I recently subscribed to Yes! Magazine, and I’m anxiously awaiting my first edition in the mail. The most recent edition focused entirely on water use — Editors wrote that in the future they think we’ll have a water crisis similar to the energy crisis we’re currently facing. Here’s an article that puts a new spin on the subject of water use and conservation. Author Frederick Kirschenmann writes, “One of the reasons that we are using such large quantities of water for irrigation is that we have not paid attention to the biological health of our soils.”
He says to conserve water, farmers must respect the soil and cultivate it so plants won’t need as much water as in “industrial” farming methods that Kirschenmann says treat soil as “nothing more than a material to hold plants in place while we insert the synthetic nutrients plants require.” The author managed his family farm since 1976, and explains his experience with cultivating soil properly so plants don’t need as much water. He had to turn it around from a monoculture farm with “significantly impaired” soil.
Being on the farm with full management responsibilities for the first time gave me the opportunity to explore theoretical questions I had: Were there ways to manage soil so it would absorb and retain more moisture to sustain crops during drought periods? Could I design a farming system with sufficient diversity to increase its resilience? Or one that was less energy intensive? Was it possible to create a farming system that was more self-renewing and self-regulating?