Farmer, tool hacker, organizer, and self styled agricultural anthropologist (and, we’re proud to say, a GH blog editor) Samuel Oslund takes us on a journey into les Rencontres de l’Atelier Paysan. Les Rencontres is a yearly gathering of farmers from across France, hosted by our French farm hacking heroes l’Atelier Paysan (roughly The Peasant’s/agrarian Workshop). The event is a hands on skill sharing celebration, filled with food, good wine, and some fairly strange music.
Beyond throwing memorable shin digs, the farmer-run organization works with agrarians across France designing and developing user based, co-designed tools and implements. All of their open-source plans are available online and in a beautifully produced manual. Among other things, L’Atelier Paysan is creating a unique business model that fosters collaboration and skill sharing.
A few years ago, while Chattanooga, Tenn., made headlines for revitalizing its downtown, residents, mostly African-Americans, living just a few miles away in the Glass Farms neighborhood, were struggling to cope with years of disinvestment and decline. Storefronts were empty, buildings abandoned. Crime was through the roof.
A tiny, local nonprofit, Glass House Collective, then formed, enlisting neighbors and designers. Public workshops were held. Low-cost plans were devised for new sidewalks, bus shelters, streetlights and green spaces along the neighborhood’s main drag, Glass Street. A vacant lot became a pop-up community center. Artisans moved in to train young residents to make furniture and other things. The steps were small, tactical, targeted. Crime fell.
“By the People: Designing a Better America,” opening on Friday at the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt, taps into a rich vein of entrepreneurial beneficence. It is about the intersection of poverty, prosperity, innovation and design, and it couldn’t be timelier. If stories like the one from Chattanooga unavoidably turn out to be more complicated than any museum display can make clear, the spotlight is at least pointed in the right direction.
Reynoldstown Senior Housing, a project under construction near the Atlanta BeltLine, features 70 units of affordable housing.CreditAtlanta BeltLine Inc.
As the show’s title implies, design is not just the task of designers. The exhibition celebrates a few outstanding architects, like David Baker andMichael Maltzan, who have conceived subsidized housing in California, and also Jeanne Gang, the Chicago star, who wants to improve relations between the community and law enforcement by reimagining police stations as neighborhood hubs, with gardens and gyms, meeting rooms and free Wi-Fi.
Mostly, though, the show is about ideas collectively developed or bubbling up from the bottom. What results can take numerous forms: a plan to shrink Detroit; a pedal-powered tractor; an ironic board game explaining the housing market; a jewelry business employing formerly homeless women to make items using chipped-off graffiti; an online tool for mapping commute times; labels on baby products with child-rearing tips.
In other words, “By the People” is about just what it says, everyday citizens cooking up solutions to what ails their communities. That tractor evolved from crowd-sourced tinkering on an open platform called Farm Hack, a grass-roots website developed by family-farming Davids competing with industrial agriculture’s Goliaths, sharing strategies about how to grow healthy food and build tools and machinery, economically. The system is imperfect, but then, so is democracy.
Cynthia E. Smith is the Cooper Hewitt’s curator of socially responsible design. She spent years traveling the country, logging 50,000 miles, looking for examples of people “designing a better America.” In 2007, Ms. Smith presented “Design for the Other 90 Percent,” a compilation of 34 inexpensive, lifesaving objects, including a filtered drinking straw to stem the spread of cholera; and the Q Drum, a kind of tire, holding up to 13 gallons of water, which could be rolled long distances even by children. Big things grown from small seeds.
That event led four years later to a show focused on cities. Ms. Smith highlighted floating schools in flood-prone Bangladesh; a kind of do-it-yourself irrigation system in Dakar, Senegal; a new management and community-development plan for slums in Bangkok; and the story ofDiadema, an industrial city outside São Paulo, where informal settlement and homicide were the norms. Officials in Diadema enlisted residents to help formalize and design their neighborhoods. Deaths plummeted.
Ms. Smith said back then, “It’s easy to build a house, much harder to build a community.” Good design, she added, “involves bringing not just a fresh eye to problems but, most of all, listening to the people who live in those communities.”
That’s simple to say and not always enough, but it remains a good operating principle and the abiding motif in “By the People,” which offers its own mash-up of do-good projects, 60 in all. One could probably think, offhand, of 60 deserving alternatives for what’s in the end a contestable, albeit noble, sampling. By their nature, these sorts of shows are tonics and provocations, suggestive rather than definitive, shy on eye candy, requiring comfortable shoes and lots of squinting at wall texts.
In return, there’s a gee-whiz quotient — so many people, so many good, simple, can-do ideas. So much hope.
I was struck by a project like Fresh Moves. Across the country, obesity and diabetes have become epidemic in food deserts, meaning low-income neighborhoods without easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables, where fast food is often the cheapest or only option. In Chicago, officials have doubled the number of city-run farmers’ markets and supported efforts like Fresh Moves, which converts disused city buses into brightly decorated mobile farm stands, transporting local organic produce to where people most need it. The project was the brainchild of young architects then nurtured by Growing Power, an agricultural nonprofit in the city, in collaboration with Hammersley Architecture and a graffiti artist. The number of Chicagoans living in food deserts has now dropped 40 percent.
Fresh Moves, a program in Chicago, converts disused city buses into mobile farm stands. Above, Fresh Moves 1.0, by Architecture for Humanity Chicago, Latent Design and EPIC.CreditSmithsonian Institution
It was just reported this week that 2015 was the first year poverty declined and incomes rose across America since the economy collapsed in 2008. Even so, some 43 million Americans, including at least 14 million children, still live below the poverty line. Families are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population. Not everyone can wait for the government to fix things.
That’s what this show is ultimately about. And about the forces that can thwart even the best intentions. There was also news on Monday that two prominent members of the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership board resigned. The BeltLine project is included in the exhibition. It was dreamed up more than a dozen years ago by a former urban planning student at Georgia Tech, Ryan Gravel. The idea: Turn four of the city’s abandoned rail beds into a green loop around downtown, producing parks and paths, art centers and housing; promoting bikes and walking over automobiles; linking rich and poor neighborhoods, black and white; generating billions of dollars in investments.
The rails-to-trails concept took off. Mr. Gravel became a hero. The city and private developers showered the project with money. Housing prices skyrocketed along the route. But so did fears of displacement in low-income areas. Only one-tenth of the promised 5,600 new units of subsidized housing have been built. The BeltLine recently announced plans to raise money for more affordable housing, but the board members who resigned didn’t consider that enough.
One of them is Mr. Gravel.
The other, Nathaniel Smith, said that if the BeltLine “is about community engagement and community voice and about equity, we have to live by those values.” He added, “We can’t say that and do something else.”
So, as I said, some stories turn out to be more complicated. But nobody said progress was easy.
The point of the counterbalance is if the implement can float and the driver controls that action, a lot of the bogging down disappears and it cruises along no problem. You can see it hit a rock and the front weight bounces pretty high, but it doesn’t create a jolt in the pedaling effort. It’s getting there, wherever that is!
From our friends at FarmingSoul, an alternative approach to the pedal-powered tractor (similar to the Culticycle). Below we link to the Instructables page, and also have embedded the final AGGROZOUK plans just finished by the FarmingSoul team and L’Atelier Paysan.
With the electrical assistance the tractor can move at 4-5 mph max in the fields without power needed for the tools, perfects for mechanical weeding. It should be able to tow a little trailer with 300-400 lbs on it in the fields.
What is the AGGROZOUK?
It is a pedal-powered farming tractor with electric assistance, made by farmers for farmers. It is intended for SMALL AND MEDIUM vegetable farms. It allows for different agricultural tasks that require working a maximum soil depth of 5 cm. It can be used for example for sowing, weeding, hoeing, harvesting open lines, carrying loads, …
Compared to a traditional tractor, the AGGROZOUK gives the farmer ease of use by eliminating the nuisance caused by an internal combustion engine such as engine noise, the smell of exhaust fumes, vibration etc…
The AGGROZOUK is a tool that allows farmers with agricultural holdings of medium size to mechanically perform tasks which are difficult to perform manually and can cause physical strain.
In addition to being a tractor that does not release carbon dioxide, because it does not use fossil fuels, it is an open source vehicle. That is to say, these manufacturing plans are available for everyone free of charge and so everyone is able to make, for themselves, an effective non-polluting working tool, which is easy to manufacture at a cost of less than 1500 Euros.
Culticycle enthusiasts and teamsters convened at the Draft Animal Powered Field Days in September, hosted by the Draft AnimalPower Network to discuss the intersection of human and draft powered farming systems and tools. What type and amount of power is needed for different tools or tasks on the farm, and how can draft or human-powered systems supplant fossil fuel-powered ones? These questions embody the first design principle of the Farm Hack community, “Biology before steel and diesel.”
Most equipment manufacturers stopped building tools for horse and oxen farming around the middle of the 1900s. Farmers who wish to continue farming with draft animals innovate and invent tools appropriate for their purposes. It’s the classic narrative that defines the farm hack community: we want tools suited to ecological, human-scale agriculture, not industrial agribusiness. Local manufacture and on-farm research and development allow farmers to equip themselves with tools for their specific working environment and set of circumstances.
This design philosophy was brought to bear at the Draft Animal Power Field Days where tools cross-pollinated during guided brainstorming sessions. The new front end for the culticycle is hacked from a lawn tractor front end. The quick hitch system which Tim and Dorn are currently adapting for use on the Culticycle is an idea borrowed from the Pioneer Homsteader, a draft-powered multi-tool. Old standby tool features can also be improved upon using a new component to perform a familiar function – for example,in recent Culticycle development conversations, the Farm Hack community is looking to hand–powered hydraulics and auto trunk struts as alternatives for more ergonomiclifting of heavy, belly-mounted tools.
Towards an Appropriately-Powered Farming Future
In the interest of minimizing our reliance on fossil fuels and developing more flexible and efficient farming systems, identifying what the actual appropriate power need for a job is allows us to develop and use the right power source – i.e. a human, a bicycle, a horse.
Culticycle inventor, Tim Cooke, often makes the point that we just don’t know how much horsepower cultivating takes because we default to using the smallest tractor on the farm, which still might be vastly overpowered for the task. This insight connects to a broader principle galvanizing Farm Hackers; that innovation often stems from looking critically at the way things are and the way they are always done, and synthesizing from a rich repetoire of knowledge new and old to figure out how to do things better.
Join Farm Hack at the 2015 Draft Animal-Power Field Days!
September 24-27 in Cummington, MA.
Farm Hack will host a workshop session on Saturday from 1:30-3:00 as well as a weekend-long build project focused on integrating draft and human power into standard vegetable production systems. Event page here.
The Homesteader is a new draft-powered multi-tool by Amish equipment manufacturer, Pioneer. One unique feature of the Homesteader is a unique quick hitch which makes switching the belly-mounted tools a snap. Our goal is to adapt this quick hitch mechanism for use with the Culticycle, a pedal-powered cultivating tractor. Culticycle inventor Tim Cook will bring a Culticycle and several of the hand built tillage tools he’s been working on. See here for documentation of the Homesteader quick attach on Farm Hack.
Tractor-powered vegetable farms typically grow on a bed system that utilizes beds between 48″ and 60″ wide, growing most crops in multiple rows within the bed. Most horse-powered vegetable growers use a single-row system at 32-36″ spacing. This is because most horse-powered equipment available was designed for growing row crops such as corn. At the DAP Field Day, we will explore the possibility of adapting a single-row riding cultivator to fit the wider bed-system spacing, with the goal of improving space efficiencies in horse-powered operations, and allowing the easier integration of tractor and draft power within a single farming system.
There are three crucial components to adapt a single-row cultivator for wider beds. First, the cultivator wheel-base must be widened. The wheel base on most cultivators is already adjustable, typically from 34-42″ but the adjustable axle will have to be extended as well as a linkage at the front of the cultivator. Second, a wider evener and neck yoke will have to be built to spread the horses apart. Third, team lines will have to be configured to spread the horses apart. See the recent conversation about this topic on the Draft Animal Power Network forums.
This post was compiled by the Lexicon Sustainability for their Food List, a weekly bulletin of talking points to fix the food system. Farm Hack was a contributor to this edition of the List. Original post can be found here.
Ever since Nixon’s Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz, proclaimed “get big or get out,” farms and farmers in the United States have followed the logic of corporate capitalism – bigger farms, bigger tractors, and more complex and expensive technology. A new corn harvester bought today costs about $400,000 and comes decked out with proprietary computer systems and GPS monitoring – the tractors can literally drive themselves, collecting scads of production data that happen to go right back to the large corporations manufacturing these machines. This technology makes combining a thousand acre field much easier, but it often puts farmers deep into debt and rests control of their own farming systems and production information from their hands.
For smaller scale sustainable producers, the modern form of mainstream agricultural technology does not fit our function. The appropriate tools for our agriculture put biology before steel and diesel, are modular, adaptable, and designed for disassembly. We engineer systems instead of software, finding local solutions to local problems. Appropriate tools should not make a farmer obsolete – they empower the user to modify and improve upon age-old tools and ideas, or build something new using whatever resources they have available.
Appropriate technology for sustainable farming is economically appropriate because it means retrofitting and using what you already have close at hand or getting it from your neighbor or local fabricator, rather than putting profit into the pockets of global corporations. It is environmentally appropriate because it harnesses the utility of our ecological systems while preserving and enriching them. It is intellectually appropriate because it reduces barriers to knowledge exchange, putting the best solutions in the hands of farmers. In this new paradigm, every farm is a research and development node in a distributed network of farmers, engineers, and technologists building a new economy from the ground up enabling independence through interdependence .
Instead of homogenizing, privatizing and commodifying our farm technologies, we must support the time-tested tradition of on-farm innovation, and promote economically, ecologically, and socially resilient solutions. We must leverage technology appropriately as a tool to reduce barriers to information transfer and foster collaboration. On the outskirts of our conventional system of top-down manufacturing and proprietary tools is emerging a new community and a new paradigm – farmers, fabricators, engineers, and designers working together to build resilient, regionalized manufacturing economies. This is the movement we all must continue building together, for strong communities, healthy ecological systems, and good food. The future is open-source!
Farm Hack is an open-source community for resilient agriculture; it is a community to support user generated content and knowledge exchange. The community builds tools that supports sustainable farming and sustainable farmers, creates a culture of collaboration, and strives to identify shared values and engage in open exchange. Farm Hack exists to support the users, and as an organization, Farm Hack seeks to discern from users web-development and organizational objectives, making Farm Hack a content-driven and community powered platform. Read more about the Community Principles of Farm Hack
IN THIS WEEK’S FOOD LIST:
In the age of technology, one with a very deep history in agriculture, there are many models and methods to apply and experiment with. In this week’s Food List, we explore the different ways in which small-scale farms are adapting technology to fit their modes.
Most research and development in agriculture focuses on mass crop production, often forcing small farmers to “make it work.” They use technologies new and old. Farmers are collaborating with engineers across the country, like at Stone Barn Center, to develop slow tools for smaller operations. This is a solution for many food producers . As one small producer, Doug Mosel says, “the closer we get to using the last remaining “ancient sunlight,” the smaller and simpler technology will become.” By filling these technology gaps, smaller farmers have a better opportunity to focus on various other challenges.
The beauty of this appropriate technology movement is the open source knowledge driving it. And so, when the latest sustainable design, such as the culticycle, becomes available, the technology can be found for free on sources like Farm Hack.
Appropriate technology is not only about developing new technological adaptations for small farms. It’s also about using what you have around you as well. Draft animal power is still a widely used practice on farms. In fact, horse power is the symbolic standard for measurements of labor, especially on farms.
Appropriate technology is about recycling the resources that you have around you. One story from Cleveland tells us of how appropriate technology extended the growing season into the winter. Fresh produce all year round in the four season states? And if you think that’s extreme, Low-Tech Magazine shares with us a dirty secretof the past that could be the “key” to sustainable farming.
In this week’s Food List, we learn that farm technology is a greater quest for whatever works. It’s a matter of applying what makes sense, in the past, present, and future. How can you make appropriate technology work for you?
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THIS WEEK’S TERMS
“A holistic approach to human problem solving. It involves working with nature–of which we are a part–to develop and sustain systems beneficial to the health of the whole.” — Ian Snider, Yates Family Farm
“Also known as ‘draft animal power,’ this is the use of horses, mules, or oxen to do productive work in farms, forests, and other settings. Traditionally, horses, mules, and oxen did all the work that tractors do today.” – Donn Hewes, Draft Animal Power Network
“Small Plot Intensive. A low-cost, easy-to-learn system that produces ample high value produce on less than one acre, making it possible for first-generation farms to get started without a lot of land or capital investment” – Kevin Grove, Quarter Branch Farm
Human excrement, most prominently used as fertilizer in earlier cultures, is reappearing as a soil amendment.
The use of greenhouses to prolong the growing season. Seeds are planted earlier and the last harvest of the year comes later, allowing consumers to continue eating local foods longer than would otherwise be possible.
As a result of the industrial revolution and the subsequent development of “big agriculture,” small-scale farming tools have become almost obsolete. In order to fulfill the demand created by a burgeoning community of small-scale farmers, Stone Barns Center has partnered with Barry Griffin, a design engineer, to develop farming equipment and tools. Called the Slow Tools Project, this partnership brings together leading engineers and farmers to design and build appropriately scaled tools that are lightweight, affordable and open-source. Jill Isenbarger, executive director of Stone Barns Center, points out that this will greatly help small scale farmers: “The challenges [farmers] deal with are significant: high land prices and connection to markets, for instance. Tools shouldn’t be one of them.”
Small farms need tools scaled to the size of their operations and specific to the tasks to be accomplished. The availability of ideal tools, priced affordably, would greatly aid the efficiency and competitiveness of local food production. Our group, Slow Tools, is focused on improving tool access for a rapidly growing group of small farmers — commercial intensive organic vegetable growers on 5 acres and less. This is a scale of production that has been ignored by tool manufacturers despite its impressive performance in yield and quality. The many successful Slow Tool type implements that have been developed to date are presently available from the Johnny’s Selected Seeds catalog. These include the Tilther, numerous Broadfork designs, a complete Soil Block system, a Roller/hole-maker for transplants, the Six Row Seeder, the Quick Cut Harvester, and the Quick Hoops Bender. More are needed.
In the summer of 2015, The Slow Tools Project will focus on the development of A Bed-Former/Shaper powered by a BCS walking tractor; a hug-wheel driven, walken behind electric tool carrier; a two-layer clear plastic blanket for field-scale soil solarizing; and a 30-inch wide stripper/header to harvest grain for poultry.
Title: Appropriate Technology Location: Peter + Mimi Buckley’s Front Porch Farm, Healdsburg, CA Featuring: Doug Mosel Found on Page 146 in Local: The New Face of Food and Farming in AmericaAs farmers reintroduce wheat to strengthen their local food systems, they discover an alarming face: it’s hard to find equipment suited to small farms. Doug Morsel says that with wheat primarily farmed on an industrial scale, the local infrastructure to support the production of wheat has largely disappeared. The resulting scarcity of affordable, appropriately-sized equipment is the greatest challenge facing local grain production. This technology gap also applies to used cleaning and separating equipment as well as access to facilities that clean small quantities of grain. Doug and his combine lend a hand on his friends’ farm.Appropriate technology is environmentally sound technology designed to meet the social and economic conditions of a specific geographic area while ideally promoting greater self-sufficiency. Front Porch Farm’s “Tamalpais” barley; “Our idea is to harvest and malt it, then either distill it ourselves into whiskey or sell it to local breweries as a locally grown malted barley.” The HEDE 140 Combine is a “small plot” combine and is expensive, highly specialized, and manufactures in relatively small numbers. It’s usually used by universities or seed developers to harvest very small test plots that are not intended for production use.
Doug Mosel says, “The closer we get to using the last remaining “ancient sunlight” (petroleum), the smaller and simpler technology will become”
Don’t know where to start when it comes to finding the right tools for cultivating your small garden plot? Dig into this webinar, produced by National Center for Appropriate Technology’s ATTRA project and delivered NCAT’s Andy Pressmen, to find a comprehensive guide of tools for small scale crop production.
Andy Pressman is a Sustainable Agriculture Specialist with the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), a non-profit organization that promotes and demonstrates small-scale, local, and sustainable solutions to energy and agriculture. Andy received a MS degree from Slippery Rock University in Sustainable Systems Design and has a passion for tools and equipment for small-scale agriculture. Through NCAT’s ATTRA Project – the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service – Andy provides technical assistance and education to farmers and ranchers in the fields of organic crop production, season extension, urban agriculture, and farm energy. He and his family also operate Foggy Hill Farm, a small diversified family farm located in Jaffrey, New Hampshire.
[Two weeks ago], an ace team of farmers, fabricators, engineers, and pedal-powered truckers gathered at Metro Pedal Power in Somerville, MA for a weekend build event. What project would bring such an intriguing group of individuals together? Only the culticycle, a pedal-powered cultivating tractor designed by Tim Cooke, that uses human brawn and bicycle brains to replace fossil fuel powered tractors for lightweight field cultivation.
Farming with draft animals has been Donn Hewes life passion for the last 16 years. As Donn explains, time measurement is a major element to consider when using draft animals; “the first technologies came from labor saving.” However, one of the many reason why Donn looked to using draft animals was in reflection of the continual use of nonrenewable resources in farm machinery. In this video, Donn provides a comprehensive outline of how to integrate horses into your farming practices. From their wide variety of farm application to their ability to give back to the land in the form of manure, Donn emphasizes how farmers have the potential to maintain ecological integrity of their lands and create mutually respectful relationships with their draft animals.
“Horses were not replaced by tractors on our farms because of how much they eat or how many acres is required to keep them. Every farm has a few acres lesser pasture where you keep your horses. They never eat the hay reserved for the milking cows or pregnant animals. Horses and mules were replaced by tractors to reduce human labor, just exactly like machines were added to factories. Human labor is what cost the most and that is what was cut. We need to consider returning to more human labor on our farms not less.” – Donn Hewes
Donn Hewes and Maryrose Livingston own the Northland Sheep Dairy in Marathon, NY, where they milk 100% grass fed ewes and make farmstead cheese. Donn does all the farm work with horses and mules, and also teaches teamster skills to aspiring horse farmers. Donn is an active member of the Draft Animal Power Network, a not for profit organization promoting the use of horses, mules, and oxen in today’s farms and forests. DAPNet will host the 2015 Draft Animal Power Field Days in Cummington, Mass. Sept 24th to 27th.
Title: Horse Powered Location: Yates Family Farm, Fleetwood, NC Featuring: Ian and Kelly Snider, and Frank the horse Found on Page 148 in Local: The New Face of Food and Farming in AmericaSustainability for Ian means the ability to meet current needs without compromising those of future generations. Think about the Rio Declaration of 1992. Working with horses is one way Ian and Kelly try to keep that promise. They feel trends and benefit from the greater society like everyone else, but aren’t enslaved by the gas pump. Having horses insulate Ian from the inevitable fluctuations in the global economy.Horse powered means working with equines in a symbiotic agricultural relationship. They complete tasks which require great effort while sustaining themselves and us from the land.
The Suffolk is one of the few popular draft breeds in North America that was developed by farmers for farming. Originally from England’s Suffolk county, these draft animals have especially short cannon bones (the bones just below the knees), meaning only minimal anatomical effort is required for them to take a step. This makes them efficient walkers capable of greater stamina. Plus, their level-headed attitude is founded on a sincere willingness to please. Aside from these exceptional qualities, they are the only draft breed which is always chestnut red in color. As a redhead himself, Ian finds them a wonderful choice functionally and aesthetically. Horses are solar-fueled, self-renewing, and somewhat self-repairing.
I ask Ian, “Why horses?” He says, “This choice is not a nostalgic one, or one motivated by obstinate anti-establishment sentiments. For us, personally, it is not a requirement of our religion. It is however a fiercely spiritual decision, one motivated by deep obligation and a sense of responsibility for those who will come after us. By utilizing the culture of the past, we can find the most hopeful path for the future. Despite centuries of mechanical innovation, horsepower is still the symbolic standard against which all labors are measured.”
“Meet the urban cousin of a traditional barn raising” says Yes! Magazine. Here is a story of a marginalized community in Cleveland taking urban farming to the next level. By incorporating a greenhouse design in their neighborhood, growing season can be dramatically extended. In collaboration with Fair Food Network, residents of the Cleveland neighborhood team up to build hoop houses, simple greenhouse designs that protect plants from the seasons and maintain a temperature at least 10 degrees warmer than outside temperatures. Here is an example of how growing in all four seasons is possible! Even in a city!
Low-Tech Magazine, an appropriate technology publication, proposes that the “key” to sustainable farming is recycling animal and human manure. Decker explains how the use of water closets, while convenient, breaks a cycle that could be returning essential nutrients to the soil, and instead pollutes our waterways, consumes large amounts of fresh water, and leaves an agricultural system that is dependent on synthetic fertilizer application, all while consuming large amounts of energy.
Human excrement has not been ubiquitously regarded as “waste” — for thousands of years, China, Korea, and Japan treated it as a valuable trade product and fertilizer. Meanwhile, animal manure or food waste — even absent the taboo associated with humanure — is still wasted, often polluting our environment rather than healing our soil. To reintegrate food scraps and animal and human manure back into our agricultural system presents a huge logistical challenge. However, it is a challenge that can be overcome, but only if we begin to seriously address the issue.
There are a variety of appropriate technologies that have been developed to compost human waste, from the DIY home scale to industrial scale technologies. Perhaps the most well known is Joe Jenkin’s open source Humanure Handbook. SOIL (Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods) works in Haiti to provide access to low-cost ecological sanitation systems while simultaneously transforming human waste into compost that can help repair degraded soils. The Dutch company Orgaworld, meanwhile, creates compost from diapers and other organic waste on an industrial scale.
Title: Egg Mobile Location: Polyface Farm, Swoope, VA Featuring: Joel Salatin Found on Page 176 in Local: The New Face of Food and Farming in AmericaPastures don’t just happen. They are like all biological systems, always in a state of flux between either degeneration or regeneration. Chickens are extremely hard on forage and dump hot manure with a carbon:nitrogen ratio of 7 to 1. As a result, stationary hen houses soon develop bare spots where the forage is tilled out and killed. The soil is overloaded with nitrogen toxicity which leaches into the groundwater and over stimulates grass clumps with bitter forage repugnant to the chickens. If you want a regenerating pasture, you have to manage it for that improvement or it will deteriorate.Egg mobiles are portable hen houses moved every one or two days, preferably behind herbivores, with chickens having access to unimpeded pasturage. Chickens are biological pasture sanitizers. They scratch through cow patties and spread them out, reducing the overload of nutrients in one spot and destroying the incubation environment conducive to parasite development; they eat fly larvae out of cow patties, thus reducing the irritation to the herd, increasing their comfort, health, and performance; chickens eat the newly exposed grasshoppers, crickets, and other herbivorous critters that compete that compete with the cows for the available forage; and chicken scratching pulls up duff and moldy leaves, aerating the soil and freshening the plant structure.
Farms come in all shapes and sizes, and apply a variety of different principles and philosophies. As Nathanael Johnson writes, “there are farms that use all sorts of high technology to stay in sync with natural cycles, and even the best low-tech organic farmers find themselves fighting nature every year.” There is no such thing as one size fits all when it comes to farming strategies. Instead, it’s a matter of what makes sense — As Johnson points out, “[farmers] want the tools and techniques that will give them the best chance of success”.
3 THINGS YOU CAN DO
Have you been known as someone who “tinkers”? Do you like to “do it yourself”? Often times, we don’t even realize we’re participating in appropriate technology. It’s all about making the tools fit and work for you.
Build your sustainable life! Sometimes it’s just easier to build it yourself. Take the project into your own hands! It’s all within arms reach with open source platforms, like Appropedia.