And Then There’s This – On Food

And then I read this from Verge Permaculture in Canada and had to share.  This is something I truly believe.


“ON FOOD SECURITY: I am reading My Ishmael and in one the opening chapters Ishmael says, “You’ll know you’re among the people of your culture if the food is all owned, if it’s all under lock and key.” The very word “food security” implies this very idea, that food is not secure. Language is important in helping us to determine where we are going. It is the very fibre that makes up the fabric that defines our cultural story, a tapestry if you will.

It has taken me some time to define the predicament that our culture finds itself in and I can say that food supply, how it is grown, who grows it, where it comes from, how it is delivered and who owns it is a central theme that permeates a lot of the problems that we are all trying to solve. One of the things that has shed light on all of this is my own food forest in my front yard. This food forest now is largely self managed and it produces asparagus, apples, cherries, gooseberries, currants, honeyberries, seabuckthorn berries and leaves, potatoes, rhodiola, yarrow, strawberries, rhubarb, mint, sunchokes, perennial onions, sorrel, raspberries and raspberry leaves. This system gets more complex and stable every year, produces more and needs less management. It epitomizes food security, in fact it epitomizes food sovereignty. I recognize that we could not live on those foods alone however, ecological design has to be patterned around nature and thus requires connection, so when we scale these systems up with chickens and pigs we have a system that can meet a lot of our needs.

A lot of people say that the concept of food security hinges on who owns the land. This is true, we might also say that “You’ll know you’re among the people of your culture if the land is all owned, if it’s all under lock and key.” He who controls the land controls the food. I agree with this to an extent, I would say that more important than the land are the skills. We find ourselves in an interesting time right now. Never in the history of this culture have there been so many people that know so little. Most of the people that own the land have no clue how to manage it or shall we say, work with it, to obtain a yield. This in my opinion gives the people who have invested in knowledge, skills and understanding the trump card. Land prices right now are completely out of wack, especially in Canada. They are based around two false assumptions… 1) people can manage huge amounts of land because we have an unlimited amount of fossil fuel and 2) Land is based on how many condos or rural acreages you can fit on it, not on the water it harvests or the sun it collects ie. what it can produce. You can see this in agricultural rental rates. You can buy an acre of of prime crop land for 5,000 – 10,000 or you can rent it for $50 – $100/year. If you decide to own, the interest on the land will eat up the profit that you can grow from the land and the venture sinks. Keep in mind 1 acre of wheat sells for about $300.

So where am I going with this. The agricultural model right now is broken and we are not going to sell our way out of this problem. In order to change the fabric of our culture we need to change the thread that we sew the tapestry from. This is going to take time which is why ventures like SPIN farming are so important as a transitional mechanism to meet our food needs locally. Long term however we can all grow our own food sovereignty on much less land, in much less time for much less money than most people think using perennial community owned solutions. And the minute that we stop trying to put things under lock and key, the sooner we will have true freedom. How do we do this? The funny thing with food being “under lock and key” is that food is not a resource that is easy to control. It does not have to be finite like oil or gas, and it is perishible. We can grow a lot more food than we will ever need which would put the Monsanto’s of the world out of business without ever have to protest or legislate anything. This is because food is inherently open source, it produces seed for whomever wants to pick it and it gives people at the grass roots the ultimate power. It replicates extremely fast, which is counter to an economy based in scarcity. Think of this saying “ you can count the number of seeds in an apple but you can’t count the number of apples in a seed”. Locking up food can only happen if there is a scarce supply. You can only have a scarce supply under lock and key if…
1) you have a small population of people producing it,
2) if that population is growing annuals that can store for long periods of time
3) if even a smaller number of people control the seed.

So the solution is, getting everyone to produce just a little, grow perennials which are hard to patent and get everyone to save just a little seed and learn to propagate. Seem unreasonable? Is it any more unreasonable than the situation we find ourselves in right now? Patenting of life, starvation, malnutrition, disease in pandemic proportions and I could go on and on. The more complicated the problems become, the more obvious and simple the solutions have to be.

One day we will wake up and recognize that using current economic metrics, growing food may not be a smart thing to do, but it might just be one of those activities that is stupid not to do if we look at it from a health, freedom, earth and human stewardship point of view. We either need to tune our economics so that it values the metrics that currently are viewed as externalities or change the way we look at the importance of how we feed ourselves. Turn your lawn into your freedom, your health, your activism, your message to the world. If you don’t believe this is possible, read “The Grass is Not Greener” enclosed in the comments section below.

In the meantime have a look at the photo below, I think it will make things a lot clearer.



3 thoughts on “And Then There’s This – On Food

  1. It is all very scary. It is all about big companies and lobbying and policy and government and nothing is about the small person doing a little thing. Perhaps we need a grassroots uprising about plant roots and growing and the right to grow our own seeds from our own plants. If you check laws that we make think are weird, we are not supposed to have too much food in storage or take seeds from plants we grow or propagate anything because of patents. Yikes.

    • “In our society growing fool yourself has become the most radical of acts. It is truly the only effective protest, one that can – AND WILL – overturn the powers that be. By the process of directly working in harmony with nature, we do the one thing most essential to change the world – WE CHANGE OURSELVES.” Jules Dervaes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s