Laying this argument down I consciously avoid the usage of “agriculture” and refuse applying it to what I propose, as something inadequate in circumscribing all those vast interconnections and multidimensional overlays humanity’s forthcoming food provision is going to consist of.
Agriculture, from the so-called green revolution and through the industrial devolution onward to our present glossy magazines, like the Farmer’s Weekly or John Deere’s own The Furrow, let’s face it: is flawed.
Whether the agricultor walks behind or rides in front of the plow, he or she is tracing and retracing the always downhill furrow path.
Food production systems, as we have come to know them today, societies have voluntarily and – for a long time – unknowingly corrupted, as those opted for leaving the forest floor, or rather clearing up the fecund, sensitively robust woods, terracing the hills and breaking up grasslands for the mass crops. Once it proved possible, the intoxicating lure of large numbers picked up an exponentially accelerating inertia, for it to have gone completely mad by present day.
For a long while, helped by their animals’ and their very own physical power, peasants still respected – they had no other choice – the seasonal and diurnal-nocturnal energy flux, with clearly discernible beginnings, peaks and wind-downs, between sweating from exertion and resting, although keeping their hands off-idle. Those still vividly in memory days were the back-breaking, albeit grounded times. Since then, due (not thank) to a masculine mechanical ingenuity we advanced, “promoted” our peasant into a farmer-mechanic, higher and higher off the ground on deeply furrowed rubber tires, roaring up a dust storm day and night. His hands never touch soil any more, and his feet only walk on the ground (far from earthing) between building and vehicle doors.
Provincial ethos has shifted from awing at muscles at work and valuing individual personalities, to getting thrilled by highly customized yet hugely impersonal steel constructs. So that even the organic farmer’s son gazes at his tractor sighing: “Isn’t she beautiful?”
With the margins of seasons and nativeness completely blurred, seemingly not even into each other, but into another, under synthetic conditions, driven to make believe, agriculture has degraded, corrupted, demoralized itself, has become unfit for terming it “culture”.
One can only take pride in a culture if that can maintain its authenticity, its integrity – and this better be apparent as much in its parts as on a whole; which is what transcends any current food production system, taking us back, well, rather forward into a woodland-based food provision.
You might be mistaken if you believe that I’m inviting you into the milieu of old-growth, climax forests. Had you been in a beech or fir forest, you would instantly realize that such is not conducive for a well-rounded human diet by itself, not without a nomadic- semi nomadic lifestyle.
By today us all, modern people, have realized and accepted that there is no more terra incognita left to push our frontiers of livelihood into, and we have also formed a civilized understanding of our lives unfolding within the framework of a flat hierarchic land ownership. Much the same as it has been for at least a couple thousand years, albeit in a more democratic, interchangeable way than in the past, all livable land is under a set of human possessions, both private and public. Ephemeral claim of right it may be in a natural history time scale, from a human lifespan’s, a plannable future’s perspective it is the legally settled conduct of life the only option for just about every one of us, take away digital nomads, and some other world traveling adventurers.
Let’s face it: roots grow best in suitable soil and when they are not disturbed. The common dream of physical attachment to a place on the map, called home, is a perfectly natural and understandable one. More than just a desire to strive for, it is a visceral need to fulfill. The good news here is that land ownership is more flexible than perhaps ever before and it is exactly our ingenuity, the conscious realization of a common, universal greater benefit what can bring new meaning to an old framework.
An increasing number of likeminded people seek each other out for a life-long companionship, something that far transcends ethno-genetic heritage or social backgrounds so it can focus on the creation of a common future while cherishing the intimate closeness to a benevolent nature. This is a clear testimony of an elevated consciousness. Actually, one of the main motivating powers in this soul mate magnetism can be diet itself, the means by which we provide food to more than just ourselves, taking advantage of the efficiency in synergies of a coherent community acting together.
Now imagine a food provision system that taps directly into nature’s observed and assumed (always leaving ample room for intuition at play) symbioses. In fact so directly, that human partakers, as well as their acts become true symbionts and symbiontic respectively. Yes, it takes a deeply devoted lifestyle pursuant from a successful paradigm shift. But once that high threshold has been crossed and we stepped into the new mindset, nature’s mentality, and we recognize that there is no sane way back, a whole new realization may strike us: growing food, feeding ourselves and others is far from drudgery. Facilitating nature in the development of its full macro-meso-microclimatic potential and then responsibly, respectfully harvesting from her abundance can well be a joyful, pleasantly light work instead.
This is an awesome prospect considering a genuine participation in the oneness with nature while providing food for ourselves, just as the rest of our life activities we, symbiontic hunter-gatherer-food producers will have more time enjoying in the same oneness.
We are in fact looking at an entirely new existence here, after all a mentality shifted to that of nature’s, cannot be two-faced.
In a symbiontic way of food provision however, elevated consciousness poses new intricacies: intuitive wisdom is needed for introduction (selecting, sowing, planting, transplanting, removing and all of this carried out with a great foresight), as well as for the harvest (moderating oneself in the take, making sure that there is always plenty left for the rest of nature and regeneration).
The symbiontic approach prides itself in learning to understand and use feel. Because feel, the deep gut kind, is a far more sensitive, perceptive and accurate gage, interface of the self directed outward, than the mind is, home of rational thinking and literacy.
This intuitive feel channeled into a universal flow is the single best means we – just like any other organism – have to interpret the dynamically changing complex signs of nature. No encyclopedic knowledge, no artificial intelligence gadget comes or will ever come close to it. Feel, with loving curiosity, is that powerful.
Feel within this symbiontic connectedness is the means of choice by which sound proportions can be set, always in situ and in vivo. The reason for proportions being so important, is that proportions are the ones making or breaking integrity, equilibrium, and in turn health, well being.
Between seasonal and daily introductions and harvests a symbiontic food grower steps back, unwinds, gets un-busy, takes in the soul nurturing beauty she or he helped create, reflects on it, basks in it as a continual source of inspiration, shares these uplifting moments via lively, passionate social activities, weaves them into any other work too, as a happy, fulfilled life experience. A true homecoming…
And the symbiontic home looks like this.
First of all it is organic from onset, bypassing any and every institutionalized certification scheme, for embracing the highest conceivable level of adaptation to the natural processes, a near-mimicry of nature’s patterns, such a food providing environment is naturally self-regulated and wholesomeness on all levels is also guaranteed by itself. You can trust symbiontic food and its producer like you can trust nature.
On the ground, the sheer sight of such a place, anywhere in the world, provides the cathartic pleasure of gently but instantly drawing the visitor into an assimilating oneness. Who steps in here forgets about the self because the whole is just so overwhelmingly powerful… as if the Milky Way dropped from the sky.
Everywhere in sight a phenomenal conviviality, a mutual support shines through. Diversity becomes an insufficient, almost inappropriate term to describe its wholeness. In this many-story woodland, textures are rich and from the surface pattern of insect wings and flower petals they run deeper and deeper along the veins on the underside of leaves, down the water-channeling grooves of stalks, into bark furrows beneath moss carpet, one rubs up against rough lichen cover over even rougher rocks, slippery shroom flesh in the dense fog… Textures alone have a profound story to tell with the sage wisdom of continuum.
Colors turned nuances – endless, yet all in harmony, nothing brash. That’s because the tonality has been honed to match in eons of selection and counter selection: from the turquoise of bird feathers through the purple and crimson of fruit to the coral of fungi next to the pale white lichen on grey stones, all spread in wonderful entropy over a sea of greens and ochers.
Light, that with its presence or relative absence brings all these shades alive, is also dynamically varied here, in the symbiontic microcosm. The seasonal and diurnal change in intensity from dawn to dusk, noon to moon, is filtered, screened, deflected, reflected, obstructed and absorbed at every step. The light-shade play follows you, runs far ahead, drops behind, lets you open your eyes wide, makes you squint, gives you hope and makes you smile, all on the same walk.
Perhaps I should have started with sounds, with the sensory pleasure that chimes one toward a symbiontic life-space before the visual aspect of its details could be deciphered. Birdsongs and calls at all pitches are the most imminent from distance and maybe the gurgling of a creek. Once closer, the music of the air flowing through the vegetation captivates the already pleased ears. Now the casual explorer pulls itself back into the awareness of trotting the grounds of a food provision site and almost inescapably she or he becomes extra alert of sounds giving away some kind of audible operational activity of humans. With expecting suspicion the ears search for hums, beeps, roars of engines, the metallic clinks of implements, the shake of trailers, the occasional nudge of a horn and shouts over all these atrocities to nature’s calm. But deceiving expectation, the all too familiar noises steadily fail to come from within – for a good reason.
Symbiontic food is recognized by artisanry. From sowing-planting through harvest and on to the finished product, regardless of the added value, everything is handcrafted. Every phase of the work is carried out by hand and hand tools, no foreign vibration of power equipment is allowed to perturbate nature’s fine resonance. No compromises.
Since animals forage freely within sensible natural boundaries and they are provided vegetational refuge from the elements, as well as nature-inspired shelter structured, thus enjoying the benefit of outdoors all year round, they are not fed anything other than the eventual excess hay from hand scything, the light maintenance work of the most intensely used areas which also provides cover organic matter for the dry compost toilets and compost heaps.
This reason alone, not having to provide any handouts to livestock or poultry, eliminates the bulk of machinery one has been used to seeing on farms.
The rest of machines and their implements are, again, missing thank to the no-till way of growing food. Anything that cannot be grown individually or planted in small groups, for instance grains or oil producing herbaceous plants, is simply left out of the symbiontic food production.
The standard of efficiency is the uncoerced nature’s efficiency here. Any demands beyond it, bear no sense: no purpose, no moral justification, no economic interest, so no meaning. And that is simply because such demands would push this biome beyond its optimum performance and onward, likely exceeding its carrying capacity, which is precisely what symbiontic food providers don’t do. They have learned from the mistakes of their farming forbearers that remaining well within carrying capacity of nature is the key to well being.
Trees are abundant here and they are of all ages, yet nothing can justify power felling. Axes, handsaws, two-person saws and the accessories of hand felling are the tools in use. These tools of the heirloom quality may well be passed down from generation to generation again.
Arbors that have grown beyond the size of what is reasonably harvestable by hand, are saved to become mother seed broadcasters and once they died from old age, they can metamorphose into grand microhabitats for countless invertebrates, reptiles, birds and mammals, eventually collapsing into nurse logs, with all the life and rejuvenation they can keep providing until the seamless assimilation is complete.
The sense of taste I left to close with as the most intimate connection with the world out of the five basic senses. In a symbiontic environment the sense of taste is continuously invited, encouraged to get acquainted with and embrace the nearly infinite range of delicate savors, aromas from species to varieties to specimens, with season, exposure, aspect and an untellably complex interaction of fine and extremely fine circumstances, influences, such as love directed to a particular organism.
Bitter, in its very own wide range, is stripped of stigmas here, becoming a duly recognized marker of a healthy, diverse diet.
Sour is also rehabilitated and sought after as the flavor of many a fruit that are tart when ripe, but numerous lacto-fermented foods or drinks have this tangy character as well.
The taste of the unspoiled earth is celebrated both figuratively and literally. Examples to the latter are the detoxifying, stool improving clay water or clay milk, by stirring the purest clay one can find in a lower soil layer of the property into water and decanting the liquid phase to drink, with less or more volatile mineral particles respectively. These comprise a great physical and spiritual unification with the healthy, life-supporting grounds we care for.
So more than just the image, but the all-sensory experience, the intuitional and spiritual feedback gathered on a symbiontic food provision site collectively testify that the genus of the locus emanates the calm of a radiant health, integrity and coherence. This is the embodiment of a more than corporeal harmony, a steady reflection regardless of the dynamisms that make the equilibrium. And it is all possible thank to the awesome fecundity and virility found here.
The question that begs being asked now is – what are we all waiting for?
For a similarly deep-drilling account of symbiontic food, we invite you to read the two part post series on our other blog, Baconish, beginning here.