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Regenerative agriculture and climate solutions

Written By: - Date published: 6:05 am, May 6th, 2021 - 94 comments
Categories: climate change, economy, farming, food, sustainability - Tags: , ,

Regenerative agriculture enthusiasts have been making claims about carbon sequestration for some years, the practices being ahead of the science. So it’s good to see reporting of some peer reviewed research that shows significant benefit for climate mitigation of shifting from conventional livestock farming to regenag.

Before looking at that it’s vital to note here that if regenag’s carbon sequestration is to be meaningful, we still have to transition to a post carbon economy more rapidly than we are currently doing i.e. stop using fossil fuels as quickly as possible. Regenag doesn’t enable green BAU via offsetting, it gives us a chance of averting the worst of disasters when coupled with rapid dropping of GHG emissions.

Also to note that this research is US based so is comparing regenag with high emission, highly industrialised farming models like CAFO. It’s important to understand that debate often uses global figures which don’t easily apply to New Zealand’s largely grass fed farming sector (go-vegan enthusiasts take note too).

The broad strokes of the research:

The new peer-reviewed study looks at the multi-species rotational grazing done on the ranch and found that White Oak’s approach reduced net greenhouse gas emissions of the grazing system by 80 percent. Regenerative practices helped sequester 2.29 megagrams of carbon per hectare annually. To put that into context, sequestering just 1 Mg of carbon per hectare each year on half the rangeland area in California would offset 42 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, roughly the annual emissions from energy use for the state’s commercial and residential sectors.

Again, we need to be mindful that this isn’t a get out of jail free card that allows us to keep burning fossil fuels. But it does point to some benefit from actual sustainability farming, if we have the sense to make best use of it.

Let’s just take a moment to put this in a systems rather than reductionist frame: there are multiple benefits here. The carbon sequestration offsets GHG emissions but also improves soil, rebuilding depleted soils and then maintaining them sustainability. It tends to use closed loop, on site systems rather than relying on the long distance, imported, often extractive and polluting inputs of conventional ag.

Regenerative agriculture’s approach increases biodiversity of plants, animals, fungi and microbes thus mitigating climate change’s ecological crisis twin. Systems are more resilient giving better protection from extreme weather events such as flooding or droughts.

Using a systems frame matters here. If we use a conventional reductionist frame, we soon end up in a TINA cul de sac of abstractions that inhibit innovation and actual climate solutions. Two such reductionist, narrow focus views are:

  1. More land is needed to farm regeneratively (2.5 times more according to this study), therefore it’s uneconomic.
  2. The neoliberal, global market economic model demands measurement of export dollars, for farmer/corporate wealth as well as nation wealth.

Both of those are inherently unsustainable approaches. We know that conventional farming is both climate and ecology destroying so unless we are saying that we should preserve the economic status quo for current generations but bugger those coming after us, we have to stop using systems that are literally destroying the ground upon which all our economics rest.

The two issues above can be solved with whole systems design, which looks at the interrelated aspects of an issue and its wider context. Agricultural land use needs to include space for nature because vibrant, self sustaining ecological systems require biodiversity, and sustainable farming only works if we have functional, biodiverse ecosystems (natural and human built). Humans can’t live without either (we need food growing systems that will outlast fossil fuels, and such systems require ecosystems to be sustainable).

New Zealand has a lot of poorly utilised land that we could be restoring via ecosystem restoration. This supports natural ecosystems as well as adjacent productive land. Increasing biodiversity on productive land increases resiliency for both sets of systems (the less divide between the systems, the more mutual benefit).

This dovetails neatly with the imperative to assess production at the landbase level, taking into account the natural systems that enable any kind of long term land use for meeting human needs (food, fibre, timber, raw materials, habitat). Is it appropriate to try and grow export milk powder in the driest parts of the country? Systems, sustainable thinking approaches start with the land and assessing what grows there well and how nature can support that. Conventional, industrial models largely ignore nature and impose artificial systems over existing systems and rely on external inputs to make it work (taking resources from other landbases).

It’s a bloody weird economics that starts with human needs and says oh we will take that from the rest of nature even if it means in the (near) future we won’t be able to any more and our economy will collapse.

This also dovetails with the giant moa in the New Zealand left’s living room of population. How many people can New Zealand’s land base support sustainably? No one wants to talk about it, but again what kind of politics starts with saying humans are the most important and we will force nature to accommodate that? Turns out to not be such a good approach. Systems approaches allow us to talk about population in a positive, life-affirming and just way when we understand the benefits.

Sustainability requires more land and yet also gives us a much better chance of surviving as a species. The reductionist view stops with the first part of that sentence and gets bogged down in how to make reality fit the desire.

If the systems stuff isn’t quite landing here, there are some easy low hanging reductionist fruits. For example the global food system is incredibly wasteful of food that is produced, so we have a decent buffer there (use more land to produce the same amount of food, use food more efficiently).

Which leads us to the second issue, of how to make a living as we move beyond the conventional farming and economic models? Fortunately there are many farming pioneers including in New Zealand who are figuring out how to make this work. That they are doing this largely outside the mainstream supports of government, banks and industry means that once the mainstream gets on board we should see an explosion of innovation en masse. This should in turn enable more farmers to make the shift to regenag economically viable.

At the nation level and fears for our standard of living if we don’t continue to wring every last dairy dollar out of the land, the covid pandemic taught us a few things. Tourism was halved overnight, pointing to the glaring vulnerability of basing so much on long haul flying. The climate and ecology crises are a slower burn but the vulnerabilities are bigger and longstanding. Developing new economic models that can withstand pandemics, global financial stresses, climate/ecology disasters, and for NZ, earthquakes, is now an imperative visible to all who want to look.

TINA says that the only way we can have our current standard of living is an export economy that is inherently destructive. I honestly don’t get this thinking, a kind of consumerist do or die, if we insist that we have to have this standard of living it will somehow work out. Or not. Some of the other options we have are to Powerdown, or adopt regenerative models like Doughnut economics.

94 comments on “Regenerative agriculture and climate solutions ”

  1. Foreign Waka 1

    Lets start with not building houses in areas that is NZ best agricultural land. Only people who are completely devoid of brain matter do that.

    • Sabine 1.1

      Easter Islands come to mind.

    • Gosman 1.2

      What is more important for NZ – affordable housing or agricultural production?

      If you argue it is agricultural production then why is this so important when we could potentially make more money via other activities such as software development?

      • Sabine 1.2.1

        We need housing Gosman, but we also need food.

        But we could build on a few Golf courses, on a few rugby fields in towns etc. Up up and away.

        But we rather build shitty gigantic McMansions on good soil And in the end you end up with a shitty house and shitty contaminated food.

      • weka 1.2.2

        What is more important, shelter or food?

        Making money! says the capitalist while his house burns down around him.

      • Robert Guyton 1.2.3

        My view is that all property that bears a house should, where physically possible, produce food. If we promoted and invested in the idea, we'd soon be unearthing extraordinary effective ways to grow food everywhere people are living. It's not, in my view, a binary situation, housing .v. food production. Even conventional farms could "house" (and provide financial return-for-work-undertaken; on-site bee-keeping, tree-planting etc.) significant numbers of people; these ideas have been explored before…

        • Gosman 1.2.3.1

          This flies in the face of 6000 years of economic specialisation that has led to economic growth enabling societies to fund unproductive activities such as welfare and cultural activities.

          • Robert Guyton 1.2.3.1.1

            "This flies in the face of 6000 years of economic specialisation that has led to economic growth enabling …" the perilous exploitation of everything that moves and most of what doesn't, to the point where we are staring down the barrel of catastrophe.

            Not really feeling it, Gosman.

            • Gosman 1.2.3.1.1.1

              Do you want to forego 6000 years of economic development?

              • Drowsy M. Kram

                Imho 'we' don't have to forego the entire 6000 years, but how much could it hurt to forego something – anything even. For example, most NZers have managed to forego international travel for a year, and counting.

                For some people foregoing things evidently goes against the grain (takes all kinds), and yet we often strategically downsize, typically towards the end of our days, so 'foregoing' is demonstratively possible.

                Future generations will forego quite a few things – just how many/much depends in part on how the current crop of so-called grown-ups behaves.

              • Robert Guyton

                Can the past 6000 years be characterised as "economic development"?

                Are there other ways to look at this, Gosman?

              • Foreign Waka

                Gosman

                What you need to take into consideration is that, there is only so much productive land but houses can be build on sections not have such rich soil.

                I mean what good is a house if we have nothing to eat? A large junk is already "occupied" by cows peeing into the drinking water table.

                https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/first-up/audio/2018700986/new-zealand-s-most-fertile-land-dug-up-for-housing

              • Tricledrown

                Gosman you have forgotten 6,000 years of emotional development futures trading initially was welfare for poor crop farmers who could not guarantee their income.without getting prepaid they couldn't guarantee next years crop. No society has grown with out cooperation that requires a civilised society in which most people are included even julius caesar recognized that. Economics prior to WW2 was based only military strength the winners take all empires. The Marshall plan of $100 s of billions of welfare stopped the spread of communism.we have had a long period of relative stability wealth spread wider than the ruling classes .This has only happened in the last 140 yrs or less.for maybe 10to 20% of the worlds population.The majority of the worlds population struggle to have 3 square meals

                Now the planets resources are being depleted no amount of money or trade will stop selfish humans

          • Robert Guyton 1.2.3.1.2

            "Welfare" and "culture" aren't "unproductive", old pal!

            • Gosman 1.2.3.1.2.1

              Generally they are. They require a surplus from other activity to be able to afford. On a simplistic level someone requiring welfare needs others who don't need it to make enough to both cover themselves and the person requiring welfare. Ditto someone engaged in cultural activities.

          • Tricledrown 1.2.3.1.3

            Gosman only Neanderthals don't realise the importance of culture and welfare we are social animals we rely on each other to survive that's why we have succeeded Neanderthals.

            Logically driven people have no emotional IQ and therefore do not understand emotional welfare .If not for Welfare of some sort Gosman you most likely have been born without medical care and growing up not had any education vaccinations and already be dead in your non welfare utopic myopic world view.

          • Incognito 1.2.3.1.4

            Once upon a time ‘welfare and cultural’ activities were intrinsic part of human existence and did not need to be ‘funded’, as such. It is only with the advent of capitalism and its steroid abusing offspring neo-liberalism that it now needs to be ‘funded’. Thanks to the same anti-human thinking, it is now seen as a burden on society, a tax burden, because nobody wants to ‘fund’ it. It is the world turned upside down when the most-human activities that connect humans to their human nature and to other humans are now frowned upon as wasteful activities. Much better toiling away at the factory production line like the good little machines that we are.

  2. Robert Guyton 2

    *Splutters, but, but…NZ dairy feeds the world!!

    Dr. Mike Joy makes the observation that the bulk of our exported, powdered milk goes overseas to be used as a replacement for mothers' milk; in "baby formula", or is employed as "filler" in junk food products!

    Heroic stuff, NZ!

    • Sabine 2.1

      It would be nice if the dairy community could actually process the milk into more products for sale here. I die for a tub of Quark that does not cost me a arm a leg and a first born. Same for decent cheese that is also not too expensive and buttermilk and kefir.

      I think that is where some rethinking also needs to happen, is do we use our raw material and create a good product or do we go for the cheapest way of extracting a profit. And the same then can apply to wood, etc.

      And also that type of thinking needs to come to the councils, so that we look at our park lands and reserves for public consumption and start re-wooding and such.

      • weka 2.1.1

        There was an organic dairy farm in Southland that was producing yoghurt and cheese for the NZ market. They were successful for a number of years. So successful they decided to enter the export market. Within a few years they’d collapsed.

        I don’t know what happened but it does seem that most business advice for small producers is around continually expanding. We desperately need new business models support the kind of production you are taking about, and again we see multiple benefits coming from a systems approach: money stays in the local economy, people get a better choice of foods, the land and animals are better looked after, local jobs and so on.

        • Sabine 2.1.1.1

          +1

        • greywarshark 2.1.1.2

          Business studies do teach that there are plateaus in business –
          a company may have reached all its targets, used all its resources to the full. The next step is bigger premises, employ more people, bigger or more machinery, borrow more to fund it. So do you launch from your plateau, bring in some productive machinery to handle bigger throughput, or keep it a micro business that is very profitable allowing days off, shut for a month off-season, and small pilot projects to keep the regular customers interested, explained in small sheet and on-line chatty notes to the regulars.

          • Foreign Waka 2.1.1.2.1

            Technology will overtake a business that does not develop new ideas. Hence investment is needed into developing an extension of what the strength of that business is. The problem is, many just want to jump on a trendy bandwagon, paying consultants to translate their idea into something the bank needs to approve any loan and then……..don't move or too slowly as they actually do not understand what they venture into. Meanwhile the bank overdraft is being used for all sorts of things and before you know it the business has to reduce their operation and ultimately liquidate. This is the short version of many "ventures" out there. It boils down to the common philosophy that "you can do and be anything". Very few people are that talented. In most cases its hard work, diligence, skills and knowledge and 1000% commitment.

    • sam green 2.2

      There's a bit more to food production than cows. A prime example of using the best production horticulture land in the country for housing is Pukekohe. Its a damn shame – and mental at best.

  3. gsays 3

    Thanks for the post on this subject once again weka.

    On the topic of sequestration and regenerative gardening

    I have been making charcoal for a week while now. Initially for the smoker/bbq.

    Lately the amount of bio-char I have made has increased significantly. I treat this with either a cow pooh or chook manure 'tea'. This has been shared amongst the green fingered of my circle.

    This year's tomato crop has been testimony to it's effectiveness. Similar soils but twice the growth in soil with bio-char.

    The next step is to capture and condense the smoke (unburnt fuel) and harvest creosote, wood vinegar and wood alcohol. Unfortunately I am at a hobby level and there are a few calls on my time…

    • weka 3.1

      Imagine if we developed the tech for those for small scale local use. So much of our effort and resource goes into tech that is making things worse.

      • Robert Guyton 3.1.1

        We're a species that cannot help but seek novelty and "technology" provides us with endless opportunity to make new stuff. We'll have to harness that drive and direct it toward restorative action…somehow…

        • weka 3.1.1.1

          This is why I appreciate James Shaw and support the current GP approach. Making in roads into all those mainstream sectors showing them how it can be done differently and they still get to innovate and build fun stuff.

      • gsays 3.1.2

        They exist already. Not too high tech.

        I started looking for the link on youtube but I had to get on with work.

        I will have another look…

        • Robert Guyton 3.1.2.1

          "They exist already. Not too high tech.

          I started looking for the link on youtube…"

          Quote of the day 🙂

          • gsays 3.1.2.1.1

            Well observed.

            I found it.

            A great 16 minutes of charcoal, wood vinegar, biochar info. Stone age as.

            I made one of these and loaded it with borer ridden matai shed framing. For proof of concept…

            Long story short, air could get in and the kiln was hot for 48 hours.

            I haven't had the heart to open it in 6 months.

  4. I would happily take a lower material standard of living if it made for a cleaner, better environment.

    But how many NZers want to make that exchange?

    • Robert Guyton 4.1

      We all will…when the "if" is re-phrased. A "cleaner, better environment" isn't sufficiently attractive to capture the hearts and minds of most people. If we want everyone to accept, welcome even, "a lower material standard of living" we will all have to feel rewarded for doing so. This is the challenge.

      • weka 4.1.1

        What’s the new story? A life with more connection and meaning? Less stress and fear?

        • Stuart Munro 4.1.1.1

          Homecured bacon weans people off the supermarket version pretty quick.

          • Robert Guyton 4.1.1.1.1

            Tell that to the pigs!

            • Stuart Munro 4.1.1.1.1.1

              I suspect that the household pig has a better life, and no shorter, than its commercial brethren.

              A scholar should not leave his books, nor a poor man his pig ~ Confucius

              • Robert Guyton

                Wild pigs may beg to differ.

                In any case, availability and price determine choice for most bacon-eaters.

                Supermarket bacon,

                • Stuart Munro

                  Wild pigs are rarely consulted – and the powers that be would poison the lot of them if they could. This inclines them to revisionism.

                • Stuart Munro

                  Resistance in the Not Normal Presidency | by David H. Clements | Medium

        • Robert Guyton 4.1.1.2

          Weka – the "new story" is an old story, the same story and I believe you have heard it already 🙂

          I think we have to feel we are special, have a vital role to play and that the well-being of everyone in our tribe depends upon what we do; the trick is, to realise that every living "ki" is part of our tribe 🙂

      • AB 4.1.2

        A somewhat lower material standard of living (as conventionally measured) has to result in more time, less economic pressure on individuals and households, no increase in ill health/morbidity, more autonomy over what we do, and more engagement with others.

        If this can be achieved, there will be no issue with selling it. Give people time, control, something interesting to do, guaranteed economic survival, good health and relationships with others and the 'material' things that don't feature in that list are mostly peripheral to happiness.

        • Robert Guyton 4.1.2.1

          AB – not sexy enough to sell 🙂

          Do people want "more time" – more time to do what?? Worry?

          "No increase in ill-health/morbidity"? – not even a little-bit sexy, that (needs re-packaging 🙂

          "More autonomy over what we do" – well, what DO we do??

          "More engagement with others" – do YOU want more? With whom? (Genuine question).

          • AB 4.1.2.1.1

            Heh – well I am crap at marketing, as you can have pointed out. Someone more talented needs to reframe my negatives as positives. What I think needs to be countered, are fears that any retreat from BAU takes us back to lives that are nasty, brutish and short.

        • Gabby 4.1.2.2

          It probably needs to be sold as a higher standard of living for most people, who are currently supporting the indulgences of the wealthy.

    • Foreign Waka 4.2

      Hunter Thompson II – Certainly not the Mac eaters throwing paper wrapping out the window…

  5. RedLogix 5

    It's not clear from the post exactly what the end goal of this vision is supposed to be. But if it entails a reversion to pre-Industrial conditions where 90% of people were farmers – then is everyone also happy for the economic and social conditions that prevailed in that era to become the norm as well? (For a start almost everyone was dirt poor.)

    Or do we think we can ditch the physical underpinnings of modernity and retain all it's social features at the same time? Seems an unlikely proposition to me.

    • KJT 5.1

      I bothered to read the post, and nowhere did I see
      any advocacy for going back to the dark ages.
      Carrying on as we are makes a dark age of destroyed resources, population displacement and climate wars inevitable.

      • RedLogix 5.1.1

        But the point is that I really don't see exactly what it's advocating. It states a series of sentiment, but fails to progress them to a plausible outcome.

        • McFlock 5.1.1.1

          The post seems to me to be advocating for (by highlighting research that shows the positives of) "regenerative agriculture".

          This post is part of a series.

          The post includes a link to the articles here tagged "renegag".

          Included in that list of articles is one Weka wrote describing what regenerative agriculture is.

          It's not my particular interest, but I will point out that less over-intensive farming does not require a return to preindustrial technology. 90% of people don't have to be farmers.

    • Foreign Waka 5.2

      RL Very good point. There is a glorification of certain facts that came with the advancements for the ordinary folks once the chasm of the industrial revolution still hunkering in servant to master times, has been left behind and is still a work in progress. There is sometimes a motion that we look back at the "good ol times" which is of cause just fantasy. But like everything, excess is the issue here and it needs to be addressed. One way or another.

    • Robert Guyton 5.3

      It's clear, from the post, that the end goal is NOT BAU.

      That's a great platform on which to display proposals for comment.

      The hope, I believe, is to become, not pre-industrial but post-industrial.

      Given our experiences and our communication resources, the prospect of a new age is pretty exciting, doncha think?

      • Gosman 5.3.1

        Depends. You have not really articulated a practical vision of such a society as far as UI can see. If you have then people like RL and FW are unable to see it which means your method of communication needs work.

        • Robert Guyton 5.3.1.1

          Techno-engineer thinkers, such as yourself, will ache to be told the mechanics of the next stage, while holistic thinkers know that such demands weaken the eventual design and restrict its scope. If "people" can't see what's being floated, they might like to disengage their whirring cogs for a moment and feel the sunshine on their brows 🙂

          Here's one suggestion, Gosman, you might be able to fix upon: humans should be walking more, driving/sitting less. A successful future for us all involves more walking.

          • Gosman 5.3.1.1.1

            This has always been the weakness of movements that seek to replace the current paradigm with something new. It is one of the reasons communism is never able to be "properly" implemented because the mechanics of how it actually works have not been thought through so when people subscribing to such an approach gain power they don't really know what to do. You are in danger of repeating history with your fuzzy "post-industrial" society ideas.

            • Stuart Munro 5.3.1.1.1.1

              What nonsense – capitalism in all its myriad forms hasn't been thought through properly either – that's why we have a housing crisis.

              Even you should know the critical flaw of communism is that it is infallible. If your life isn't giving you what you want under communism, you are to suck it up comrade, the party knows best. In a democracy however you have the right – some say the duty – to agitate to reform things that aren't working properly. So democracy is more adaptive than communism, which leans towards authoritarianism.

              Of course, the bowlderised version of democracy created by neoliberalism shuts out the peoples’ voices almost entirely in favour of arrogant and impractical Treasury wonks – making a society little less authoritarian than the exemplars of totalitarianism.

              • Tricledrown

                Gosman would prefer the totalitarianism of China as proof that capitalism works as opposed to the US where 10% of the population is homeless.

            • weka 5.3.1.1.1.2

              There’s plenty out there about what’s being offered as a replacement for those that want to see. But I agree with Robert, you need sun on your brow and more time in the garden or forest to get it. Trying to understand it from a neoliberal reductionist perspective is like trying to understand a play in a language you do speak. You’ll get enough to think you understand but you miss the essentials.

              have you read the post yet Gosman? Do you know what systems thinking is? How does it apply to what you are asking?

      • gsays 5.3.2

        One would hope the post industrial future has less drive through fast food outlets, with their high demands of tortured chicken protein, umpteen plastic spoons for an instant mashed potato and gravy and their exploitative employment practices.

    • weka 5.4

      Please don’t run this straw man argument under my posts. There’s nothing even remotely like what you are suggesting in my writings, most likely because I don’t believe it.

      • RedLogix 5.4.1

        OK. So then explain what you really have in mind please.

        At present only a few percent of people are farmers. What are the rest of us supposed to be doing in this new world you have in mind?

  6. Foreign Waka 6

    So, in todays news is this article:

    https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2021/5/6/bbchina-emissions-greater-than-all-developed-nations-combined

    China emissions 27%, USA 11%, India 6.6%. The proportion per capita might be small but it tells us that if the population grows at the current rate, no matter how much we cut back, we wont be able to halt anything.

    • Siobhan 6.1

      Isn't a good part of Chinas high emissions rate a reflection of our twisted system…we have outsourced our production to China specifically for a reason….let them exploit workers and pollute the environment by using coal in our name so we can have cheap stuff and steel?…apart from milk powder of course…we make that here in bulk….using coal….nice…

      *I know Fontera has decided to “put a stop” to installing any new coal boilers..but that hardly speaks well of our commitment to the environment being somehow better than China..

      https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/113599336/fonterra-burning-coal-to-dry-milk-insane-and-must-stop-says-british-energy-expert

      • Sabine 6.1.1

        +1

        this really is the crux of the matter is it not? Our whole consumption is pretty much based on the abuse of workers elsewhere and their environment being poluted so that we don't do that here.

        The biggest issue will be to make people understand that hording tons of crap in rented storage is not a sign of wellbeing.

      • Foreign Waka 6.1.2

        Yes, but per capita China is not the main polluter. What I was eluding to, and I know this is a very tricky issue, is that the population on this planet needs to be curbed if we are to survive.

        The current level of pollution of the soil and water is not sustainable. Look at the oceans. The amount of plastic on the seafloor will and does have a profound impact on the ecology, be it temperature, oxygen content, separation of heavy water, not to mention the never ending stream of plastics swimming just half a meter below the surface. The textile industry in India and its dye pollution into the rivers, I could go on and on…. On land we see mountains of rubbish piling up, it was exported to the third world countries as it was a stream of revenue. Which brings me to packaging, my pet hate. The amount of meat consumption is another issue that has been discussed already but I doubt that farmers want to give up the, pardon the punt, holy cows. The consumerism is based on throwing things away and with it comes the low wage economy.

        Yes, NZ can contribute by transforming its economy but we are certainly not able to eliminate the total of sums of pollution in any shape of form nor can we walk a lonely walk on the planks of economic oblivion. To portray this as an option is just straight manipulative and dishonest.

        Any solution has to be planned and worked through before implemented. Lets start with water, don't pump it out to sell. Its almost as bad as selling rubbish to the 3rd world.

  7. Ad 7

    For ANZAC weekend I spent three days on an organic biodynamic farm owned by a person who is leading a government workstream on Regenerative Agriculture.

    It mostly involved gathering hazelnuts off the ground full of thistles and organic free range sheep shit.

    It's meditative enough but not easy to get the shitty lanolin smell out of your fingernails.

    So we delivered our buckets of hazelnuts, which then need to be shelled, then turned into something people will buy. It was a task for people who want to be glorified peasants.

    Then we drove back to Auckland.

    • Sabine 7.1

      Or these tasks could be turned into jobs for people who would otherwise not have jobs or maybe not be able to do more demanding tasks.

      Gathering Hazelnut and Buckeckern (Beechnut) was something us kids did in Germany and the shelling also. Lots of Hazelnuts were consumed. Then the remaining hazelnuts would be turned into praline paste (good shelf life) and then over the time this would be turned into pastry, tarts, cakes, breads, confectionary. Very heatlhy. And Hazelnut borders are pretty, smell good in flowering time, make good hedges, and are generally good for the environment.

      So you drove back to Auckland and you enjoyed yourself not?

    • Robert Guyton 7.2

      Sounds as though that nuttery is being managed in a way that's sub-optimal. Harvesting nuts and fruits should be pleasurable, if you hope to retain the interest and enthusiasm of your pickers. It seems a small detail, but in my view, most important.

    • Stuart Munro 7.3

      Nutcracking & Netflix is a thing for a family I know. Mind, they get to keep and use the nuts.

  8. Janet 8

    For all the years of my life I have lived on the land.

    My grandfather’s generation farmed on the natural fertility of the land after clearing and burning the bush. They used the “natural “ methods that came with them from England. I saw my father’s generation start using super phosphate over the land and chemical sprays to control thistles and gorse – promoted and recommended by our agricultural scientists. I saw my generation start to use nitrogen in its various forms on the land and more chemical sprays targeting all things not wanted – promoted and recommended by our agricultural scientists. I saw the management of livestock change from set stocking to rotational grazing as the recommended method by our agricultural scientists. It is time our agricultural scientists publicly acknowledged their errors and freely educate and encourage our farmers back to a sustainable, regenerative wholistic ways of farming.

    We must also question just how much food we should be producing for the rest of the world because we are just assisting other nations to remain unsustainable.

    And while this is happening the rest of us should consider the way of “The Lorax. “ Look at what we really need and what we really do not need to live with on this earth. We must step back from buying up Th’needs – the things you think you need but do not need at all . The Lorax is a Dr Seuss childrens book that appeared in the 1960s. Pity more did not heed it sooner.

    • Ad 8.1

      Every generation is right. Check the volumes of unironic righteousness spilling out here.

      Perpetually apologising for redemptive hindsight has no use at all.

      • Janet 8.1.1

        “Freely educate “ is the key point here. Grand plans are already in motion to change the farmers ways! It involves a lot of new “shiny bums “ at regional council level to go out and help/consult with farmers who are now each required to prepare and produce farm plans. These farm plans will then be regularly inspected and audited. At whose cost ? The farmers.

  9. greywarshark 9

    Ignoring the rabbit problem and leaving it up to farmers, even giving them an allowance to deal with them was inadequate without planned controls and monitoring from the government. So farmers got their own control and applied it at the least effective time.

    Now – https://www.rnz.co.nz/programmes/the-detail/story/2018794381/the-hills-are-alive-with-rabbits

  10. All green leaf plants recycle CO2. Surely pasture land should count in the CO2 discussion, as well as trees?

    • greywarshark 10.1

      Peter S In case you have searching difficulties I have done it for you.

      We found this claim that one acre of well-managed grass (lawn) stores about 920 lbs of carbon (not CO2) per year. We can convert this to CO2 by multiplying by 44 (the weight of CO2) / 12 (the weight of C), for 3400 lbs of CO2 per acre per year. In modern units, that's 0.38 kg per m^2 per year.7/04/2015
      How much CO2 does grass absorb? – High Frontier

      One tree – 1 acre : A typical tree can absorb around 21 kilograms of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, however this figure is only achieved when the tree is fully grown – saplings will absorb significantly less than this. Over a lifetime of 100 years, one tree could absorb around a tonne of CO2.
      How much CO2 does a tree absorb? | Viessmann

      A number of trees – 1 acre. On average, one acre of new forest can sequester about 2.5 tons of carbon annually. Young trees absorb CO2 at a rate of 13 pounds per tree each year. Trees reach their most productive stage of carbon storage at about 10 years at which point they are estimated to absorb 48 pounds of CO2 per year.
      Trees Improve Our Air Quality – Urban Forestry Network

      Info from MPI. Carbon sequestration potential of non-ETS land on farms – MPI
      https://www.mpi.govt.nz › dmsdocument › direct

      PDF 0.06 Mt∙CO2e∙yr−1 nationwide on farms if agricultural land … Biomass carbon sinks are temporary (they saturate once vegetation growth and … Before any farm can consider increasing their biomass offset sinks they will need to … establishing belts of flaxes, grasses, sedges/rushes, shrubs and trees, depending on.

  11. Foreign waka 11

    And NZ is allowing more and more farms like that:

    https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1901/S00167/salmon-move-is-shifting-goalposts.htm

    And this on water:

    How many people in NZ are informed about any of it.

    • Stuart Munro 11.1

      The salmon farming should be getting some serious thought in terms of siting and effects on local ecology. The sealice (amphipods) that threaten the viability of Scottish salmon farms, may be less of a problem here however. The major predators of sealice in cage farming are various species of wrasse. The Malborough Sounds have something of a spottie surplus at present.

  12. Stuart Munro 12

    The conflict inherent in moving to more sustainable living or farming, is often framed as moving to a less productive and therefore less profitable model. It might involve destocking or greater use of fallows in addition to careful planting and so forth. Although there is something to be said for such an approach, it is unlikely to appeal to folk with significant financial commitments within the existing model. This is not to say that money trumps everything, but that transitions need to be accomplished with a minimum of unintended damage – something Roger Douglas was too arrogant to learn.

    Some farming practices and some areas may indeed need to destock – those areas of South Canterbury with particularly nitrified aquifers, or the illegal CAFO near Timaru for example. More often however, it will be a matter of accounting for outputs like nitrogen, and choosing management practices that take it up, like hemp borders or white poplar effluent beds. There is little evidence of such things at present.

    The legal position seems reasonably straightforward:

    [T]he person who, for his own purposes, brings on his land, and collects and keeps there anything likely to do mischief if it escapes, must keep it in at his peril, and, if he does not do so, he is prima facie responsible for all the damage which is the natural consequence of its escape. (The rule from Rylands v Fletcher)

    But it has not been enforced with any particular rigour in respect of public estates like waterways or aquifers, or the atmosphere. A casual reading suggests it might apply to the smelter waste in Matuara too.

    There are two paths then, for farmers trying to stay a step ahead of regulation and social and environmental responsibilities. The first is a permaculture style approach. And the second is increasing the plant biomass of their enterprise to manage their outputs.

    City dwellers responses are more constrained by their proximity to neighbours and services. We will be able to recognize actual change when, with the exception of play spaces for children, we give up lawns.

    • Robert Guyton 12.1

      Nicely expressed, Stuart. Productive and profitable have elusive meanings but here you've used them in the narrow way conventional farmers do. That narrowness of view is toxic, in my opinion, and serves as a stick with which creative thinkers can be beaten into silence and as a measure by which ideas and proposals can be instantly assessed and dismissed, without a word being spoken. Travelling through the countryside, I see, hidden in plain sight, the machinery that maintains a vice-like grip on the land and the story that agriculture demands we subscribe to; fences, so thin and light as to be almost invisible, many boosted by electricity to emphatically punish any man or beast that might disregard them. It's not until those fences are gone that we will escape the tyranny that is agriculture 🙂 A discussion around fenceless farms would be fascinating, in my opinion, but back to the beginning of my comment; such a discussion isn't going to happen here 🙂

      • Stuart Munro 12.1.1

        It's something to aim for perhaps – along with blurring the lines between the forested and the sown. But there is still a lot of scope for improvement within conventional models. It was a curiousity I noticed when I was with MAF, that every nation seemed to believe that they had the best and only way to operate their vessel – some with more justice than others. Farming is more complex still, and throw in silviculture and gardening and there is enormous scope for adaptation – mostly not taken up at present. So too in the cities, our greenspace is chiefly moving towards low maintenance and flipability rather than productive, or locally enhancing. The Entwives have a lot of work to do.

        • Robert Guyton 12.1.1.1

          You mention the Entwives, Stuart – got a contact number? I'm keen to meet with. 🙂

          • Stuart Munro 12.1.1.1.1

            As with the other animist entities, they are present to the degree you honour their concerns – transform NZ appropriately, and they will be present. Forest gardening seems a likely path to their approval.

            • Robert Guyton 12.1.1.1.1.1

              Indeed: plant, and they will come. I went to the tree sale at the Dunedin Botanic Gardens yesterday and bought some excitingly exotic trees for my garden: an Amur cork and a Persian hazel amongst them. I'm entertaining the notion that representatives of tree families from all over the globe are making their way here to Riverton where they can mingle and moot in order to put things to right.

              • Stuart Munro

                Well, you're much further down the path than I, sadly – but some of my passionfruit, feijoa, quince, persimmon and cherry guava seedlings are now thriving in other peoples gardens.

      • weka 12.1.2

        I’ll talk fenceless farming here 🙂 I would also put up a guest post /nudge.

    • weka 12.2

      Not sure about the less profitable bit. I’ve seen some farmers say lower production is offset by lower input costs.

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