Leaves are falling. Time for planting low, small, leafy foods. It is also the time for clearing vines, melons, squash and sorghum. The yam harvest and pumpkin gathering will happen soon here in Atlanta. All the summer plant growth is a crucial organic ingredient and fuel for the compost alchemy. We are offered this season for refinement as well. Integrate the sweet, steamy lusciousness of summer inspiration for a deepening of purpose. The soil is cooling. All the moisture held in the mulch will be distributed to the plants and microbes.
Over the next few lunar cycles, we will plant fruit trees and berry shrubs. Garlic will be planted between the next full and new moon. We have begun opening compost piles and adding the finished material to planting beds for transplants. Collards, kale, broccoli, turnip, cabbage and mustard are already standing tall. The sunchokes are blossoming and soon they will lay to the ground signaling us to come dig up their delicious tubers. This week, we saw the first healthy wild oyster mushroom fruit from its usual spot on the planting mounds. It is cool enough now.
This is a brief sketch of agroecology in the urban, Southeastern region of the United States. In Pierre Rabhi’s book As in the Heart, So in the Earth: Reversing the Desertification of the Soul and the Soil, we get a lesson in indigenous Earth care and capital-driven mind control. Agroecology is the term that Rabhi created to resonate the balance that his practice of agriculture encourages.
We are all in need of balance. Our planet is reflecting the urgency of that need. The change of seasons is an obvious signal for preparation and cleaning. This is the transition period where the new branch growth of fruit trees, vines and berry patches can be observed to help inform pruning decisions before they drop their leaves. Tasting cold-hardy kiwis and passion fruit after they fall to the ground punctuates why the highest nutrition and precisely perfect flavor must be harvested when ripe. This is nearly impossible in commerce-driven food culture.
This Good Food Movement, as Will Allen talks about, can be refocused around high quality, supreme flavor and vibrant energy signature. This is possible when food is grown in dynamic systems of diversity that are close to home.
Acroecology Can Help to Restore Balance to the Food System
To truly open up a new space in the conversation or the concrete, we must reframe the context. Our current ecological collapse is directly connected to the Western hunger for flesh. This hunger now requires that animals be bred and fed from land thousands of miles from where the animal will be consumed. This long-distance animal farming is the cause for many fruit and nut trees to be cut down and thousands of hectares of medicinal plants to be cleared and burned. Still, smoking a joint is illegal in many United States cities.
Globally, people eat animals in far less amounts than United States and Europe. Often the meat consumed in non-Western countries is locally or home grown, like goats, sheep or lamb. The Western diet addicted to blood has forced the creation of factory animal farms and feed. This bloodlust promotes the clearing of dense forests for growing feed. These practices pollute all life systems with the waste and death products of these slaughtered and mutilated beasts. When we approach the evolution of our local food system through this lense, clearly veganic agroecological practices are the answer.
Agroecology techniques are easily adaptable to urban areas, though they are most often associated with regions affected by drought or soil mismanagement. Globally, urban areas are densely populated with people needing to be fed and enormous quantities of natural resources such as water, soil and air being stressed and polluted. Observation is essential for deciding how to apply agroecology to any unique environment. Proper observation requires personally witnessing the ecology of a site during season changes for 18-30 moon cycles.
The ecology of a place includes the people, insects, tree canopy and soil waterways. It is valuable to see the growing site and the region in mid-day sun, darkness, summer heat and rain. These weather events and seasons are expressions of nature. They communicate and reveal the gifts and deficiencies of a landscape or region. We as humans have demonstrated a capacity for transforming topography as well as shifting weather patterns. We can redirect our power toward cultivating health and rejuvenating the fertility of a property or entire regions where the nature is attempting to re-balance.
The Basics of Agroecology Techniques
Agroecology, food forestry and permaculture all begin by developing small densely planted, oxygen-rich microclimates that, when linked in clusters or chains across an area, drastically increase biological diversity and plant food production. In urban life, that could take the form of neighborhoods, subdivisions and housing complexes organizing to grow clusters of high-oxygen, plant-dense habitats in patterns that protect and balance the whole zone. Inside this housing zone, the air would be cleaner, and there would be more abundant access to fresh food, as well as reduced utility costs for heating and cooling, for the residences closest to the microclimates.
Many of the planting and waste-transformation strategies in these systems are ancient surviving truths, like the life-generating effect that our saliva has when it makes contact with germinating seeds. Other techniques require dynamic, modern technology for creating clean power and free communication. This is all agroecology due to the hub of the community revolving around sensibly designed food production systems that allow for birds, insects, fungi, water, wind and sunlight.
As we continue to share this vision and support the work that is required to manifest it we learn how valuable it is to remain receptive. Seasons change and our health requires diverse nutrients to respond to stresses in our environment. These high-density nutrient compounds are found in a balanced and recognizable state in the healing plants and fruits grown in our region.
We can best receive these plant combinations by creating the safe biospheres for them to exist in. This giving is reciprocal and also a requirement for humans to live on into this next generation.
In partnership with the organization m.a.m.a. earth, Eugene Cooke presents the “Grow Where You Are” workshop series and book. After years of working as an independent contractor supporting urban agriculture organizations, Eugene established Grow Where You Are, LLC, to create a structure for the collaborative efforts of local food heroes to yield tangible results. The main hub for Grow Where You Are is the Good Shepherd Agroecology Center in Southwest Atlanta, Ga., where clean food is grown in a system that preserves the ecology and supports the people. Read all of Eugene’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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