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Archive for the ‘development’ Category

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The Real Dirt

The last presenter of the last session of the last day was not to be missed. Peter Burkard, farmer and published author, spoke on the panel “Local Food System Development.” I got his permission to post his speech it its entirely, and you can read it below. Although this blog’s focus is on Redland Organics’ growers and customers, what Peter has to say is extremely relevant in South Florida.

If you want to read more, his book is called The Real Dirt: An Organic Grower’s Journey and the Values that Inspired It, which sells for $15 a copy. You can get yours by contacting him at PMBORGANIC(at)aol.com. (Please remember to take out the (at) and put in the @ when you order your copy. Am doing this to ward off spam.) Peter is also a member of the Southwest Florida Small Farmers Network.

 

The Holy Land is Everywhere

You know those cars that are plastered with like 30 bumper stickers? I recently saw one of these at a small farmers’ market in the little town of Burnsville in the North Carolina mountains. Now usually I find myself in agreement with most sentiments on such cars and I knew this one would be no different, being at a farmers’ market and all. So I checked it out a little and among other incisive bits of wisdom like “JUST SAY NO TO SEX WITH PRO-LIFERS” was this one that I really liked: “THE HOLY LAND IS EVERYWHERE”. The idea being that we need to be worshiping the entirety of creation, not just some special place set aside.

As we go forth today, this is the vision and mind-set which it is our job to create amongst the majority of our fellow humans, an understanding and appreciation of the immense value of undegraded land. Undegraded land can either have massive value as wilderness, through free ecosystem services, or in its agricultural potential…and the best of farms will marry the two. We need the majority of the public to not only reject agribusiness but along with it reject the mechanistic, controlling, reductionist worldview upon which agribusiness is based. To do that, they need to both be informed about the reality of industrial agriculture and be able to experience our positive alternatives and the fabulous food that we provide.

Wendell Berry draws the distinction between industrialism and agrarianism, in which industrialism is a way of thought based upon monetary capital and technology, while agrarianism is a way of thought based on a sustainable relationship with the land, preferably land on which the farmer’s family lives. He sees this as the overarching theme of all our efforts…the replacement of the dominant destructive, unsustainable model which is destroying the prospects for life as we know it, with our culture of respect for our life-support system and each other.

This industrialism we fight against is easy to see every day throughout Florida in the destruction of excellent farmland under the developer’s bulldozers. Following this near-removal of food growing from areas most inhabited by people, industrial, chemicalized agriculture is given a quasi-monopoly over our food supply. Rural land is of course cheaper but is also conveniently out of sight, so the vast majority of the public has little if any direct contact with the production of their food.

It is up to us to change that, locating some of our attractive, sustainable alternatives in urban and suburban settings. By reversing the trend of the last hundred years of separating people from their food supply, we both provide the model for a more sustainable future and enlist more of the admiring public to our cause. For it is only after a sufficient number of voters and tax payers join our side that the policy makers will be forced to act or else be removed from office.

There are a great many successful alternatives to the industrial food system. We need to be those model alternatives, as well as unite with our like-minded brethren, be they fellow producers, consumers, or even competitors, so as to maximize our political clout. In our area of the Central and South Florida West coast, we’ve established a small farmer network to enable us to learn from each other and also acquire strength through numbers, so as to better move our agenda forward politically. I’d like to encourage other areas to create their own similar networks of growers.

Still, at the same time, I’d like to promote what I see as the best answer, one for which all you need is yourself. There is one food production method that stands out as clearly the most local, most fresh, most flavorful, most fun, most providing of exercise, and most reducing of our carbon footprint. That is growing as much of your own food as possible at home. Even though I’ve sold produce at a market for 30 years, I’ve never thought of this backyard grower as competition; instead, once one tastes the difference in truly fresh, organic produce, they will surely seek out what they aren’t able to grow themselves from us market gardeners. Besides, it is the right thing for the world. (If you’ve ever been to Europe, you’ve seen not only vastly better transportation and health-care systems but also a lot more–in some places almost universal–home food and flower gardens.) So grow as much as you can at home or in a community garden and buy the rest from other small farmers, local whenever possible.

Time for some policy specifics. These are specific elements of the food system that we need to be striving towards. I’ll call it my “John Lennon section”…Imagine these things being reality. But we need to do more than just imagine them and work towards making them a reality. So pick one or two you are most passionate about and get involved with making them happen.

–URBAN FRINGE AND EVEN URBAN LAND WHICH IS SET ASIDE IN PERPETUITY FOR AGRICULTURAL ACTIVITY, THROUGH THINGS LIKE CONSERVATION EASEMENTS AND SPECIAL TAX TREATMENT,
–MORE URBAN COMMUNITY GARDENS,
–THE TEARING DOWN OF URBAN LAWS WHICH PROHIBIT AGRICULTURAL ACTIVITIES,
–MORE SCHOOL GARDENS AND CHILD EDUCATION ABOUT FOOD PRODUCTION,
–MORE WIDESPREAD USE OF FARM-TO-SCHOOL PROGRAMS,
–MORE FARM TO CHEF CONNECTIONS,
–MORE ACCESS TO FRESH, LOCAL FOOD FOR THE URBAN POOR,
–CONTINUED EXPANSION OF FARMERS’ MARKETS AND CSA’S,
–MUNICIPAL AND EXTENSION EFFORTS TO ENCOURAGE MORE HOME FOOD PRODUCTION, MEANING TRADITIONAL AND ROOFTOP GARDENS, FRUIT TREES, SPROUTING, CHICKENS, BEES, RABBITS, TILAPIA, AND SO ON,
–MORE TOWN-TO-FARM NUTRIENT CYCLING,
–THE CONTINUATION AND/OR EXPANSION OF GOVERNMENT INCENTIVES FOR GREEN ENERGY AND WATER CONSERVATION MEASURES IN CONJUNCTION WITH FARMING,
–COUNTIES PROVIDING LAND FOR ESTABLISHING WORKING FARMS DESIGNED TO TRAIN NEW FARMERS,
–MATCHING PROPERTY OWNERS WITH POTENTIAL SHARECROPPING OR RENTING FARMERS AND GARDENERS,
–MANDATING WORKING FARMS OR COMMUNITY GARDENS BE INCORPORATED IN ALL HOUSING DEVELOPMENTS OVER A CERTAIN SIZE. (NEEDED TO BE DONE LONG AGO.)

This isn’t a world we need to create from scratch. Most of these ideas are already being turned into reality somewhere in this country…or they exist in a fledgling way and we just need to help them along.

There will always be battles with those seeking to preserve an obsolete and unsustainable status quo. These same Chamber of Commerce types either have fought in the past or still do fight for things like making toxic children’s toys, nuclear weapons, and gas guzzlers, destroying old growth forests, hunting and processing whales, and preserving the slave trade.

Just because an activity creates jobs–creates commerce–does NOT mean that is something we as a society should be encouraging…not an automatic good. As I give talks in support of my book, The Real Dirt, an Organic Grower’s Journey and the Values that Inspired it, this is one of the points I emphasize, the merging of a strong sense of ethical values with our livelihoods. It should be clear that we are on the right side. Just remember that what we envision is a far more just, peaceful, and sustainable world, and that fact alone should sufficiently inspire us.

written by Peter Burkard

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State 1, Lowes 0

What happens here in Miami-Dade County could set precedents for other counties regarding sprawl. Why don’t developers reconsider urban infill?

Florida Cabinet thwarts plan to alter Miami-Dade development boundary
The state Cabinet overruled Miami-Dade County and stopped an attempt to move the county’s western development line.
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/southflorida/story/1161697.html

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Urban sprawl and farms

Urban sprawl is a hot button issue is South Miami-Dade County. Depending on whom you speak to, they’re either strongly for it or against it. The UDB, or Urban Development Boundary, is a line drawn in Miami-Dade’s master plan that separates agriculture from suburbia. Periodically and frequently, developers petition the county and state to move the line to accommodate new development. Sometimes the line moves, sometimes it doesn’t. This dance has been going on for years. Why is the UDB important? Because it allows space for agriculture, and provides a buffer between the city and the Everglades, an important source of our drinking water. Look at Broward County. They don’t have a UDB — and count how many farms, groves and ranches remain.

Recent editorial in The Miami Herald (7/24/09):
Hold the line on development

http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/editorials/story/1155156.html

Recent related article in the Miami Herald (6/29/09):
Infill development will help hold line

http://www.miamiherald.com/business/story/1116072.html

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