper, stretching in the garden


scottvlaun
7/19/2014 3:52:11 PM

Ramona, That's a nice idea and some video is in the future plans. I'm not really sure how video will work without basic yoga practice. You might try connecting with a local yoga teacher and explaining what you do she or he might be able to guide you through some good poses to open up your back. I find that gentle counter posing focusing more on extending upwards rather than bending back, and working on hands and knees helps me keep my back happy on market days. Good luck!


ramona
7/14/2014 5:48:52 PM

Hi Scott, Very interesting article. How about you make a short video of those specific yoga exercises you are going to perform? My gardening back would really appreciate it. Thanks!




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