Saturday, July 11, 2009

Keynotes From OFA: Do We Share A Common Future With Ag?

Fred Kirschenmann, organic farmer and distinguished fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, asked the crowd at Short Course to think big about the changes our industries will have to make to deal with the future – including energy and sustainable production. What kinds of systems are possible?

Although the last 100 years have been steady from a climate perspective, Kirschenmann says we can't rely on such stability in the future. Biodiversity will be necessary to adapt to these changes, exactly the opposite of the disappearance of species that we're seeing. “Now, we think about what we need and how we can force nature to do it,” Kirschenmann says. “Maybe we need to ask how to maintain ecosystems and how we can survive on them?”

Kirschenmann shared the story of a Japanese industrial rice farmer who one day realized that everything he earned had to be reinvested into his business. He wanted to see profit, so he came up with new system. Farmers in the past had ducks in their rice paddies, so he added some and then watched what they did. They ate insects off the rice. He no longer needed to invest in insecticides.

Could he also put fish back in the rice paddies? Yes, he found, he could. With the ducks and fish, algae on the surface of the paddy water no longer needed herbicide, because fish and ducks feed on it. The farmer is now no longer a monoculture grower, producing 5 crops.

What will these changes mean for the future of floriculture? It's time to start thinking about it.

See more on Kirschenmann at his website.

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