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Got Climate Anxiety? Watch "The Biggest Little Farm"—a Template for Regeneration

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/08/19/got-climate-anxiety-watch-biggest-little-farm-template-regeneration


Nice movie. Puts the realities of farming, especially regenerative practices, in perspective. One criticism - the owners had access to and spent lots of money. Much more money then most farmers have access to and, more importantly, more money than is necessary to farm regeneratively. In that sense, I’m not sure that it is the most pratical “template.”

I would suggest a movie of a couple of years ago, “Habitat” that highlights a number of practices that are more likely within reach for many. Also, check the Food section of “Drawdown” for more food-related solutions for the future.


Then again, what if a COMMUNITY comes together and analyzes a given start-up farm and/or set of farms as local resilience for, say, 60% of annual dietary needs? What if that community then analyzes a cooperative investment/mini-bank development. What if that community nnetworks regionally with similar models?


Great thoughts to think about this at Community level - connecting the farm practices and finances at scale. That may be a way to generate the capital necessary as well as serve the food needs of many people.

The farming couple in the film were able to raise $100,000s of dollars through various means. Some communities are creating local carbon funds to finance local projects that address the climate crisis - regenerative agriculture could be an important focus area.


Who says farmers don’t have the necessary cash to do this regenerative work. The same excuses we’ve heard before from; oh nos, the Big Agri-Business Corporations who are subsidized to the tune of multi-billions of $$$, and growing, just in the last 14-16 months. When the Dept. of Agriculture, the Dept.of Commerce, the Dept of the Interior and the Dept. of Treasury are all " captured " by narrow special interests maybe that is true. Maybe if we give Jeff Bezos enough $$$ and tax dodges, he’ll learn to walk on water, too. Are you willing to stand for that, as well?
" If you don’t stand up for something, you’ll stand up for anything " ( including the continued poisoning of the planet, your family, your community…).
Farmers stood for Trump in 2016, by and large, so now they can stand up and face the music for their shortsighted stupidity, pretty much.Their willful ignorance shouldn’t be rewarded with more " big agri-socialist " bad gov’t. policies.


the old goat has got the right idea - see that comment.

you might have missed the part of my previous comment that indicates that regenerative practices can be done by small farmers without all that money that was spent on the farming practice highlighted in the film the article is talking about.

Love to see the USDA, etc. invest money in regenerative ag that goes directly to farmers instead of wasting it subsidizing corporate ag.


I agree and practice most of the techniques brought up in this story, but I’m rather disgusted that this vital information has been turned into a money making movie, that other farmers and the public must pay to see.

“Love to see the USDA, etc. invest money in regenerative ag that goes directly to farmers instead of wasting it subsidizing corporate ag.”

I promise you, you don’t. I had high hopes when the USDA Organic program kicked off, (even paid to go to a 3 day seminar to learn the regulations), in a very short time, they screw it up, allowing corporations to defy the regulations with impunity.

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I grew up in the type of farming environment " regenerative " is about, except for one large caveat. The Federal government’s role in letting Big Chemical get their stinky feet in the door of family farming. That disaster was exacerbated by Nixon’s immediate " capture " of the EPA and other gov’t actions. If the Federal Government and Big Chemical caused the problems, they can damn well fix the problems.
The only thing these criminals can’t fix, however, are all the premature and unnecessary deaths they caused in rural America, and beyond. You are aware that of the nearly 1000 chemicals submitted for testing, to the EPA, etc., nearly 800 have either never been tested or the results been made public. " Hang 'em, hang 'em high ", imo.


There are a lot of filmakers that don’t make money and might not even recoup their costs.

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I was looking for large sources of funds needed to do the kind of regenerative agriculture portrayed in the film. The two farmers would able to obtain thousand and thousands of dollars through a variety of sources, but a big source of money is the government.

My thought is that if the USDA and related government entities are enlightened enough to support regenerative agriculture as opposed to corporate ag - a huge transformation - that would be accompanied by a similarly enlightened transformation in governance - another huge transformation.

Your comment indicates that a cultural transformation in agriculture and in general is more important than the money.

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If it’s regenerative agriculture, Big Chemical has not place. None of the corporate farming practices have a place.

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If this is playing at the movie theater, somebody is making money on it. My point is, this information is too important, everyone needs to see it. That wont happen, in it’s current form.

Not exactly, my point is USDA in it’s present form, is too corrupt, and any gains in regenerative ag will be co-opted by the large ag corporations, and no positive gains to our environment will be seen. There are solid penalties in the current Organic regulations ($10,000 fines for every illegal act), but USDA wont enforce them against the corporate ag companies. Many small dedicated organic farmers wont certify anymore because of this, but they still follow the regulations because they care about the environment and the quality of their products.
Somehow for this to be successful, USDA (or any current federal agency) would require a total house cleaning.

I am so very sorry but I read and understand too much science to buy into this mamby-pamby. I see it everywhere, “oh we can save ourselves if we do this, if we do that, we humans are in charge of our environment”. What crap, the Earth is a living being that is infested with a nasty pest and she will get rid of this pest, period.

Thank you for your understanding, so few do. I wish I could teach better but dislike having to suffer fools.

Sounds like we are pretty much on the same page.

Circling back to my original point, the farmers in the film raised and spent a lot of money to introduce their regenerative ag practices. Point 1 - there are regenerative ag practices that don’t require huge funds to implement. Point 2 - the old goat’s comment about community support to scale up regenerative ag could be an effective strategy.

As far as government spending on regenerative ag goes, your experience with Organic Ag and the USDA is instructive about the need for a transformation in the food system and in general.

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It’s called “Permacultures.”

This is a capitalistic country. Profit. That’s how we roll.
As far as regeneration I think about some of the apocalyptic movies. Are those vines and terraces climbing skyscrapers so they can reach the sun, or are they attempting to swallow up the concrete and steel? Both I suppose.

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Rupert Reed and Samuel Alexander have a book out called “This Civilization is Finished” that, for me, at least, speaks to this issue.

There are three ways out of the ecological emergency we’ve known about for a hundred years. One is to continue what we’re doing, guaranteeing extinction, another is that this civilization hangs on, most life on Earth dies back to levels the planet as it is can support, but the civilization is somewhat transformed - enough to survive, and the third one is that the people who know what they’re doing create and populate a new civilization atop the old that puts nature first, because we’ve learned the hard way that we are not separate from nature, that nature provides us with air, water, shelter, and food.

An old book, “The Arrogance of Humanism” describes the bottom line failure of western culture - through humanism gone wrong, people began worshiping people and things humans do, and that got us here. Descartes said we could control nature and live separate from it. We believed it, for 500 years, and here we are, with 18 months to peak carbon pollution into the atmosphere to avoid +2C, where human-caused Hell on Earth begins, and there is no way we can stop it. Our kids and grandkids won’t miss many opportunities to curse us for letting Earth go there, because, if we stopped all carbon pollution the day we reach +2C, it will still take hundreds, even thousands of years for Earth to bring itself back, and a whole lot of life that’s here now won’t be, then.

Immediately, all water cooled nuclear plants have to be shut down and the fuel rods cleaned out. If they aren’t cooled enough and catch fire, radiation drives extinction. There is a Gen III reactor that isn’t water cooled that can use nuclear waste for fuel and doesn’t produce bombs, and there are molten salt reactors that can easily be stopped and started that are cheap and small and safe.

The biggest thing about regenerative “agriculture” is that all the life we plant sequesters carbon from the air and we need to do a whole lot of it to give ourselves time to figure the way out of the mess the Industrial Age and capitalism left us. Carbon-based fuels need to disappear twenty five or so years ago.

What permaculture teaches, if you stay with it long enough, is to restore ecosystems to the level that life returns to them and they work without human inputs once they reach a certain level of maturity. The deserts western culture is most infamous for need to be returned to full-functioning ecosystems. This can be done on sand, but otherwise, it’s restoring soil.

The major best thing we could do is to take that abandoned farmland, perhaps with a Farm Bill to restore smallish family farms that teaches people who will work the land for five years to own it to restore soil and grow crops and not need five thousand cable channels. Instead, they would have community with others in the same area, and devote energy to each other rather than the LaZboy we do now - at least that’s one myth. We get green plants - mostly perennials and tree crops - in the ground as soon as we get land that will grow them. We harvest rainwater into cisterns that hold 18 months of household water and another to water crops with trickle irrigation. We terrace the hills so they catch rainwater at the tops of the hills and prevent floods, for the most part. This helps restore the land and refills aquifers, too, brings back the microbiology of the soil, and gives us places to replace tree-lines to do the work of the terraces, only better.

Some people, including the UN, call regenerative farming “agroecology,” because the ecology is not changed by what people do with it. We want the ecology supporting itself ASAP and grow crops in the places the ecology provides instead of growing monocrops in fields created by huge pieces of construction equipment that remove everything that’s in the way of a straight row then run through with tools that tear up the first three or four feet of soil, then leave it bare so the topsoil blows away.

This is something we can probably do by selling our houses in town and buying ruined land and living in our RVs until we get shelter built with a bit more space. Or we can have the government deed us the family farms extension agents teach us to build and provide us a basic income until we don’t need it. We’re the cheapest way to clean the atmosphere of carbon pollution. Then we go after the oceans, to clean them up. Or maybe someone’s doing that while we’re healing the land.

A permaculture design produces food, fuel, and fiber, and lets humans join life in progress, once the land is happy again.

The idea is pretty easy, but doing it is not. Doing it in community makes it easier. Knowing you’re not creating another environmental emergency is worth hard work for a while. After awhile, all a permaculture needs is harvesting when something ripens.

Life doesn’t have to be hard unless you destroy it.