Quality Food from the Earth up

Message on Organic Shop Window, Kyneton. Victoria

Adapting Farming to Climate Change

Submission to House of Representatives Standing Committee New Inquiry. As a citizen in this country, a life-long (77 years) consumer of farming products, experienced Biodynamic compost maker for over 30 years, an economic historian and philosopher, I welcome this inquiry and request that my comments are read and understood from the perspectives from which they are written.

Current and prospective adaptations…

Before roads, bridges, railways, pipelines etc topsoil is the most primary infra-structure for which our country is responsible. If a foreign country was taking away 6.8 tonnes topsoil per hectare per year (our current loss of topsoil), there would be a war! Similarly, if an anonymous agency dumped 4billion dollars worth of chemicals on our land per

year, (causing or aggravating erosion) it would be treated as a terrorist plot.

The more living topsoil farmers can (re-)generate, the more water can be retained and carbon be absorbed in their soil and the less salination will occur. This means that current farming practices like perma-culture, natural sequence farming, organic and biodynamic farming need to be identified and recognised as pioneers in adapting farming

to climate change.

Some impact on downstream processing will be:

  1. healthier, more nutritious food, less suffering allergies, obesity and other negative side-effects of chemical and industrial farming methods.
  2. less need for pipelines and desalination plants, as the loss of water and the salination of the land are prevented at the source of the problem, not ‘fixed’ somewhere after the damage has been done.
  3. greater scope for work-opportunities, in rural areas. Rather than having to commute to cities for work, the labour intensive farming methods required to responsibly care for our land, provide plenty of scope for job-creation in meaningful and healthy work-environments
  4. liveable landscapes: organic and biodynamic and other living topsoil enhancing farming practices create landscapes on a more natural scale with ‘inbuilt’ biodiversity, which will not only be environmentally more sustainable, but also humanly more liveable, for rural communities as well as urban visitors or tourists.

The role of government in augmenting the shift etc…

This role might be seen as threefold:

  1. negative: the government should refrain from any business interest on the one hand and from any scientific bias on the other. Examples of the mix-up of these two: • An agricultural scientist working for an NSW Govt Department stated that it took him 10 years to fit what he observed on Peter Andrew’s farm with what he knew as his scientific framework. Scientific frame-works not based on – and not constantly modified on the basis of – observation are abstract theories and tend to become dogmas. Adaptation of farming is too urgent to wait another 10 years! • At a public forum on pro- and – cons of GM, organised by the Hepburn Shire Council, I asked how funding for GM research compared to funding for research into alternatives like Organic and BD Farming. The answer from an expert on the panel was: GM research gets millions of dollars, organic and BD some thousands… • A group of mothers, concerned with the safety of food for their children, started last year to investigate thoroughly themselves, as GM is not labelled and Government agencies could not inform them: they discovered that most of the information on which governments in Australia base their policies, are research-results produced by the same corporations that produce the GM seeds. See: MADGE.newsletter@madge.org.au • Statement of Mr Dick Adams, quoted in the committees call for submissions: ‘We must get this right if we are to maintain an internationally competitive Australian agricultural sector.’

With due respect, I would have thought that we must get this right, because of our duty of care, to ensure that given the changing farming conditions through climate change, our people are going to be properly fed in such a way, that they, too, can healthily adapt to climate change. Especially those institutionalised consumers, who in one way or other are in Governments direct care.

And when it comes to competitiveness: junk-food will compete with junk-food, high quality food will compete with high quality food. I don’t assume that indiscriminate competitiveness is a concern of the inquiry.

  1. internal: the government should make the shift from thinking in terms of ‘control’ to thinking in terms of ‘enabling’, i.e. no longer ‘outcome driven’ research projects, no longer ‘interest-group-driven’ subsidies.
  2. positive: The enabling role of Government as suggested under the next heading:

Government role in Promoting research etc

First of all, as a matter of simple distributive justice: correct the current imbalance in funding to enable effective comparison of effects and side-effects of current living

topsoil enhancing farming methods with industrial and GM farming effects and sideeffects;

Second: make funds available for independent research and refrain from using corporate research-result as a basis for Government decisions.

Third: extend subsidy regime to cover the specific costs of topsoil enhancing farming practises at least as long as market conditions are still skewed in favour of products of

conventional/industrialised farming products.

In conjunction with the above, fourth: encourage, educate – and enable financially – hospitals, nursing homes, other caring institutions to purchase products of topsoil (re)- generating farms, preferably from local growers, to enhance freshness, nutritious value

and to decrease ‘food-miles’ required.

Fifth: support, stimulate and where needed initiate a whole raft of training programs in those living topsoil enhancing farming methods at TAFE and university levels, in local community centres as well as apprentice programs for prospective farmers who want to work with these methods. Farmers and researchers experienced in these methods will need community and financial support, to enable them to train the trainers.

The role of rural research etc:

The first point of reference for rural research and development are the farmers who practise and develop the methods: for them farming IS research and development. Agricultural science needs to be based on agricultural experience if it wants to avoid theoretical bias or dogmatic certainty.

Summary:

• Our forest, wetlands, deserts and farmland are our primary infra-structure: organic topsoil retains water, absorbs carbon, prevents salination.

• All methods of current farming that (re-)generate organic topsoil and their positive

down-stream effects need to be identified and recognised as pioneering ‘Adapting

Farming to Climate Change’.

• Role of Government re ‘augmenting etc’

  1. refrain from business interest and scientific bias;
  2. shift thinking from control to enabling;

• Role of Government re ‘promoting etc’:

  1. correct imbalance in research funding to enable effective comparison;
  2. fund research and don’t base decisions on corporate research-results
  3. correct imbalance in subsidy to cover specific costs of pioneering topsoil enhancing farming methods.
  4. stimulate caring institutions to purchase farming products from local, topsoil (re-)generating growers.
  5. support, initiate extensive and intensive training programs, including apprenticeships and training-the-trainers programs.

• Rural research and development: Farming IS research and development. Any science or project ignoring this becomes abstract theory or fundamentalist dogma and

a waste of effort and resources.

Thank you for the invitation to submit.

Adaptation to climate change is best achieved by bringing the soil and the crops, the farmers and the markets in the most healthy conditions. In this way all of us at the receiving end of farming product will also in the best condition to cope with climate change. ‘Quality Food from the Earth up’!

Best wishes with your inquiry and further work, Henk Bak Hist Drs Nijmegen (The Netherlands) Trentham Vic

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Abalimi Wins Gold

ABALIMI – Harvest of Hope from seed to table gets GOLD

Dear Hamish

ABALIMI won GOLD at the national Impumelelo Innovations for Sustainability
Awards 2010 – see:
www.impumelelo.org.za, certificate attached and follow the link
/www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMaBAwjvHtc to the lovely little video clip done by Impumelelo which was shown on award night.

Mama Kaba and Bridget make a great representing pair, and it was they who went on stage to receive the award for all of us.

Viva ABALIMI- Harvest of Hope from seed to table viva!!

And VIVA to you, our Friend, and to all our Donors, over the many years past , also over the many years to come, who have helped and will hopefully still help to launch and spread the micro-farming movement !!!!! – see latest Roll of Honor on “who to thank” at www.abalimi.org.za.

Best regards
Rob Small
Resource mobilization for ABALIMI
www.abalimi.org.za
www.harvestofhope.co.za
www.farmgardentrust.org

 

Harvest of Hope Certificate

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An Australian farmer’s perspective

Hi Hamish, I did check out your website www.biodynamics2024.com.au – very good – but I didn’t have time to read it all – will do that at a later date – WHEN I’ve got more time!

Here in the Victorian Goulburn Valley there is very little interest in organics etc. – we have people saying how they like organic food, “You’re doing the right things etc.” – but NEVER the farmers, they’re just going on their ‘merry’ way! And one old time farmer told me a while back that organics was “all poppy cock”!! Then added: “That’s how we farmed years ago!” He also has had a long battle against cancer! My husband commented later: “They stopped doing it – that’s the problem”.

Also dairy farmers are disappearing FAST in this area – where we are was ALL irrigated dairying – now we’re one of THREE left.

As well as the dairy farmers dropping like flies, the orchardists are having an EXTREMELY hard time (along with the viticulturists) as apart from the water problems (we’ve currently got 57% of our Water Allocation – but have to pay for 100% – this is the fourth consecutive year of a similar scenario).

The water charge is paying for our share of the “storage” (& channel maintenance etc.). If the water’s not there to give us a full allocation – what are we storing? We are charged storage for High Reliability Water Shares and less for Low Reliability Water Shares storage (we’ve not had ANY Low Reliability water for MANY years – I’d bet over 10 – at least) – and then a smaller “delivery” charge – when we actually take water through the outlet!! We have received a bit of government assistance for the first 3 years of this 4 years terrible stretch – but this year absolutely NOTHING!! The other 3 years, we still paid for a lot of water we didn’t receive. Victorian Premier, John Brumby, said “A large percentage (75% I think) of their (the farmers) water bills were paid” – but they were the hobby farmers, retired people with 2 megs. of water, small orchardists – those of us with larger Water Rights, usually employing people, commercial farms, still paid for a LOT of water we didn’t receive! But his figures looked good!!!

The fruit cannery is now owned by Coca-Cola – (and you can imagine how much empathy they have with the fruit growers) – and they are bringing in fruit in LARGE drums from China, South Africa etc. – and don’t want much of the local fruit at all. So if the poor fruit growers actually grow the fruit, they can’t sell it – other than some to the fresh market and that can’t take it all. If we drive around here anywhere – there are large piles of bulldozed fruit trees, waiting for the time to burn them – just unbelievable.

Beef has also CRASHED – BUT as from next Monday we’ll allow beef to come in from countries which have Mad Cow disease!! An example was given recently – the meat in your pie can be from one such country, the pastry and packaging from Australia and it’s legally allowed to be called “Product of Australia”! Glory, we’re a ridiculous country!! We’re being told that all systems, procedures etc. will be followed and it’s all “safe” – but yesterday a qualified vet told of the procedures – simply ticking boxes – NOT by actually testing!

Grain prices have also CRASHED, as the northern hemisphere had a bumper crop and basically the rest of the world didn’t care whether Australia produced any grain or not.

And you’ve probably already heard about the milk prices – they dropped by 40% last February – but have started to climb up a BIT now – almost getting up to the cost of production! With such low water allocations, paying for water we don’t receive and then having to buy more on the exchange (where other farmers often sell their water or water authorities with surplus water) low milk prices, red tape, IR laws etc. MANY farmers have “had ENOUGH. ” In the Leitchville area (population 271) the Murray Goulburn Cheese factory has recently closed (“to be moth balled”) and 80 people have lost their jobs. One man said that IF he can get a job in another area, he won’t be able to sell his house anyway! So many people have stopped milking that there simply isn’t enough milk to keep the factories operating! Under utilisation of the Tatura plant a few years back caused them to lose over $6 million in one year – and that is why Bega now own the controlling share.

The ONLY thing going well in agriculture is fat lambs – and that’s because no-one’s got any or many!! The sheep flock is down so far, that they re calling on people not to sell too much and to retain extra for breeding. An old ewe (not long back worth $8) is now selling for $90 and is now sought after by people hoping to get her still to breed.

As the grain prices were so LOW this year and many crops failed due to the weather (lack of rain, late frosts etc.) MANY farmers put that into hay – and there’s (literally) not enough stock left to eat it all. Farmers are left with thousands of rolls of hay. We personally know of several with 4,000, 2,000, 3000
rolls and they don’t know what to do with it, as soon they need to get it off the paddocks to start getting ready to sow again.

Grapes are well below the cost of production – and there’s a glut – we’re all being told – and that’s true – BUT there is a lot of cheap wine coming in from overseas, being ‘blended’ with Aussie grown and then being sold as “Product of Australia”.

China is now into milk production – and can get a tanker of fresh milk to Australia in 9 hours. At present they’ve got BIG quality problems – but are offering to pay Australian farmers BIG money to go over there and show them how to do it. They’re also milking the heifers that Australian cash strapped farmers have sold to them previously!

What next?

The Goulburn Valley was called the “Food Bowl” – now it’s rapidly becoming the Dust Bowl. The 3 of us left milking in our own area are all struggling – so how much longer do we keep doing this? We think if we go a bit longer, we’ll become a tourist attraction – we’ll say; “farms like this is where your milk came from, before we started importing it from overseas – China etc.!!”

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