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Forget Food Scandals. Let’s Focus on How to Produce More Food Locally

Krameterhof

There’s a food scandal raging in Europe.   Apparently, horsemeat was sold as beef in a wide variety of supermarket products, from burgers to packaged lasagna.

??

Since I’m not smart enough to figure out how to fix a global food system, let’s focus on something that we can fix:  producing more and better food locally.

I’m currently in the process of starting the vegetable seedlings for my garden.  So, I’ve been thinking about seeds and resilience.

One of my favorite farmers, the Austrian Sepp Holzer, has an interesting idea on this topic.

NOTE:  Sepp’s approach to farming allowed him to turn a hundred acres of rocky, steep, and high altitude mountainside into an amazingly productive farm that produces a significant ongoing income.  He’s truly an inspiration.  Here’s his farm, Krametertof (notice all the ponds he inserted into the landscape, to maximize the productivity of his property).

Krameterhof

Sepp’s Resilient Approach

Sepp found that the seeds we typically harvest and/or purchase for our gardens, are usually taken from the best performing plants.  Plants that are typically grown in the BEST conditions possible.

On the surface, that seems to be a good thing.  We all want the best possible yield from our vegetable gardens.

However, this isn’t the most resilient approach to gardening.  Here’s why.

The plants from these seeds only do well when everything is perfect.  Perfect light, water, fertilizer, warmth, cold, wind…  This means they are likely to die if conditions deteriorate.

Not only that, the effort and expense required to maintain the “optimal conditions” required by these plants is high.  A continuous “hands on” approach is needed.   This can turn food gardening into a full time job.

Luckily, Sepp didn’t have a choice.  He didn’t have the low lying fields required for a high productivity farm.  Instead, he had a hardscrabble farm.

Forced to innovate, Sepp focused on cultivating the seeds from plants that provide adequate yields in a) marginal conditions and b) with little care.  Plants that didn’t need external fertilization or water.  Plants that proved resistant to pests.

Sepp’s success using this approach proves it works over the long run.

It’s an idea worth thinking about.  It’s also an idea we can apply to producing lots of different things, not just food.

Get Resilient,

 

JOHN ROBB

PS:   This scandal is a good demonstration of why globalization is breaking down the food system we rely upon.  Globalization makes it too big and complex to manage and that makes it vulnerable to exploitation by bad actors.  Here’s what I mean.  Much of the horsemeat was found in products sold by the UK supermarket chain Tesco.  Tesco bought many of their products in bulk from French food processors and packagers.   These French companies bought their fake “beef” in bulk from a Dutch commodities importer called “Draap.”  Draap is incorporated in Cyprus, operated out of Belgium, and is owned by a corporate shell company that’s located in a Caribbean tax haven.  Where did Draap get the horsemeat relabeled?  From Romania and Mexico, since both have become significant horsemeat exporters.  Confused yet?  What a mess.

 

John-Robb

 

 

 

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • I’ve been breeding chickens in a similar manner: Take a variety of heritage breeds, provide protection from predators with cattle dogs but no other care at all. Gather eggs for incubation during winter when food is scarce and don’t go hunting all over for eggs — if they can’t lay eggs where I can get them they get selected out of the gene pool. The first generation I had a huge mortality rate. I’m on the fourth generation now and out of 50 chickens I’ve lost only 5 this winter.

    • Paula

      Do you have a blog?

    • Azlinea

      What sort of cattle dogs do you use to protect them?

  • kunkmiester

    Where would we get seeds with these attributes?

    • You start with the heirloom seeds that you can buy, then treat your garden the way you want to, and it might yield crappy the first year, but in subsequent years will yield better as you plant the seeds you collect off the ones you planted.

  • Zed

    I’m amused by the fact that there was huge amounts of horsemeat in the system and nobody noticed until the DNA tests were done. Kinda makes you wonder why there’s been such a fuss. Oh noes, my quadruped meat came from an odd-toed ungulate not an even-toed ungulate.

    btw, this is the global food system adapting to supply chain pressures, using the same kind of smart thinking that you’re praising Sepp for. :)

    • Azlinea

      I don’t think the issue is that they are innovating, its that passing something off as beef, at least colloquially defined as cow meat, that in fact isn’t is fraud. Its smart, and had they marketed it as a new (cheaper) alternative to beef there might have been some legitimate money to be made.

  • Sepp’s example is a great one to consider and emulate. Is anyone inventorying and selling environmental factor based seed varieties in this context? If not, such would be a great business going forward it seems to me………….
    thanks for the article
    Marvin

  • Charles Yaker

    Talking about 100 acre farms. You might be interested in Dr. Booker TWhatley and his plans for a self sustaining 100 acre farm. That’s a PHD and he worked for the Agricultural Department some 30 or more years ago.

    The CEO of Domino’s was very taken by him

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Booker_T._Whatley

  • Allan

    You are right! Globalization IS breaking down the food system we rely on! I’ve been reading two great books- Small is Beautiful” by Schumacher and “Farming for Self Suffuciency” by Seymour. Both have very interesting and prescient ideas about sustainablitiy and independence…but they were written in the 60′s. What was old is new again.

  • The owner of Draap was found guilty of meat fraud last year, he is still appealing his sentence and he denies that he was involved this time. Draap is the Ducth word for horse (paard) spelled backwards…

  • …. and if you harvest & propagate across as many of these “plants that provide adequate yields” as possible you create your own gardening RAID array. I like it!

  • GoneWithTheWind

    In the 50′s my best friend used to feed his dog canned horsemeat. It was “Hill’s dog food” and it was chunks of meat. We used to eat half the can and gave the dof the other half. It was good stuff. In the early 70′s a butcher began selling horsemeat, every cut you can think of. Great tasting meat.

  • Lonereader

    Horse is actually quite tasty John. No need for the “Yuk”

    Meat-bred horses are healthy eating, it is only the UK and the US that appear to have this revulsion to eating them.

  • Jim

    I don’t hear much about game on this site, you know deer and turkey are quite delicious and you don’t have to raise them either. Just let nature take care of the feed bill.

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