We’re farmers, so it may seem obvious that we ought to be incorporating agriculture into our homeschool, somehow. We get plenty of hands-on experience, that’s for sure, but I want my kids to understand why we do things the way we do them.
Last week I checked out some books from the library about Sustainable Agriculture, and the Science of Food. Food is a big deal. Most of the population in our country does very little in the way of providing for their own food. I don’t believe everyone has to be a farmer, but I do believe that it’s wise to be aware of (and to teach our kids about) how we get our food, the best practices to use (or to make sure we’re supporting), etc. Joel Salatin said,
"This compartmentalized notion that a culture can be healthy when less than 2 percent of its population dabbles in the life-giving art of food production is crazy. To think that people can be as out of touch with their living world as most people are today and still revere life, each other, and the plants and animals that sustain us is lunacy."
"Farming is now the premier example of a vocation that cannot and does not reproduce itself. No other profession compares to it in non-generational succession. The number of elderly farmers not being replaced with any children is epidemic."
Maybe you don’t want to farm, but maybe just in learning about it, your kids will take interest and change this?
Sustainable agriculture means growing food well. It is good for the land, animals and people. It is one way to be a steward of God’s awesome creation.
I drew pictures on the board of the problems with modern farming practices. I drew a cow farm on one side of the chalk board, and a corn field on the other side. I said that they were in two different states. There are many problems with this picture, which I explained to my kids.
- The corn farmer needs something essential to make his soil rich: manure, but he doesn’t have any.
- The cow farmer has way too much manure and isn’t growing anything that needs that much fertilization. There is so much manure that it starts polluting the local water supply.
- It’s not cost effective to ship manure.
- Instead, the corn farmer has chemical (petroleum-based) fertilizers shipped to his farm and then sprays them on his land.
- The cow farmer is lacking something essential to feed his cattle: food. He decides to purchase corn from the corn farmer (in another state) and have it sent by huge semi-trucks to his farm (think: petroleum)
- Corn is not an "easy" food to feed cattle. It requires machines to shuck it and break it down into feed. (think: more petroleum)
- Corn is not a natural food for cattle at all. In the wild, you would never see a cow shucking an ear of corn to nourish itself.
- Corn is not a healthy food for cattle. Feeding corn to a cow creates the perfect environment for e.coli in their stomach. Want e.coli in your beef? Feed your cows corn. It doesn’t matter whether the corn is organic or not, it’s still corn. [insert education about e.coli ;)].
- Corn fed beef is not healthy for people.
The above picture is not Sustainable Agriculture.
And note that I am not against oil drilling or the use of petroleum. I’m just against using it for things we don’t need to use it for. When God created a perfect system, why mess it up by shipping things, fertilizing fields that cows could fertilize, and grinding up food for cattle who can eat grass without any grinding equipment or petroleum needed.
So what is Sustainable Agriculture (in my opinion :))?
- Self sufficient farming. Growing grass to feed the cattle. Using the manure to fertilize the grass.
- Letting cows roam on fresh grass (the cows in the above scenario live on feed lots and do not live on grass and likely do not even see the sun).
- Allowing cows to eat a food that requires little to no human intervention: grass.
- No chemicals. Sustaining the land so that future generations can farm it without any negative effects from soil additives, etc.
- Paying attention to our land & not over-using it. I calculated that we can have 13 cows per year on our 30 acres (along with space for turkeys, ducks, geese, the ponds, a big garden, pigs, etc.) and they will be entirely grass fed. It really depends on the amount of acreage, the type of soil, the type of grass, and the climate. I wouldn’t want to have more than 13 cows on our land at a time, because then we would have to purchase feed (and corn/grain is cheapest, of course), and we would have to "help" the grass grow (with chemical additives??).
- Growing healthy food. Grass-raised beef doesn’t have e.coli problems like feedlot beef. It’s just a natural way to raise cattle.
- Paying attention to the way God created animals to be. I believe humans have dominion over animals, and an animal’s life is not equivalent to a human’s life. However, I think we do damage to our people, our land and our animals when we don’t pay attention to the way God intended those creatures to live/eat.
There you go….Now you go make chalk board drawings for your kids. And try to draw a cow. It isn’t easy.
This post was shared at Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade.