Sustainable food and farming part III: Lets get practical!

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Praxis (noun) ; translating an idea into action; the process by which a theory, lesson, or skill is enacted or practiced, embodied and/or realized.

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A few weeks ago I asked my Sustainable Agriculture class to define the word praxis.  They struggled with this question, so this blog will give my class (and all of you readers) an example of praxis as applied to sustainable agriculture.

I began to explore the concept of sustainable agriculture in two previous blog posts, both a bit \”heady.\”   I\’m encouraged however by American psychologist, Kurt Lewin\’s most famous quote \”there is nothing more practical than a good theory.\”

In my first post, Sustainable Food and Farming Part I: Is sustainable agriculture sustainable?, I explored the difference between mechanistic and ecological approaches to farming and science. I wrote \”I will address this topic using both theory and practice….\”

In my second post, Sustainable Food and Farming Part II: symbols and perspectives matter! I compared various ways of looking at sustainability. I asked \”….what if we tried to understand how natural ecosystems function, and then design managed ecosystems like farms using principles of ecology?\”

In this post I will attempt to translate these ideas into practice – yup, that\’s praxis.

So lets ask \”are there any real world examples of farms that are managed using ecological principles?\”  Certainly there is research exploring the relationship between farming and ecology, the most famous is probably Wes Jackson\’s work at The Land Institute in Kansas.  Other examples can be found among the Permaculture Community, mostly on small plots.    But most of the agroecological research is being conducted by farmers themselves.  Farmers who associate with the sustainability movement conduct practical experiments each year trying to discover what works best in their specific ecosystem.  We might all learn from them….. for example;

…here is a video from a workshop called \”Farming is Ecology.\”

In this video we see examples of how thinking of a farm as an agroecosystem can help generate sustainable farming practices at the Simple Gifts Farm in Amherst, Massachusetts.

In the video, we see examples of  three ecological principles (can you identify them?):

  1. Use current solar income whenever possible.
  2. Recycle everything (waste = food).
  3. Encourage biological diversity.

My next post will explore these ideas more fully, but for now I\’ll ask you…..

1. Do you know of any farms that are managed using ecological principles?

and

2. Can you identify ways in which these ecological principles are working in your own life?

Please share your thoughts in the comments box below!

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I\’d appreciate it if you would share this post with your friends.  And for more ideas, videos and challenges along these lines, please join my Facebook Group; Just Food Now.  And go here for the rest of this series of posts.

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