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soil building

What would agriculture look like with zero inputs? with Shane Simonsen, author of zero-input agriculture

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Shane with his goats

Though I’ve been inspired by all the amazing examples of regenerative farming through the people that I’ve interviewed through this series, there’s one glaring commonality between all of them and that’s the fact that the success of their enterprises all rely heavily on the destructive infrastructure that we currently have in place to get the organic and feed inputs for their enterprises, the seeds or young animals that they then raise, and the fossil fuel system that then transports their food products to market. I’m not at all criticizing these people of their work. It would be near impossible to make a living and produce a meaningful amount of food, certainly not enough to base a business around, if they weren’t working with the resources and the systems of our modern times, but there’s no denying that the same systems that make these business models feasible are unlikely to continue for much longer and certainly not in the way we are using and operating them now. That’s why I got really excited about the work and writings of Shane Simonsen who is conducting personal experiments and documenting the process and observations on his homestead in eastern Australia all around the concept of zero input agriculture. His blog by that same name is one of the most original approaches to large scale food production that I’ve come across in a long time and asks the simple question of “how might we still be able to produce enough food for ourselves and our communities if we no longer had access to all of the inputs and fossil fuels of our modern times.”
Despite sounding like a post apocalyptic exercise in primitive living, Shane’s writing is surprisingly optimistic and pragmatic. In a small excerpt from his very first post from September 2019 he writes: In the resource constrained future ahead of us these input dependent approaches to growing food will become impractical or impossible. Instead new systems that rely on locally adapted crops and livestock, integrated into systems that are truly compatible with the local geology and climate will be required. I have taken on the challenge of developing these systems in our particular region in the remaining two decades of vigor I have left in me. This blog is an account of this journey. Hopefully I can inspire some of you to follow in my direction and develop your own locally adapted systems.

In this interview we cover a wide range of topics from soil building to locally resilient plants and livestock as well as wild experiments and the challenges of adapting these ideas to your site, all with the aim of answering the question: Can humans go from a universal parasite to a universal symbiont. 

I highly recommend you check out Shane’s blog

Resources:

Zero Input Agriculture – Trialling and breeding crops and livestock that can produce without irrigation, fertiliser and imported nutrients

Steve Solomon Gardening when it counts

Restoration agriculture

The One Straw Revolution

Return to resistance

Open source seed initiative

Free the seed podcast

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