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  #121   ^
Old Thu, Apr-24-08, 16:00
ReginaW's Avatar
ReginaW ReginaW is offline
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Originally Posted by Baerdric
I've seen chickens who were quite happy in a field of squash or beans eating the insects that came to eat the fruit or lay eggs on the leaves. The ones I am remembering got other food, but they pecked at the bugs all day.


No doubt....for the long term, however, ruminent animals are vital to the cycle of bugs/insects in the food chain to serve as food for others like fowl. And that is what think you posted about - cohabitation of animals symbiotically with crops to each provide something to the other? From what some very traditional farmers have spent time talking to me about, in my inquiries to them, the ruminent-fowl connection is important to the long-term health of an area for both the animals in the area and the vegetation of the area....that's because (from what I understand) without the ruminent, over time you have erosion and depletion of your soil - so while your chickens may enjoy the bugs of the crops without a grazing animal in the crop fields - over the long-term such an area, without inputs from ruminents will eventually be depleted from the imbalance that is created by crops taking from the soil with no means of replenishment. Now that's not to say that manure and/or composte from ruminents can't be added manually (of course it can!) from another part of the farm - but without that circular give-take-give-take-give going on, over time the soil cannot support the crops....does that make sense?
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  #122   ^
Old Thu, Apr-24-08, 16:18
ReginaW's Avatar
ReginaW ReginaW is offline
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Default Cuba: An Island in Time

Cuba: An Island in Time

In Haiti, the majority of peasants own their own small farms. So small farms per se are not the answer to stopping erosion. When farms become so small that it is hard to make a living from them, it becomes hard to practice soil conservation. In Cuba, fifty miles from Haiti across the Windward Passage, the collapse of the Soviet Union set up a unique agricultural experiment.

Before the 1959 Cuban revolution, the handful of people who controlled four-fifths of the land operated large export-oriented plantations, mostly growing sugar. Although small subsistence farms were still common on the remaining fifth of the land, Cuba produced less than half its own food.

After the revolution, in line with its vision of socialist progress, the new government continued sponsoring large scale, industrial monoculture focused on export crops — primarily sugar, which accounted for three-quarters of Cuba’s export income. Cuba’s sugar plantations were the most mechanized agricultural operations in Latin America, more closely resembling those in California’s Central Valley than on Haiti’s hillsides.

Farm equipment, the oil to run them, fertilizers, pesticides, and more than half of Cuba’s food were imported from the island’s socialist trading partners. The end of Soviet support and an ongoing U.S. trade embargo plunged Cuba into a food crisis.


Unable to import food or fertilizer, Cuba saw the calories and protein in the average diet drop by almost a third, from 3,000 calories a day to 1,900 calories between 1989 and 1994.

Loss of Soviet support

The Soviet collapse resulted in an almost 90% drop in Cuba’s external trade. Fertilizer and pesticide imports fell by 80% and oil imports fell by 50%. Parts to repair farm machinery were unobtainable. The New York Times editorial page predicted the imminent collapse of Castro’s regime.

Formerly one of the best-fed nations in Latin America, Cuba was not quite at the level of Haiti — but not much above it. Isolated and facing the loss of a meal a day for everyone on the island, Cuban agriculture needed to double food production using half the inputs required by conventional agriculture.

Experiments in farming

Faced with this dilemma, Cuba began a remarkable agricultural experiment, the first nation-scale test of alternative agriculture. In the mid-1980’s the Cuban government directed state-run research institutions to begin investigating alternative methods to reduce environmental impacts, improve soil fertility, and increase harvests.

Within six months of the Soviet collapse, Cuba began privatizing industrialized state farms; state-run farms were divided among former employees, creating a network of small farms. Government-sponsored farmers’ markets brought peasant farmers higher profits by cutting out intermediaries.

Major government programs encouraged organic agriculture and small-scale farming on vacant city lots. Lacking access to fertilizers and pesticides, the food grown in the new small private farms and thousands of tiny urban market gardens became organic not through choice but through necessity.

Changing old systems

Charged with substituting knowledge-intensive agriculture for the embargoed inputs needed for conventional agriculture, the country’s research infrastructure built on experiments in alternative agriculture that had languished under the Soviet system but were available for widespread, and immediate, implementation under the new reality.

Cuba adopted more labor-intensive methods to replace heavy machinery and chemical inputs, but Cuba’s agricultural revolution was not simply a return to traditional farming. Organic farming is not that simple. You cannot just hand someone a hoe and order them to feed the proletariat.

Adopting local methods

Cuba’s agricultural transformation was based as much on science as was the Soviet era’s high-input mechanized farming. The difference was that the conventional approach was based on applied chemistry, whereas the new approach was based on applied biology — on agroecology.

In a move pretty much the opposite of the green revolution that transformed global agriculture based on increased use of irrigation, oil, chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the Cuban government adapted agriculture to local conditions and developed biological methods of fertilization and pest control.

It created a network of more than two hundred local agricultural extension offices around the country to advise farmers on low-input and no-till farming methods, as well as biological pest control.

Dramatic changes

Cuba stopped exporting sugar and began to grow its own food again. Within a decade, the Cuban diet rebounded to its former level without food imports or the use of agrochemicals. The Cuban experience shows that agroecology can form a viable basis for agriculture without industrial methods or biotechnology. Unintentionally, the U.S. trade embargo turned Cuba into a nation-scale experiment in alternative agriculture.

Some look to the Cuban example as a model for employing locally adapted ecological insight and knowledge instead of standardized mechanization and agrochemistry to feed the world. They see the solution not simply as producing cheap food, but keeping small farms — and therefore farmers — on the land, and even in cities.

Labor-intensive methods

Thousands of commercial urban gardens grew up throughout the island, hundreds in Havana alone. Land slated for development was converted to acres of vegetable gardens that supplied markets where local people bought tomatoes, lettuce, potatoes and other crops. By 2004 Havana’s formerly vacant lots produced nearly the city’s entire vegetable supply.

Cuba’s conversion from conventional agriculture to large-scale semi-organic farming demonstrates that such a transformation is possible — in a dictatorship isolated from global market forces. But the results are not entirely enviable — after almost two decades of this inadvertent experiment, meat and milk remain in short supply.

Cuba’s labor-intensive agriculture may not produce basic crops as cheaply as American industrial farming, but the average Cuban diet did recover that lost third meal. Still, it is ironic that in retreating from the socialist agenda, this isolated island became the first modern society to adopt widespread organic and biologically intensive farming.

Self-sufficient nation

Cuba’s necessity-driven move toward agricultural self-sufficiency provides a preview of what may come on a larger scale once we burn through the supply of cheap oil that presently drives modern agriculture.

And it is somewhat comforting to know that on at least one island the experiment has already been run without social collapse. Less comforting is the question of whether something similar could be pulled off in a society other than a one-party police state.

Island culture

After Darwin’s famous sojourn in the Galapagos, the isolated nature of islands strongly influenced biological theory. But it is only in the last several decades that such thinking reached the realm of anthropology. While people may someday migrate into space to colonize other planets, the vast majority of us remain trapped on our planet for the foreseeable future.

Although a global rerun of Haiti, Mangaia, or Easter Island is by no means inevitable, the experiences of societies on islands around the world remind us that Earth is the ultimate island, an oasis in space rendered hospitable by a thin skin of soil that, once lost, rebuilds only over geologic time.

http://www.theglobalist.com/storyid.aspx?StoryId=6782
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  #123   ^
Old Thu, Apr-24-08, 16:32
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Wifezilla Wifezilla is offline
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Have you been there? The truly empty parts of the American West and other parts of the world are empty for good reason - not enough water to sustain communities, agriculture or industry.


Of course I've been there. In fact, there are only a handful of states I haven't been in.

One thing you will notice about these areas is, even in the dry areas like Wyoming and eastern Colorado is there is STILL GRASS. It doesn't take much moisture to grow grass. And if the grass the cattle needs won't grow in these low moisture areas, I have no problem switching my meat source to pronghorn, buffalo, elk or mule dear.
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  #124   ^
Old Thu, Apr-24-08, 16:43
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LessLiz LessLiz is offline
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Since you raised the issue... we have a horrible deer overpopulation problem in the US, but we don't allow enough hunting to thin them out.

I can sit our backyard with a rifle at night and harvest elk -- we have an overabundance of elk where I live. Of course, that's not legal -- no night hunting cause we gotta give them critters a sporting chance. Well, and the other issue is I have to make a lot of noise out there at night to keep the bears out of the yard. Can I tell you how frightened I was the night I walked out to enjoy the stars and came within 10 feet of a mother bear and 2 cubs who had taken out a section of the fence? I don't care for bear meat -- too fatty -- but other people like it.

There are moose killed all spring, summer and fall around here -- by cars. To hunt moose you have to enter into the lottery for a ticket. I wouldn't be surprised to discover there are more moose killed by cars in my county than killed in the entire state by hunters. Moose is *really* tasty.

As the price of food goes up, I'm expecting people to lobby fish and wildlife to reduce the number of hunting cops out there. You get fined through the roof for poaching the overpopulated deer and elk population.

Another overpopulation issue in my part of the world are turkeys. A full grown wild turkey is a tough old bird, but the young males are quite tasty indeed. But they have a really low limit on turkeys.
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  #125   ^
Old Thu, Apr-24-08, 16:52
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Wyvrn Wyvrn is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LessLiz
Since you raised the issue... we have a horrible deer overpopulation problem in the US, but we don't allow enough hunting to thin them out.

I can sit our backyard with a rifle at night and harvest elk -- we have an overabundance of elk where I live.
We are in the same situation, but it's white-tails, not Elk. Although honestly I don't think my neighbors would notice or care, especially if we did our porch-hunting on, say, July 4th. The main thing stopping me is there are a lot of kids riding dirt bikes back there. I don't want to see the deer population decimated, but as a motorcyclist, I'd like to see it come down a lot and don't mind if some of it ends up in my freezer.
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  #126   ^
Old Thu, Apr-24-08, 17:33
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TheCaveman TheCaveman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wyvrn
Where is the water coming from, and who is paying for it?


Let's guess that the photo is of the desert southwest. If so, I guess that Mexican children are paying for it with decimated fish resources due to insufficient freshwater inflow from the Colorado River into the Gulf of California.

Last edited by TheCaveman : Thu, Apr-24-08 at 17:52. Reason: Sorry Wyvrn, I didn't see that you had used "decimated" already. Shoot!
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  #127   ^
Old Thu, Apr-24-08, 17:57
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TheCaveman TheCaveman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LessLiz
we have a horrible deer overpopulation problem in the US, but we don't allow enough hunting to thin them out.


Why IS that? Why would game managers allow overpopulation?
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  #128   ^
Old Thu, Apr-24-08, 17:58
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Baerdric Baerdric is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheCaveman
Let's guess that the photo is of the desert southwest. If so, I guess that Mexican children are paying for it with decimated fish resources due to insufficient freshwater inflow from the Colorado River into the Gulf of California.
While we are "guessing" let's guess that those Mexican children are in Nevada now, their parents have steady work and they are getting free healthcare and education. Since they never could have afforded the fish anyway, they never noticed the slight decrease in supply, but now their lives are vastly improved over what a few fish would have done. But their cousins back in Mexico, would could never have afforded the fish either, are getting steady money in the mail from their bracero cousins en El Norte, so now they can buy the fish.

I mean, since we are just "guessing".
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  #129   ^
Old Thu, Apr-24-08, 18:08
Wyvrn's Avatar
Wyvrn Wyvrn is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wifezilla
One thing you will notice about these areas is, even in the dry areas like Wyoming and eastern Colorado is there is STILL GRASS. It doesn't take much moisture to grow grass. And if the grass the cattle needs won't grow in these low moisture areas, I have no problem switching my meat source to pronghorn, buffalo, elk or mule dear.
Indeed. I have driven through there and observed cattle grazing in some really dry places. But these areas need a LOT of land per head. Still, it's sustainable and that's a lot more than you could say for trying to mono-crop (or build large population centers) on imported water.
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  #130   ^
Old Thu, Apr-24-08, 18:22
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TheCaveman TheCaveman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Baerdric
While we are "guessing" let's guess that those Mexican children are in Nevada now, their parents have steady work and they are getting free healthcare and education. Since they never could have afforded the fish anyway, they never noticed the slight decrease in supply, but now their lives are vastly improved over what a few fish would have done. But their cousins back in Mexico, would could never have afforded the fish either, are getting steady money in the mail from their bracero cousins en El Norte, so now they can buy the fish.


"We're sorry, Senor, the fishery has collapsed. No more fish. You'll need to move to Nevada where you can buy rice that some fool decided to grow in the desert southwest. Too bad (for YOU) that the fisheries in the Gulf of California supplied more food in a year than the Arizona rice paddies will produce in their entire projected lifetimes."
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  #131   ^
Old Thu, Apr-24-08, 19:08
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Baerdric Baerdric is offline
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Imagination is a wonderful thing.
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  #132   ^
Old Thu, Apr-24-08, 19:09
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Wifezilla Wifezilla is offline
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Quote:
Why IS that? Why would game managers allow overpopulation?


Hippies. You know, the ones who whine when evil hunters kill "Bambi"? The overpopulation of deer is a problem at the Air Force Academy. A year or so ago they announced they were going to allow hunting to help with population control and the hippies went nuts.
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  #133   ^
Old Thu, Apr-24-08, 19:12
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LessLiz LessLiz is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheCaveman
Why IS that? Why would game managers allow overpopulation?
People get upset when you shoot Bambi. The Northeast is overrun with deer, even worse than most places. In my part of the world if you grow a garden you put up 10 foot fencing around it if you want to harvest anything.
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  #134   ^
Old Thu, Apr-24-08, 19:30
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TheCaveman TheCaveman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wifezilla
Hippies. You know, the ones who whine when evil hunters kill "Bambi"?


Quote:
Originally Posted by LessLiz
People get upset when you shoot Bambi.


Yawn.

I don't remember a single game manager in my entire career that gave a dang about Bambi. We must have all the non-hippy game managers here in California.
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  #135   ^
Old Thu, Apr-24-08, 19:44
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Baerdric Baerdric is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LessLiz
People get upset when you shoot Bambi. The Northeast is overrun with deer, even worse than most places. In my part of the world if you grow a garden you put up 10 foot fencing around it if you want to harvest anything.
I took a walk today, up the hill behind my house. Fourty five minutes out and about 1000ft up. On the way I passed sign of maybe 30 deer. This is within sight of my neighborhood. We have trouble growing gardens, trees, flowers, grass. The school put in a row of ornamental trees and I saw that the bark had been chewed off all around them up to about 8 ft., probably due to the hard winters we have been having.

Vermont is a hunting state, but there are sharp limits. They seem to think the tourists need to see more deer stepping out in front of their cars.
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