Farming for Self-Sufficiency: Independence on a 5-Acre Farm

John and Sally Seymour explore the history and reality of self-sufficient farming, the benefits of crop rotation, rotational grazing of livestock and how to drain wet land.

| January/February 1974

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    A small homestead can lead to increased self-reliance and, eventually, self-sufficiency.
    ILLUSTRATION: JOHN AND SALLY SEYMOUR
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    The land you choose and how you care for it will determine, in part, the crops you can grow.
    JOHN AND SALLY SEYMOUR
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    It may be most useful to determine a cost-benefit analysis to raising different kinds of livestock before purchasing them.
    JOHN AND SALLY SEYMOUR

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Ah, the vicissitudes of time. Two years ago, when there were no currently-relevant small-scale farming introductory handbooks available, many of us welcomed the publication of Richard Langer's Grow It! with open arms. Now that we're all older and more experienced with self-sufficient living, however, some folks find it increasingly easy to criticize that breakthrough beginner's guide. 

Which brings us to another breakthrough book that is just as important (probably more so) now as Grow It! was two years ago, and which may well come up for its share of criticism in another 24 months or so. 

Be that as it may, John and Sally Seymour's record of small-scale farming in England for 18 successful years is important now and should offer welcome encouragement to today's back-to-the-landers, both real and imaginary. I'll be serializing the book in the next several issues and I'm sure that many readers will want a personal copy for their home libraries. In this issue the Seymours explore the history and reality of self-sufficient farming, the benefits of crop rotation, rotational grazing of livestock, alternatives to artificial pesticides and how to drain wet land. —MOTHER. 

Self-Sufficient Farming

Two to three hundred years ago the British came to our shores—their new land—seeking survival and adventure, security and liberty. Many found these goals. Land was cleared, rich farms established, ores dug, factories built, steel smelted. Smokestacks pierced the sky, and cities grew. Wealth poured forth endlessly, and a strong nation developed. Most people called it health, success, and Progress with a capital "P." 



But underneath were disconcerting signs. Slums and ghettos in urban centers, rising taxes and costs which troubled farmers. Their answer? Sell more wheat, corn cotton; get more land, plant more acres, buy larger machines, use more fertilizers. There came an onslaught of blight and borers, weevils and fungi. Pesticides and poisons to the rescue! 

Always there were more people to feed in cities, so more chemicals were put In the soil for higher yields. Yet there was more disease, so stronger pesticides were used. Eventually came the sad admission that the soil was changing-growing stiff, inert, sick. Later came the sadder conclusion that the depletion and erosion and disease were resulting from the chemical-pesticide regime and the commercial, mono-crop agriculture, sometimes called agri-business. 






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