“No till” means “All kill” and it’s not necessary. “No till” farming using Round Up is creating brownfields for the next generation to try to clean and heal.
That thing Courtney is standing on is a broad fork. It doesn’t till the earth, it is used on ground already prepared for planting, in the spring, to aerate and lighten the soil. Plants like that. So do earthworms, etc. Most farming around here is done with a practice misleadingly called “no till”. Sounds benign, doesn’t it? If you drive around our farm country at this time of year, you notice green fields and when you drive by the same field the next day it’s brown, as if it’s been burned.
That’s “no till” and it means the fields have been sprayed with Round Up and although they still look quite pretty, that grass is dead and so is all life in that field, from the insects to the earthworms. The farmer has created an instant brownfield. He does that so he won’t have to weed or mow when he plants his genetically modified seed, which is engineered to grow through poison without dying. Those seeds are also engineered so the plants are sterile, meaning the farmer cannot produce his own seed corn and has to buy it from the producer again each year. That’s what you are eating when you buy foods with corn syrup or soy which isn’t organic. I had no idea about all of this and perhaps you didn’t either.
The first thing I did on my land was to use no chemicals. There’s a little bit of quibble you can make about that, but it was pretty simple for me. The only herbicide I used was vinegar and salt. At first, I mowed very little, but I’ve learned that our land is far gone to invasives. Stewardship involves intervention, at least to the extent of doing some selective mowing. The first time I mowed most of my fields, I faced a huge cloud of bees around my hives. They were devastated and letting me know about it. I learned to mow in sections so they had time to adjust, and I learned to pay attention to when things were in flower before I mowed.
At my first farm party we blessed and scattered seeds over one of my fields. “Will they grow?” people asked. Well, not those seeds, but gradually that field and others got healthier instead of sicker. The earthworms came back, the insects and the small animals and birds.
Second, I created a small organic farming co-op. We shared the land and had an occasional potluck. We kept an eye on each other’s operations, made a call if we saw anything amiss. I provided free land and water for two years so people could get started. I live alone but my daytimes in the growing seasons were filled with happy people coming and going. That built community for me, one of my themes here. Health requires community, not necessarily intimacy, just presence and friendly acknowledgement. That first year Brody and Ally gave me a free share in their CSA, and Courtney and Ben often left bouquets of flowers at my door. Heaven sometimes grows slowly.
My point, my friends, is that healing the earth and creating a good harvest isn’t about doing without. It’s about joy and life. It’s about sharing the earth with other forms of life in a cooperative way, not eliminating every living thing which isn’t human as we do in cities. Doing it green helps the earth but living a healthy life is just a wonderful thing in itself. It can be done and it is being done, perhaps by you. It’s just a matter of where you put your energy.