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Oct 9, 2012

Sustainable Farming - the Impossible Dream

By Viv Forbes

"To be truly 'sustainable', a farm must recycle everything - otherwise it is depleting its soil minerals. Therefore it cannot sell any of its produce. This means it cannot buy items from the outside world, such as machinery, to make labour less arduous, and to produce more food. It is thus an impossible dream." - Bob Long  
The man-made global warming crisis has gone cold, the "man-made extreme weather" scares are wearing thin, and people are waking up to the "tax war on carbon", so a new theme is needed for handing control of our lives, businesses and property to the world bureaucracy. The theme for the next green alarm is "sustainability" and a favourite target is "sustainable farming".
We need to recognise some realities. Modern cities are not sustainable without farms, and modern farms are not sustainable without modern machinery, mineral fertilisers and affordable energy.

Are Cities Sustainable?

City people should thank the lord for the machinery, fertiliser and cheap energy that produce the surplus food and all the trucks, road trains, refrigerated vans and milk tankers that bring it to their supermarkets every day. The last thing they should advocate is "sustainable farming"
Image Meat for the Cities 
Road Trains loading cattle from Helen Springs Station Northern Territory, Australia.

Unlike most armchair experts on sustainable farming, my early life was spent on an almost-sustainable farm. The memorable lessons we learned are described below.
Cows were milked by hand, ploughing and planting was done with a team of draft horses. Here is how green power works (except we should have used a wooden plough).

Image Ploughing using Hay-burners (Photo Credit:  (c) Kapai
Lucerne was cut using a horse-drawn mower and rake. Haymaking on our “almost sustainable” farm was a family affair when everyone got a job with a pitchfork – mine had a special short handle. I still have it. Here is how it was done.
Image Making Bio-fuel for Hay Burners

For a full description of how a sustainable farm really works you can quickly download the full article in print-ready pdf here:

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