April 14, 2009

Toward farms

Filed under: Civil Disobedience, Food and Farms, Freedom, Land Reform, Nietzsche, Relocalization — Tags: — Russ @ 6:08 am


I spend so much time analyzing the crimes and stupidities of the world today that I sometimes lose touch with the need for an affirmative action and thought. Nietzsche, who always calls for psotive action as one’s baseline, would not approve.
But I’m finally feeling better about my personal course of action now that I’m starting a vegetable garden. I have no experience with this, and not much in the way of resources, but I’m learning what I can. With any luck, the results this first try might be OK. (I’m keeping my expectations modest.)
It’s a good feeling. Even if I’m still badly unprepared if collapse were to happen tomorrow, at least I’ve finally started on a lifetime path of becoming prepared, self-reliant, resilient. It’s great to see how more and more people are doing this individually, and how organizations dedicated to relocalization are springing up.
A personal garden is therefore the best start both personally and politically.
When I look at my incipient garden I think, if I do turn out to have a green thumb, this is something I’d love to get more serious about. I could see myself being happy as a large gardener or small farmer. (I’m still not sure what the difference is, but I do know some people get ornery about the terminology.)
I think many people are having the same awakening, and not a moment too soon. America needs new farmers; it needs many millions of them. The globalized food distribution system based on cheap, plentiful fossil fuels cannot long provide food security. One of the key imperatives of relocalization is regions and localities becoming self-sufficient in food staples.
It’s great to see the progress already being made with victory gardens, community gardens, CSAs, and farmers’ markets, with an increasing impetus toward organic methods and localized distribution. This is the core organizational structure already. Really all that’s needed is to expand and further coordinate it.
The main problem is how we soon run up against the calcified, atavistic barriers of the old system. (Which should be seen as a zombie system, just as the insolvent banks being propped up only by government bailouts are zombie banks.) I think the two main barriers are the current state of land distribution, and the existence of feudal industrial agriculture. (An especially pernicious aspect of the latter is the ethanol racket.) These two are intertwined, of course.
For a moment I’d like to toss politics aside and picture what a desirable post-Peak society would look like. I think it would most of all have the victory garden and the small farm as its core elements. This is clearly the only way to redeem the land currently imprisoned in suburbia. It should also be the successor distribution as industrial plantations are broken up.
If we had land reform such that distribution was on a food stewardship basis, not only would we reachieve the food security which modern “civilization” has so perversely thrown away. For the first time in history, we’d achieve a just, fulfilling society where it really was true that anyone willing to work hard and be responsible could prosper as his own boss. (I’m focusing here on gardens and farms, but also picture parallel relocalized workshops and craftsmen.)
Contrast that with the system we now have, where the hardest working, most responsible people have become serfs, while the worst thieves, thugs, and parasites are the most prosperous. They’ve even corrupted language to the point that words like “talent”, “innovation”, “entrepreneurship”, “best”, “brightest” have been hijacked to simply mean, the most talented and innovative scam artist.
[To emphasize one nasty example which directly impinges upon food, we have the ethanol “industry” which is a pure parasite. It has never turned one cent of legitimate profit. It is based 100% on collecting four kinds of rents: direct government welfare, government-created captive markets (the RFS and the 10% blend requirement), government social engineering which encourages the personal car, and parasitism on oil prices.
Now that its oil price dependency has left it crippled, its only possible “innovation” is to lobby for an increase in the other rents, especially an increase in the blend well to 15%. That is, the government should use further force to expand a “market” which was generated by force in the first place.
This of course comes at the expense of food production. It’s a clear example of a feudal abuse of the land which has no basis in any coherent concept of “property”, capitalist or socialist.
While this is the most extreme example, it is nonetheless characteristic of agribusiness in general. We need a liberation movement.]
So while we can conceive where we must go, that still leaves us with the problem of how to get there. One thing that’s for sure is that we should not count on getting much action or even encouragement at the federal level anytime soon. While the Obama administration is in many ways much better than Bush (though in other ways just as bad), it’s still mired in the reactionary mindset, and just as it is propping up the zombie banks, so it wants to prop up the zombie system as a whole.
So as we begin to more broadly coordinate, I think most of the action will at first be at state, regional, and local levels, which is logical since that’s where we want power to reside anyway, and that’s where energy descent dictates that it will reside. I know I’m not saying anything new with this, except perhaps that even as a national network comes into focus, it should still serve mostly to identify, train, and encourage cadres at regional and local levels, and facilitate their networking on interlocal and interregional bases. Terms like cell and rhizome help capture the idea.
In the same way, just as we have the excellent direct action of urban guerrilla gardening, so amid an industrial food production and distribution system all victory gardeners are in a sense guerrilla gardeners, just as saving and exchanging freedom seeds is a radical political action.
So we’re off to a good grass-roots start, and we have a basic idea of where we want to go. Now it’s a matter of charting our course, first and always through our direct preparatory actions as individuals and communities, and second through whatever level of formal political activism seems tactically sound, according to a strategy we must still formulate.  


  1. Russ,

    I really enjoyed your comments on being a garden novice – I’m in the same boat, this is the first year I’m trying a garden.

    The area I’ve selected for my garden is not that big, its along a sloping hill, the soil stinks (clay) and the area will sometimes be shaded. And, I have no idea what I’m doing.

    One good thing is that I have a spring that trickles year round right by my intended location – I should probably get that water tested.

    I am investigating hydroponics – growing in water troughs that include fertilizer and nutrients.

    And, I’m looking at “upside down” gardening – tomatoes, cucumbers and some others hung in upside down pots.

    I’m not trying to make it complicated but supposedly you get more faster and it would sure beat tilling clay and loading it up with a huge amount of topsoil. And since its sloped, the soil erodes off the clay.

    Good luck in your garden – please keep us posted.


    Comment by DrKrbyLuv — April 14, 2009 @ 7:47 pm

  2. Hi Larry, glad to hear you’re a fellow novice gardener.

    I don’t personally know what I’m doing either, except for some online reading and advice.
    (The garden forum at Life After the Oil Crash has been especially helpful.)

    I’m going the cardboard sheet route. I dug up some of the soil from the back of the yard (the part that seemed to have reasonably dark and not-so-rocky dirt). I’ll put that down as the lower layer, and then top it with some mix of topsoil and compost, and we’ll see what happens.

    I’m also going to try some containers.


    Comment by Russ — April 15, 2009 @ 5:50 am

  3. kudos. I’ve been hacking around in the dirt myself, and just wanted to say be very careful with some of the heavier tools (pickaxes, mattucks). I’ve been digging up roots and the tools(with power swings) can bounce off of roots potentially causing dismemberment and/or extreme destruction to body. (a close call yesterday reminded me that I’m not a seasoned peasant; need for respect the physics etc;)
    Been reading Gilles Deleuze’s “Nietzsche and Philosophy” too, (2nd time) so this frivolous comment is sort of justified.

    Comment by kulic — April 16, 2009 @ 11:39 am

  4. Hi Kulic. Nothing that includes farms and Nietzsche is likely to be frivolous!

    I haven’t used any tools like that yet, and I’m not expecting to with this first small garden. Just shovelling is tough, though. I lift weights and I reckon I’m in pretty good shape, but I’m not used to digging in hard soil. It left me sore.

    I have a copy of the Deleuze and several other analyses, but I haven’t read any of them yet (except for Kaufman’s).

    Instead I just keep going back to the original spring.


    Comment by Russ — April 16, 2009 @ 1:37 pm

  5. Another hopefully first time (as an adult, we had one when I was a kid, but dad did most of the work.) gardener here. I don’t have any suitable land, so I’m hoping to get a plot at the community garden nearby.

    Comment by Brian — April 17, 2009 @ 10:21 am

  6. Hi Brian. Good luck with your garden.

    Comment by Russ — April 17, 2009 @ 12:23 pm

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    Comment by vitdoo — June 20, 2009 @ 12:04 am

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