This week we are introducing two podcasts.
Dear Real Organic friends,
Once upon a time, in the early 1970s, when I left high school and went to work in the world, the Vietnam war was coming to an end and our culture was in upheaval. We had lost an earlier innocence in that painful war, and our generation was looking for different ways to live, to work, to make family, to make sense. E.F. Schumaker wrote a book called Small Is Beautiful that offered the revolutionary notion that our lives might work better if “things” were smaller. More decentralized. More human. What if we built our work around the needs of communities, not corporations?
This was the impulse of the early organic movement in America. The world organic movement had been growing since an earlier war, but that moment provided a match that created a blaze. That fire is still burning.
A LOT has happened since then, but those early yearnings continue, often underground, searching for ripeness. My great teacher in real organic farming was Eliot Coleman.
Eliot has been a teacher to so many organic farmers. His knowledge of farming is truly staggering. Refusing the honorific of “movement leader,” he prefers to be known as a “nose thumber,” always challenging power and our own thinking. Never afraid to speak his truth, Eliot is bold in his criticism of the USDA's failure to serve the organic farmers and eaters of America. Eliot's definition of organic farming is “as simple as adding organic matter to the soil.” His farm is as real organic as it gets.
In an earlier interview, Dan Barber said that Eliot was the reason he became a chef after reading the book, Four-Season Harvest. Eliot's beautiful writing about being able to grow food year-round in chilly New England was a revelation. And I have met so many others whose lives have been impacted by Eliot's work.
“In A Sand County Almanac (1949) Aldo Leopold stated:
‘Your true modern is separated from the land… He has no vital relation to it… If crops could be raised by hydroponics instead of farming, it would suit him very well. Synthetic substitutes for wood, leather, wool, and other natural land products suit him better than the originals. In short, land is something he has “outgrown.”
“Could it be that our insistence on a “biologically active fertile soil” as the key feature defining organic farming adds to the confusion of people with that “true modern” preconception? How can we make it easier for the true moderns to comprehend the importance of life in the soil as the basis for life in their food?
“The most popularly embraced benefit of organic farming, according to customer surveys, is the prohibition of pesticides. How can we better teach the public that the plant/pest resistance, which allows us to avoid needing pesticides, is an outcome of growing on a balanced, biologically active fertile soil that, as scientific studies have consistently shown, induces pest and disease resistance in the crops?”
– Eliot Coleman, Real Organic Project Advisory Board and Podcast Speaker
JM Fortier is a fellow student of Eliot’s. JM has continued to develop and spread those ideas, both biological and political. The outcome is the ongoing flowering of a small farm movement. JM is a wildly successful author of a farming book (The Market Gardener) written just for farmers. He has created a training school for farmers in Quebec. I once asked JM how many of the graduates went on to start farms, and he said 100%. I was amazed at that success, and he said that he can't take the credit, as he carefully chooses people who are going to start farms anyway. He just provides them the tools to succeed.
Just as I can visit many small vegetable farms and see Eliot’s footprint, even if they have never heard his name, so can I visit many small farms and see JM’s footprint as well.
This podcast is my wonderful conversation with JM, a small farm revolutionary. How can we imagine that small farms can feed us? How can they compete with the “efficiencies” of Big Ag? JM has the ability to share true stories that transform and guide us to a more human, more beautiful world.
“Farmers in China have been farming organically for two thousand years. They’re doing quite well…”
“You know what? There’s a reason that there are hundreds of thousands of small-scale farmers that are doing things differently. It’s a movement, and it’s growing, and it’s based on integrity. And it’s based on a lot of the values that we should be promoting in our society. And I think that the discussion should go THERE.”
– JM Fortier
The intimate connections between the fungal threads of mycorrhizae and their plant host cells.
The Real Organic Podcasts are free. Please listen (or watch) and share them.
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