There was an interesting juxtaposition of articles today, one about the consequences of farming the wrong way, and one about an example of farming the right way.
A team of scientists from Texas A&M University, Texas A&M at Galveston, Louisiana State University and NASA recently surveyed the the northern Gulf of Mexico where low oxygen "dead zones" have been appearing in recent years and their findings show that the area's water contains lower oxygen levels than expected this time of year.
"During January and February of this year, the flow of the Mississippi River was larger than at any time in 2004," DiMarco explains. "That means the stratification levels between the fresh river water and heavier salt water could results in increased hypoxia, which creates the dead zone."
Hypoxia is a term for extremely low levels of oxygen concentrations in water. Hypoxia can result in fish kills and can severely impact other forms of marine life where it is present.
The dead zone area covers about 6,000 square miles in the Gulf.
The dead zone is located along the Louisiana coast where the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers empty into the gulf. The dead zone area typically develops in late spring and early summer following the spring flood stage of the rivers, which bring large amounts of nutrients – often in the form of fertilizer – into the Gulf of Mexico.
The dead zones are the result of the growth of corporate mono-crop farming. Planting the same crop year after year depletes the soil of nutrients which have to be replaced by using large amounts of nitrogen rich fertilizer. When the excess fertilizer washes off the lands, down the rivers to the sea, the nitrogen reacts with oxygen in the water creating low oxygen areas where marine life can no longer live.
Corporate farming follows the same linear path that any other corporate enterprise follows--extraction, production, consumption, waste. In this case, the waste is killing the oceans.
A more circular farming model, one that follows the regernerative, circular path that nature itself follows, comes--in all places--from a n urban farm in a West Berkeley backyard. Run by Jim Montgomery and Mateo Rutherford, the 6,000 square foot yard holds everything from apple trees to tomato vines, rabbits to goats, and chickens to domesticated pigeons.
"What we take from the garden and animals goes into the kitchen, and garden waste goes to the animals," Montgomery said. Without pause, Rutherford added, "And the animal waste goes into the garden." ...
"The value we have as a household is attempting to live sustainably in the world today," Montgomery said. Pointing out that the mere transportation of food from where it is grown and raised on industrial farms to urban centers necessitates the burning of great amounts of petroleum, he said, "We're growing a victory garden against having to use so much oil."
Rutherford has also started the Network of Backyard Urban Gardeners, a newsgroup to facilitate produce exchange between like-minded growers. In the meantime, the eggs, milk, cheese and startlingly fresh salads will just keep coming.