<![CDATA[[caption id="attachment_2969" align="aligncenter" width="590" caption="In our farming - can we mimic GOD's wild ways of cultivating the earth?"][/caption] There are many of us who have caught this bug and started farming. From our front yards to one hundred acres there is a movement toward the land—to grow on it, cultivate it, and draw from the abundance of it. But agriculture is only one option for getting to these things and perhaps the most dangerous option. As Wes Jackson has said, “farming is humanity’s original sin.” This does not mean that there isn’t good farming happening, Wes Jackson’s work at the Land Institute is testimony that there is, but in farming we must recognize that agriculture began an assault on the land that has led to its destruction. Grain agriculture has been particularly damaging—it was the growing of grain that led to both the formation of the first civilizations and the collapse of their soils and that cycle has been around ever since. To avoid the damage of agriculture we must seek a form of cultivation that builds the soil rather than depletes it and works in concert with the surrounding ecosystem rather than being its constant threat. For many this has been permaculture—a way of growing that emphasizes perennial plants and seeks to imitate natural growing systems as much as possible. Given nature is the pattern. Permaculture is a wonderful form of agriculture and one that I seek to use more and more in my own gardening. But there is already a model available to us that involves a perfect mix of perennials and annuals, with animals in a regular rotation—the given wild. In the wild, plants and animals work together in concert, annuals and perennials, preditors and prey, herbivors, omnivores, and carnivores occupying every layer. The wild is a place of abundant food, from the wild plantains that grow everywhere around my house in Arkansas to the deer that move in herds through the local forests. The creation, the wild, is filled with abundant food. Given that food is already growing in the wild, why not simply skip the imitation of nature as in permaculture and go directly to the wild? This is a question I’ve been thinking about lately as I tend my garden and see edible plants growing all around it that I’m doing no work to maintain. The more I’ve reflected on this, the more I’ve wondered if Adam was really much of a farmer. The picture we get from Genesis is that of a manager placed in a lush garden already planted. Adam’s job was to manage it. This leads us to our other option for cultivating the abundance of the land—wildlife management. I’ve known several wildlife managers over the years whose jobs were to encourage healthy game populations within state Wildlife Management Areas or private game reserves. In both cases the managers would monitor the wildlife populations, encourage good habitats, and sometimes plant crops that would encourage healthy wildlife populations. What if farming looked more like wildlife management—managers working in existing wild landscapes to cultivate and encourage its abundance through a mix of permaculture and management of the abundance already there? Such a form of cultivation would certainly be less monopolistic in its enterprise than even the best farm of cleared land and straight rows, providing habitat and a shared abundance among many animals. Here animals would be truly free ranging, their life simply taken as food in the midst of a wild life. Of course I still garden and I’m not sure how to fully embrace this vision of Wildlife Management, but I think it points to something closer to what might be our true vocation—not the growing of food in landscapes cleared of the wild given by God, but rather a careful management and cultivation of the abundance already there. This is our work, to make our farming be more like wildlife management.]]>
From Farming to Wildlife Management
by Ragan Sutterfield | Jun 7, 2012 | Agrarian Notebook, Features, Food & Agriculture | 4 comments
What you are talking about is neolithic culture, the sort of life Abraham live din the days of the Book of Genesis. Read Genesis beginning at chapter 12. Note the semi-nomadic life of the people of Abraham. They are warned time after time to stay out of cities, to stay away from people who disrupt this rhythm of their lives.
Totally agree about the goal, less work for more food and back to natural patterns. However, the question is always how to get from here to there. So, in an industrialized, civilized world we move in that direction by first getting connected again to our food whether it’s just the farmer’s market or our own gardens next to our single-family detached housing. The next step might be moving beyond even organic gardening/farming practices to a permaculture within the city or suburbia. The idea of deriving our food from wildlife management involves such a radical shift from the way things are organized, I don’t think we’ll get there until more people are getting their hands dirty, growing their own food and on the path to asking the right questions.
Thanks Ragan, I am just discovering your blogs, and really appreciate the truth you’re contending with.. I am a missionary pastor here in Germany and have really learned so much about being a good steward of everything God allows me to touch.
I see such a link between permaculture/agriculture and what should be the lifestyle of every believer. Perhaps it’s that we (Christ/church and followers) have failed to build and establish “discipleshipculture” and thus suffer the result of fruit that fails to remain. The natural and spiritual soil has become so commercialized that no one ever regards how damaging it is when we live only unto ourselves. My field, my church, has equalled a great disruption in the harvest God intend us to reap..
Thanks for the blog!
Thanks for the comment Phil. Well said! As disciples of Jesus there is a common thread – of faithfulness and fruitfulness in cultivating reconciled relationships – that must characterize our lives. Whether it’s in how we cultivate our community or how we cultivate the squash and peas growing in our garden – we must attend to the ways of the LORD. -shalom friend!