Farming without oil

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Re: Farming without oil

 

A trip through Amish country during spring planting or fall harvest can be a fascinating tour of farming without oil.  It's intriguing to see the clever mechanical devices that run on horse power (literally) for plowing, planting, cultivating, and harvesting crops.  The work is hard, but I would not equate it with that of a lavatory attendant, as the author of this article does. 

Speaking with some small experience in farming, I can say that while farm life is not quite as idyllic as many city folks envision, it certainly has its moments.  There's nothing quite like seeing the sun rise over mist-blanketed fields.  Fresh milk is a revelation to those who have only tasted the lifeless stuff on the store shelves. 

Nothing cultivates confidence and responsibility in children as chores that have real value and impact for their family.  I've seen 7 year old children drive farm equipment, and yes, cars, with more skill and caution than most suburban adults.

Of course, farm families are always concerned about the financial viability of their way of life.  But it appears that the greatest dangers to their livelihood are due to tax laws and the expenses associated with dependence on hybrid seed and the associated pesticides.  These phenomena can keep them just one season away from the auction block.

Of course, extended drought is always a concern, but I have witnessed remarkable resourcefullness in farmers under drought conditons.  Because of their habitual preparedness, they are able to hunker down and weather a wide variety of natural calamities. 

Working as a community is a way of life for farmers.  I remember one local farmer who survived being hit by lightning during harvest.  He survived, but needed long and arduous physical therapy to recover his mobility.  The vast majority of his crops were still in the field.  Neighboring farmers took turns donating their time and equipment until his crops were safely in, ensuring that when he recovered his health, he'd have a livelihood to return to.  Nobody thought of themselves as particularly noble in doing this.  It was just their way of life. 

Myself, I would rather have my security dependent on God's providence, my own wits and hard work, and neighbors like the ones I just described, than on a highly specialized, fragile economic system, with opaque leadership and questionable motives.  But that's just me.

 

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Re: Farming without oil

"woman who banished plastic bags from her town"-- from article

YAHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Smile

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Re: Farming without oil

 

When the Amish farmer was asked if it wouldn't be so much easier if he used a tractor to cultivate his land, his answer was short and sweet " because tractors don't make manure"

Anyone here interested in their food supply and its corruption should read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Its an excellent read about one family's quest to take control of their lives through their food.

It has real facts about genetically modified food production, fuel consumption / food transportation costs, community based farming and nutrition - and is a great read.

Any of us considering life on a farm or community based survival should read this book. We know we are all in this together.

http://www.animalvegetablemiracle.com/

 Bruin36

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Re: Farming without oil
c1oudfire wrote:

Myself, I would rather have my security dependent on God's providence, my own wits and hard work, and neighbors like the ones I just described, than on a highly specialized, fragile economic system, with opaque leadership and questionable motives.  But that's just me.

I totally agree with you on this point! I'd rather be "breaking my back" to put food on my table and keep shelter over my head than to slave away for a wage to BUY the same things. Trusting the system is not my idea of good risk management either.

One of the best things I can see coming out of a peak oil crash is that it will force the Monsato's and Conagro's out of business. The widespread, centralized food system will absolutely not work without easy and cheap fuel to transport food grown with petro-chemicals all over the nation and world. It's estimated that almost half of our oil dependence is on agriculture and related transportation. Small-scale farming is so much more productive (yield per acre) than any of those huge agri-corp farms, and even the big family farms that have been forced to expand to "keep up". It's much easier to manage a smaller farm without big tractors and other oil-dependent devices... whether that's with a horse, an ox, a few goats, or just your own manpower. When the centralized food system falls, and there are food shortages all over because of the inability to get the food (not really an inability to produce it so much), I seriously hope that there are enough small, local, family farms to step into the void and keep at least some of the people fed. We won't be able to rely on GM foods or patented hybrids or fertilizers and pesticides and distribution centers and processing plants (which, BTW, are all owned in the US by 5 major corporations -- can you say "cartel"?). People will be forced to once again buy local and eat seasonally from farms that have to grow biodiversely and organically/naturally.

And as for farm work being drudgery... well, I guess some people are born to farmer and others aren't. If you love your land and you love following the rhythm of nature and seeing the results of your work first hand... well, farming isn't really that "hard" in the grander scheme of things because you love it. I think people that believe farming is "horribly difficult" are either doing something wrong (ie. going against nature) or just aren't cut from the right cloth (no sin in that, they just don't fit on the farm). Sure, you're dead tired, hot and scratchy after haying all day and mucking stables is not the most pleasant experience... but neither is sitting in another endless meeting, working with and for people you'd rather punch in the eye, or being stuck in rushhour traffic after working 10 hours in an office surrounded by recycled air.

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Re: Farming without oil

 

Eloquently said, and dead on, PlicketyCat!

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Re: Farming without oil
bruin36 wrote:

 

When the Amish farmer was asked if it wouldn't be so much easier if he used a tractor to cultivate his land, his answer was short and sweet " because tractors don't make manure"

Anyone here interested in their food supply and its corruption should read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Its an excellent read about one family's quest to take control of their lives through their food.

It has real facts about genetically modified food production, fuel consumption / food transportation costs, community based farming and nutrition - and is a great read.

Any of us considering life on a farm or community based survival should read this book. We know we are all in this together.

http://www.animalvegetablemiracle.com/

 Bruin36

I love the Amish! It's so funny that so many people consider them backward when they can obviously do so many things that are considered "impossible" by our experts.  <<shaking my head>>

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is an excellent book. I also recommend The Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food, Voluntary Simplicity, The Contrary Farmer, Everything I Want to Do is Illegal, and the Humanure Handbook.

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Re: Farming without oil

Plickety,

You're a mine of info and a damn good read!!

Best,

Paul

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Re: Farming without oil

Thanks Paul - I figure if I'm going to drone on with all my nonsense, the least I can do is be entertaining about it Tongue out

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Re: Farming without oil
PlicketyCat wrote:
c1oudfire wrote:

Myself, I would rather have my security dependent on God's providence, my own wits and hard work, and neighbors like the ones I just described, than on a highly specialized, fragile economic system, with opaque leadership and questionable motives.  But that's just me.

I totally agree with you on this point! I'd rather be "breaking my back" to put food on my table and keep shelter over my head than to slave away for a wage to BUY the same things. Trusting the system is not my idea of good risk management either. 

With no disrespect, you might want to find out exactly what this is like.  North Korea has closed off most media from entering their country but from the little gathered, I'd say that people are, literlly, being worked to death.  The work is so hard and the reward is so little.  It's just something to think about before fantasizing about how much fun it would be to slave away wall day producing organic food.

PlicketyCat wrote:

One of the best things I can see coming out of a peak oil crash is that it will force the Monsato's and Conagro's out of business. The widespread, centralized food system will absolutely not work without easy and cheap fuel to transport food grown with petro-chemicals all over the nation and world. It's estimated that almost half of our oil dependence is on agriculture and related transportation. Small-scale farming is so much more productive (yield per acre) than any of those huge agri-corp farms, and even the big family farms that have been forced to expand to "keep up". It's much easier to manage a smaller farm without big tractors and other oil-dependent devices... whether that's with a horse, an ox, a few goats, or just your own manpower. When the centralized food system falls, and there are food shortages all over because of the inability to get the food (not really an inability to produce it so much), I seriously hope that there are enough small, local, family farms to step into the void and keep at least some of the people fed. We won't be able to rely on GM foods or patented hybrids or fertilizers and pesticides and distribution centers and processing plants (which, BTW, are all owned in the US by 5 major corporations -- can you say "cartel"?). People will be forced to once again buy local and eat seasonally from farms that have to grow biodiversely and organically/naturally.

And as for farm work being drudgery... well, I guess some people are born to farmer and others aren't. If you love your land and you love following the rhythm of nature and seeing the results of your work first hand... well, farming isn't really that "hard" in the grander scheme of things because you love it. I think people that believe farming is "horribly difficult" are either doing something wrong (ie. going against nature) or just aren't cut from the right cloth (no sin in that, they just don't fit on the farm). Sure, you're dead tired, hot and scratchy after haying all day and mucking stables is not the most pleasant experience... but neither is sitting in another endless meeting, working with and for people you'd rather punch in the eye, or being stuck in rushhour traffic after working 10 hours in an office surrounded by recycled air.

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Re: Farming without oil

Hi Caroline,

you're telling me!!! SurprisedI live for the shit lipping the rim of my boots, but you don't always need 300 posts to gain a voice here :-

http://www.peakprosperity.com/forum/brave-new-world/14525

Best 

Paul

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Re: Farming without oil
caroline_culbert wrote:

With no disrespect, you might want to find out exactly what this is like.  North Korea has closed off most media from entering their country but from the little gathered, I'd say that people are, literlly, being worked to death.  

 

Conditions in North Korea are a poor example as they are suffering from the imposed burden of international sanctions.  And Caroline, I do have some experience with the farm life, and I liked it just fine, thank you.

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Re: Farming without oil

There's a world of difference between independent free-trade farming and government controlled farming. One is feeding yourself and your neighbors by choice, the other is trying to feed an entire nation through slavery.

I have worked on ranches, farms and plant nurseries and I liked the work just fine. I know that it is hard work and isn't going to be all fun and games. In fact, I never said it was going to be "fun" at all... I said I'd prefer to break my back for my own food and shelter rather than working a wage job to BUY the same things. Both scenario's have the possibility of sucking hardcore... I just happen to think/feel/believe that farming and being self-sufficent and self-reliant sucks less for me in my circumstance.  If someone isn't cut out for farming and doesn't enjoy it, I certainly wouldn't expect them to go try to farm... as long as they don't expect me to go sit in a corporate office ever again. 

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Re: Farming without oil
PlicketyCat wrote:

There's a world of difference between independent free-trade farming and government controlled farming. One is feeding yourself and your neighbors by choice, the other is trying to feed an entire nation through slavery.

I'm not disputing the differences.  I'm just pointing out the expectations that will arise when this nation, U.S., wants to go all agricultural and what that means as far as the entire nation tilling the earth.  Fine with me, but I'd like to get a glimpse and speculate as to how that might look like.  It could go many ways.  We might be able to grow enough food for this country, state, county, or town.  Who knows what type of economic activity will arise?  What we're talking about, that is, the future, is all hypothetical anyway.

PlicketyCat wrote:

  I have worked on ranches, farms and plant nurseries and I liked the work just fine. I know that it is hard work and isn't going to be all fun and games. In fact, I never said it was going to be "fun" at all... I said I'd prefer to break my back for my own food and shelter rather than working a wage job to BUY the same things. Both scenario's have the possibility of sucking hardcore... I just happen to think/feel/believe that farming and being self-sufficent and self-reliant sucks less for me in my circumstance.  If someone isn't cut out for farming and doesn't enjoy it, I certainly wouldn't expect them to go try to farm... as long as they don't expect me to go sit in a corporate office ever again. 

That's good; but again, I'm not disputing the current facts about farmers.  I thought the "subject", the intent of this forum, was to speculate about the future of "farming without oil".  My bad.

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Re: Farming without oil

Hello, I have something to add to this talk about farming, as 1) I am an agribusiness  farmer and 2) I am working towards total self sufficiency for my family, friends, and feeding local communities,  as well.  I truly believe that the agri-business system is not sustainable, for all the many reasons that have been stated here or in many forums or  current books, , , and also, I DO believe that more 'scale appropiate' size of farming/gardening is very ' doable ' and it won't be a sacrifice or hard back breaking work, as much as it will 're - connnect ' people in society with what is meaningful and essential in this Life.  From working with the land and plants, to working with others in group efforts.    The local food movement truly will go a long ways in reConnecting and reUniting people with their place on this earth, minimizing our Footprint on the Earth, and providing a lot of genuine pleasure along the way.

 Local Citizen of the World

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Re: Farming without oil

.

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Re: Farming without oil

jim and others- For those of us new to serious gardening (vs planting a pumpkin or two for Halloween!), any advice on small scale gardeing for self-sufficiency are appreciated!  

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Re: Zero Energy Farm . . .not so back breaking

Wow, I thought I was the only one interested in food production without energy dependence.

Our website- http://www.MyBackAchers.com  was put up to demonstrate food production the easy way without energy. I'm working on adding some more stuff- storing milk products without refrigeration. I wanted to not go back to horse and buggy . . . or live the madmax thing so we use an electric tractor for field work. We just bought the place a few years ago and are patiently awaiting spring to get in more permaculture gardens. 

We are always looking for joining resources so email me MyBackAcres at MyBackAchers.com to share or promote ideas.

EndGamePlayer

 

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Re: Farming without oil
PlicketyCat wrote:
c1oudfire wrote:

Myself, I would rather have my security dependent on God's providence, my own wits and hard work, and neighbors like the ones I just described, than on a highly specialized, fragile economic system, with opaque leadership and questionable motives.  But that's just me.

I totally agree with you on this point! I'd rather be "breaking my back" to put food on my table and keep shelter over my head than to slave away for a wage to BUY the same things. Trusting the system is not my idea of good risk management either.

One of the best things I can see coming out of a peak oil crash is that it will force the Monsato's and Conagro's out of business. The widespread, centralized food system will absolutely not work without easy and cheap fuel to transport food grown with petro-chemicals all over the nation and world. It's estimated that almost half of our oil dependence is on agriculture and related transportation. Small-scale farming is so much more productive (yield per acre) than any of those huge agri-corp farms, and even the big family farms that have been forced to expand to "keep up". It's much easier to manage a smaller farm without big tractors and other oil-dependent devices... whether that's with a horse, an ox, a few goats, or just your own manpower. When the centralized food system falls, and there are food shortages all over because of the inability to get the food (not really an inability to produce it so much), I seriously hope that there are enough small, local, family farms to step into the void and keep at least some of the people fed. We won't be able to rely on GM foods or patented hybrids or fertilizers and pesticides and distribution centers and processing plants (which, BTW, are all owned in the US by 5 major corporations -- can you say "cartel"?). People will be forced to once again buy local and eat seasonally from farms that have to grow biodiversely and organically/naturally.

And as for farm work being drudgery... well, I guess some people are born to farmer and others aren't. If you love your land and you love following the rhythm of nature and seeing the results of your work first hand... well, farming isn't really that "hard" in the grander scheme of things because you love it. I think people that believe farming is "horribly difficult" are either doing something wrong (ie. going against nature) or just aren't cut from the right cloth (no sin in that, they just don't fit on the farm). Sure, you're dead tired, hot and scratchy after haying all day and mucking stables is not the most pleasant experience... but neither is sitting in another endless meeting, working with and for people you'd rather punch in the eye, or being stuck in rushhour traffic after working 10 hours in an office surrounded by recycled air.

Hi PlicketyCat,

Sounds like your a very seasoned farmer.  I was curious as to what your past farming experiences are.  Could you please expand on your personal experiences?  I am very interested.

Thanks in advance.

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Re: Farming without oil

Thanks for the link, EndGamePlayer; it looks like a useful site!

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Re: Farming without oil
caroline_culbert wrote:

I'd like to get a glimpse and speculate as to how that might look like. It could go many ways. We might be able to grow enough food for this country, state, county, or town. Who knows what type of economic activity will arise? What we're talking about, that is, the future, is all hypothetical anyway.

 

Hi Caroline,

 

this isn't hypothetical, we need to plant the seeds of grass-roots-sustainable, practical futures now so they germinate in time for our economic renaisance.

 

No-one knows exactly what type of economic activity will arise, and this is exactly our opportunity to decide what we do want in the future and work towards it, on a family level, community level and wider.

 

peace

 

Crash 

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Re: Farming without oil

My  mantra to everyone  -   " Greenhouses and Root Cellars"   - 

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Re: Farming without oil
Worker Bee wrote:

Hi PlicketyCat,

Sounds like your a very seasoned farmer.  I was curious as to what your past farming experiences are.  Could you please expand on your personal experiences?  I am very interested.

Thanks in advance.

Hi Worker Bee - I definitely would not call myself a seasoned farmer. Not even close. I worked on a farm spring/summer/fall for a few years in my teens/20's doing all sorts of odd jobs (mucking stables, putting up hay, harvesting veg & grain). I worked on a ranch after that (more stables, more hay, more veg & grain) lots of work with horses and sheep. I worked at a professional plant nursery as a part-time second job for 3 years. Now, I volunteer at the local farm where I buy my food from when I can. I've done most of what I'd be doing on my own farmstead. I know I've got a lot more to learn (don't we always?!), but I know enough to know what I'm signing up for... not entirely an Idealistic Dreamer Laughing

Both the farm and the ranch I worked on were natural/organic/biodiverse and small-scale (less than 100 acres). We used very little petroleum power in comparison to the farms around us... could probably have used less if we hooked up the horses to mow the hay meadows and the grain fields (we didn't have a combine, we put up shocks and flail-threshed). The nursery actually used more petroleum power than the farms did... which I think is kind of weird. Most of the local farms are small too and also use very little petroleum.

I think the key to farming without oil is keeping things smaller in scale and biodiverse. Once you get into large farming operations, you need the big machines to keep up with the amount of land you're working. On a smaller farm, it's easier for a family to manage and they have more time to get the most out of their little plot of land without damaging it.

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Re: Farming without oil
caroline_culbert wrote:
PlicketyCat wrote:

There's a world of difference between independent free-trade farming and government controlled farming. One is feeding yourself and your neighbors by choice, the other is trying to feed an entire nation through slavery.

I'm not disputing the differences.  I'm just pointing out the expectations that will arise when this nation, U.S., wants to go all agricultural and what that means as far as the entire nation tilling the earth.  Fine with me, but I'd like to get a glimpse and speculate as to how that might look like.  It could go many ways.  We might be able to grow enough food for this country, state, county, or town.  Who knows what type of economic activity will arise?  What we're talking about, that is, the future, is all hypothetical anyway.

PlicketyCat wrote:

  I have worked on ranches, farms and plant nurseries and I liked the work just fine. I know that it is hard work and isn't going to be all fun and games. In fact, I never said it was going to be "fun" at all... I said I'd prefer to break my back for my own food and shelter rather than working a wage job to BUY the same things. Both scenario's have the possibility of sucking hardcore... I just happen to think/feel/believe that farming and being self-sufficent and self-reliant sucks less for me in my circumstance.  If someone isn't cut out for farming and doesn't enjoy it, I certainly wouldn't expect them to go try to farm... as long as they don't expect me to go sit in a corporate office ever again. 

That's good; but again, I'm not disputing the current facts about farmers.  I thought the "subject", the intent of this forum, was to speculate about the future of "farming without oil".  My bad.

No worries - I think we just had a miscommunication there.  I think that if the government seized control of agriculture and forced people to work on mega-farms feeding the entire nation from a few select points... yes, the Korea example could totally happen here.  However, I think we still have enough small farmers here that wouldn't let that happen and the larger farms would break up into more manageable pieces when they couldn't afford to do business by brute force anymore.  At least, I hope that's what would happen.  We're getting really close to totalitarianism in a lot of sectors in this country, so I could pretty much see the agri-corps, banks and governments conscripting people into farm slavery if we let them.

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Re: Farming without oil
PlicketyCat wrote:
caroline_culbert wrote:
PlicketyCat wrote:

There's a world of difference between independent free-trade farming and government controlled farming. One is feeding yourself and your neighbors by choice, the other is trying to feed an entire nation through slavery.

I'm not disputing the differences.  I'm just pointing out the expectations that will arise when this nation, U.S., wants to go all agricultural and what that means as far as the entire nation tilling the earth.  Fine with me, but I'd like to get a glimpse and speculate as to how that might look like.  It could go many ways.  We might be able to grow enough food for this country, state, county, or town.  Who knows what type of economic activity will arise?  What we're talking about, that is, the future, is all hypothetical anyway.

PlicketyCat wrote:

  I have worked on ranches, farms and plant nurseries and I liked the work just fine. I know that it is hard work and isn't going to be all fun and games. In fact, I never said it was going to be "fun" at all... I said I'd prefer to break my back for my own food and shelter rather than working a wage job to BUY the same things. Both scenario's have the possibility of sucking hardcore... I just happen to think/feel/believe that farming and being self-sufficent and self-reliant sucks less for me in my circumstance.  If someone isn't cut out for farming and doesn't enjoy it, I certainly wouldn't expect them to go try to farm... as long as they don't expect me to go sit in a corporate office ever again. 

That's good; but again, I'm not disputing the current facts about farmers.  I thought the "subject", the intent of this forum, was to speculate about the future of "farming without oil".  My bad.

No worries - I think we just had a miscommunication there.  I think that if the government seized control of agriculture and forced people to work on mega-farms feeding the entire nation from a few select points... yes, the Korea example could totally happen here.  However, I think we still have enough small farmers here that wouldn't let that happen and the larger farms would break up into more manageable pieces when they couldn't afford to do business by brute force anymore.  At least, I hope that's what would happen.  We're getting really close to totalitarianism in a lot of sectors in this country, so I could pretty much see the agri-corps, banks and governments conscripting people into farm slavery if we let them.

good points

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Local food: success is 100% possible

Local food: success is 100% possible

This is a guest post from Tim, a city
planner from sunny Moncton, NB. Tim has spent some time looking into
the viability of local, small scale agriculture, and has come up with
some results that give us every reason to be optimistic regarding our
ability to feed ourselves through our individual and neighborhood-scale
efforts, even as the systems of large-scale, industrial agriculture and
food delivery unravel due to a combination of high input costs, epic
droughts brought on by accelerating climate change, and a shortage of
credit caused by the financial collapse. The remaining challenge is
start doing it quickly enough: this summer, that is.

"Russian
households (inclusive of both urban and rural) collectively grow 92% of
country's potatoes on their garden-plots, the size of which is
typically 600 square meters [0.15 acres] for urban households, and
typically no more than 2500 square meters [0.62 acres] for rural
households," tells me Dr. Leonid Sharashkin, whose dissertation,
"THE SOCIOECONOMIC AND CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE OF FOOD GARDENING IN THE
VLADIMIR REGION OF RUSSIA" contains a wealth of specifics, based on
original field research as well as Russian government data. For
instance, he writes:

"In 2003, 34.8 million families (66% of all households in the country)
owned gardening plots (subsidiary plot, allotment, garden, or dacha)
and were involved in growing crops for subsistence (Rosstat 2005b). By
2005, 53% (by value) of the country’s total agricultural output was
coming from household plots (which in 2006 occupied only 2.9% of
agricultural land), while the remaining 47% (by value — Rosstat 2006)
came from the agricultural enterprises (often the former kolkhozes and
sovkhozes) and individual farmers, requiring 97.1% of agricultural
lands (Rosstat 2007b)." [Sharahkin, p.12]

 

Elsewhere
in his disseration, he details how much food was being produced in
household plots, and its figures were on the order of 90% of all the
potatoes in Russia, 80% of all the vegetables, 50% of the meat and milk
etc. In other words, very high proportions of certain products,
including at least one calorie staple (potato).

 

Dr.
Sharashkin quotes the previous figures from Russian government
publications, but his dissertation also contains the results from his
primary field research (and therefore are isolated from the usual
concerns one might have about the reliability of government
statistics): on page 162, Figure 24 indicates that, of the gardening
households in the study area:

  • 39% were cultivating under 0.05 hectares (i.e. 500 sq.m.);
  • another 36% were cultivating between 0.05 and 0.1 hectares; and
  • none of them were cultivating more than half a hectare.

In
other words, 3/4 of gardening households were gardening the equivalent
of two suburban house lots. (At least based on the typical house lots
we have around here, which are 50-60 feet by 100 feet.)

Considering
that Russia has just 110 days of growing season per year, while most of
America has much longer growing season and significantly more sunshine,
this is all quite encouraging from the standpoint of what Americans and
Canadians could do with their tiny suburban house lots, assuming they all learn to garden quickly enough.

caroline_culbert's picture
caroline_culbert
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 2 2008
Posts: 624
Re: Farming without oil

Russians are so far a head of Americans and Europeans...
Published Feb 28 2009 by ClubOrlov
Archived Feb 28 2009
Local food: success is 100% possible
by Tim from Moncton/NB

Editor Dmitry Orlov:
This is a guest post from Tim, a city planner from sunny Moncton, NB. Tim has spent some time looking into the viability of local, small scale agriculture, and has come up with some results that give us every reason to be optimistic regarding our ability to feed ourselves through our individual and neighborhood-scale efforts, even as the systems of large-scale, industrial agriculture and food delivery unravel due to a combination of high input costs, epic droughts brought on by accelerating climate change, and a shortage of credit caused by the financial collapse. The remaining challenge is start doing it quickly enough: this summer, that is.

"Russian households (inclusive of both urban and rural) collectively grow 92% of country's potatoes on their garden-plots, the size of which is typically 600 square meters [0.15 acres] for urban households, and typically no more than 2500 square meters [0.62 acres] for rural households," tells me Dr. Leonid Sharashkin, whose dissertation, "THE SOCIOECONOMIC AND CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE OF FOOD GARDENING IN THE VLADIMIR REGION OF RUSSIA" contains a wealth of specifics, based on original field research as well as Russian government data. For instance, he writes:

"In 2003, 34.8 million families (66% of all households in the country) owned gardening plots (subsidiary plot, allotment, garden, or dacha) and were involved in growing crops for subsistence (Rosstat 2005b). By 2005, 53% (by value) of the country’s total agricultural output was coming from household plots (which in 2006 occupied only 2.9% of agricultural land), while the remaining 47% (by value — Rosstat 2006) came from the agricultural enterprises (often the former kolkhozes and sovkhozes) and individual farmers, requiring 97.1% of agricultural lands (Rosstat 2007b)." [Sharahkin, p.12]

 

Elsewhere in his disseration, he details how much food was being produced in household plots, and its figures were on the order of 90% of all the potatoes in Russia, 80% of all the vegetables, 50% of the meat and milk etc. In other words, very high proportions of certain products, including at least one calorie staple (potato).


Dr. Sharashkin quotes the previous figures from Russian government publications, but his dissertation also contains the results from his primary field research (and therefore are isolated from the usual concerns one might have about the reliability of government statistics): on page 162, Figure 24 indicates that, of the gardening households in the study area:
39% were cultivating under 0.05 hectares (i.e. 500 sq.m.);
another 36% were cultivating between 0.05 and 0.1 hectares; and
none of them were cultivating more than half a hectare.

In other words, 3/4 of gardening households were gardening the equivalent of two suburban house lots. (At least based on the typical house lots we have around here, which are 50-60 feet by 100 feet.)

Considering that Russia has just 110 days of growing season per year, while most of America has much longer growing season and significantly more sunshine, this is all quite encouraging from the standpoint of what Americans and Canadians could do with their tiny suburban house lots, assuming they all learn to garden quickly enough.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Original article available here http://www.energybulletin.net/node/48217
Oh, and did you hear?  California's drought is forcing the state to shut water off water supplies to some of the state's largest farms.  And that's where most of our produce comes from:
http://www.reuters.com/article/environmentNews/idUSTRE51J6MO20090221?pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=0
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28808767/
And peak water:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/feb/26/water-drought

caroline_culbert's picture
caroline_culbert
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 2 2008
Posts: 624
Re: Farming without oil

Mike....  i forgot that my friend sent me this email days ago... Sh*t, thank u 4 the reminder!

PlicketyCat's picture
PlicketyCat
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 26 2009
Posts: 680
Re: Farming without oil

Interesting that Russia - i.e. Former Soviet Union are so far ahead with their local sustainable food systems.  Gee, do you think the sucky conditions they were forced into during the totalitarian regime might have given them a headstart?  Now that we're finding our governments getting ever closer to becoming totalitarian, we're racing to catch up. I hpe we can get our local and personal food production numbers up fairly quickly, because governments have always used food as a means to control the people.

jimmbaird's picture
jimmbaird
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 16 2009
Posts: 6
Re: Farming without oil

There are so many things that we all can be doing towards living more sustainably.  I think that first starting to buy as much of your food  grown locally, and what can't be done that way, look to purchasing products that are grown within your Bio region . . . or giving them up, and preparing your diet to match the bio region in which You live ..  Knowing where your food has come from and where and how it was grown is a big start towards creating a new life.  After that start more and more life changes seem to just naturally follow.   "our life is our message" .......and our choices are examples of that daily....Beginning  to eat seasonally and locally will make the transitions that are coming so much easier and pleasurable, as One discovers the beauty , connectivity , and simplicity of working more closely with the Earth and the Plant kingdom...

"Greenhouses and Root cellars"

Local Citizen of the World

BSV's picture
BSV
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 26 2009
Posts: 170
Re: Farming without oil

Interesting thread. Among the steps I am taking to prepare for whatever lies ahead, is investigating wood gasification as a source of electric power and vehicle propulsion. This is old, proven technology. For those who do not want to farm with draft horses, a tractor (with a gasoline engine) can be modified to run on wood gas. A wood gas fueled internal combustion engine can also run a generator, providing electric power.

Since my place has some arable land, I'm also looking into the possibility of devoting a few acres to small scale biodiesel production. Another thread on this website alerted me to that possibility. Basically, if you can grow oilseeds such as soybeans or sunflowers, you can produce your own biodiesel. You can purchase the equipment to produce the fuel from the oilseeds, and it appears to be cost-effective. If you are handy, you can probably make most of your own equipment.

Based on what I've learned so far, I don't think it is feasible to produce all the fuel and electricity needed for a 24/7 operation -- at least on the acreage I have available. But it should be possible to have ample standby electricity and enough fuel to farm a reasonable number of acres. When fossil fuels start to become scarcer and more expensive, we can't rule out the possibility (probability?) of rolling power outages. At first these will probably be scheduled. Having a backup power source that is not dependent on gasoline, diesel, propane or natural gas makes sense. There is a good supply of wood here, so woodgas technology might make sense. As a means of learning the technology, I'm about to order a small scale wood gasifier kit.

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