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Phyllis Tichinin: Sacred Cows of Agriculture – #2/3


Second of three articles on issues related to farming and agriculture in the modern world. (H/T Rod Oram at Newsroom)

I found the article interesting, I am not sure I understand all of it as yet and I am going to study it more closely

In my first article I discussed the connection between soil qualities, flavour and nutrition in our food. I defended cows as valuable contributors to healthy farming. Here I talk some more about those actual cows but more about our mental sacred cows.

When you hear the word ‘sacred cows’ do you tend to think of Hindu religious beliefs about the sanctity of bovines? On an ecosystem level I do think that bovine ruminants play such an important role in grassland ecosystem regeneration that we ought to view them as sacrosanct or at least very useful and worthy of our respect and care. After all ruminants are a pivotal factor in creation of the world’s deepest and richest soils – the Serengeti and  Great Plains of the Midwest.

But the ‘sacred cows’ I’m talking about here are our entrenched and nearly faith-based perspectives on agriculture as a chemical system. We farmers have some long standing beliefs that are not based on present day science. This worldview, or paradigm, is a major source of our ill health and many of our environmental problems. Erosion, water pollution, species die off, toxic blooms, hormone imbalances, inflammatory disorders, nutritional deficiencies and cancer can all be traced back to our soils and  how we conduct agriculture. 

We believed our lecturers when they told us that we only really needed to focus on NPK as fertilisers. Two generations ago we believed them when they told us to plough several times a year. Now we’re told that we should not plough, so we use herbicides and no-till. We were encouraged to go flat out for maximum production at any cost. Now we’re encouraged to shine our quality badges and take advantage of our grass based system and green quality image to capture premium market prices. All without really understanding what creates a healthy farm ecosystem or how to farm to change the nutritional quality of what we produce, in short, how to produce the nutrient dense, low chemical use food that the world wants.

Considering that nutrition is the basis of all health and the cornerstone of any ecosystem, we generally know very little about how the pieces of the farming puzzle fit together nutritionally/minerally/biologically. We have so far taken it on faith that we can’t produce an adequate crop without synthetic inputs of fertiliser and pesticides. Yet much of what feeds the world’s population has been grown without synthetic fertilisers. MORE AT LINK

I recommend it to you whatever your views. It provides an interesting perspective. A number of interesting ideas are explored in the article.

About the author

Phyllis Tichinin

Phyllis Tichinin has had a life-long interest in agriculture and natural systems. She describes herself as an ‘eco-nutritionist’. Raised rurally in Northern California, she attended University of California at Davis where she studied Environmental Management and Soils, meeting her husband, a Kiwi getting his PhD in Ecology. For most of her life she has raised her own fruit and vegetables and for the last 10 years her own meat on a dairy support block in Hawke’s Bay. She has been an environmental policy specialist in California State government, a biological soils consultant, an organic farmer and is a consultant, educator and purveyor of plant-based alternatives to dairy antibiotics.

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