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Why do we need Gardens of Love?

Field, Farm, Green, Grass, Agriculture

Our system of farming is broken:

  1. Farming often takes a lot of capital, which is hard to recoup, making it difficult to earn a sustainable income.

  • High land prices mean either we need to pay a substantial yearly rent, and risk losing the land if the owner wants it back, or we have to pay a steep mortgage on the land; in both cases taking up a large part of the income made, before those doing the work can earn it.
  • Fruit trees, and tree supports, as well as livestock would be for other farmers, require a substantial investment
  • Food prices are kept artificially low by government subsidies and supermarket competition.
  • Many conventional farmers increase their income by intensifying: more animals per square meter, more fruit trees per hectare, more fertiliser on the fields etc. This leads to an increase in disease pressure, in turn leading to a need for using antibiotics, or chemical disease and pest control. The use of artificial fertiliser depletes the humus in the soil and kills microbes and bacteria, leading to a wide range of problems, like soil erosion and loss of natural fertility.
  • In bio-dynamic and organic farming the growing standards put more restrictions on the intensity of animals kept, the amount of manure we can use etc. This means the focus will go into increasing the quality of the crops as much as possible, which will take more time and labour.

The quality of the products needs to be good enough to convince consumers to pay the higher price that comes with the bio-dynamic and organic branding.

  • Both the conventional and the bio-dynamic or organic farmer, though their measures to increase their earnings are different, struggle to earn enough from their produce to pay for the costs of producing them.
  • Diversification, for instance by having more different products, or working with people with learning disabilities, etc. is a way many farmers seek to balance the books, but this does in turn lead to more labour, keeping the cycle going.
  • Marketing the produce in farm shops or at farmers’ markets is an effective way to cut out the supermarkets. But:
  • If these measures lead to the need for additional employees, they need to be housed, which considering the housing shortage in the UK and the very strict rules related to house building in the countryside can be a struggle. Naturally, hiring employees also increases costs.
  • Because it is difficult to afford or house employees, and since many farms use a lot of machinery instead, the farmer must often do the work on his or her own, sometimes with help from the family. For many farmers, this means there is little time for rest, or holidays. This leads to exhaustion and often to illness as well, which is problematic as there is little or no back up to take over the farmers jobs. Especially if there are animals to be tended, it is hard to get away.
  1. The monocultures we grow on our fields mean that disease and pests can spread rapidly.

  • In our orchards, we use natural chemicals like sulphur and copper to fight disease that would otherwise damage the trees and our crops. In conventional fruit growing more aggressive chemicals are used for the same purposes.
  • In the first years of our orchards we had some problems with pests, but fortunately over the years a balance was established of pests and predators, so that we could let small infestations of aphids and such live, to be eaten in time without doing damage. Conventionally, more pesticides are used, which makes the establishment of a natural balance harder, but in the last few decades the use of predators has increased in conventional fruit growing too.
  • In the more common annual crops this balance doesn’t have time to get established, meaning pests can be a real challenge. In both conventional and bio-dynamic or organic growing the use of pesticides (either chemical or natural and quick to degrade) may be necessary from time to time. The bio-dynamic and organic growers will have less need for this than the conventional grower, because their plants are generally sturdier, as they are slower growing, leading to tougher cell walls.
  • Annual crops in conventional growing are usually sprayed with fungicides and such. As there is no permission to do this in bio-dynamic and organic growing, they will just have to accept their losses, and rely on the strength of the plants and growing techniques to safe their crops.

In conclusion: Farming is challenging because costs of growing and land use are high, income is quite low, working hours are long, there is little time to get away and - for me at least - the use of chemicals is upsetting, as even natural chemicals are poisons if used in large quantities. The sulphur we use in the orchards for instance makes me sneeze and blocks my airways.  That we need to make use of such artificial measures to keep our crops healthy troubled me right from the start of my fruit growing career.

And on top of that, the decrease in fertility of our soils is affecting the food we eat, the amount of food we can grow and is a cause of problems like both flooding and drought, as the soil is struggling to cope with changes in weather.

We can solve all of these problems by changing the way we own and care for the land, the way we care for animals and plants and the ways we live together. I believe that in the Gardens of Love ideal I have come up with a whole set of ways to do just that. Find out more by reading Growing Gardens of Love and also explore the website.

We need Gardens of Love to sow the seeds of a new world

In the 20's of the last century, when Dr Rudolf Steiner was teaching his spiritual science of Anthroposophy, some members of the anthroposophical society asked him why it seemed so hard for many people to understand and accept what Steiner was teaching. 
Steiner's answer was that this had a lot to do with the inner quality of the food people where eating.
Artificial fertilizer and chemical pest and disease control where new tools in the hand of farmers at the time.
This led to a series of lectures, later dubbed 'The agriculture course', which is the basis of Bio-dynamic farming.
The way our food is grown is very important for how open we are to new thoughts about spirituality, and perhaps even to how well we can think and reason.

Snail, Animal, Nature, Shell, MolluskWe still have a lot of work to do, to find out how best to care for our soil, our crops and animals, so that the food they provide will best nourish us. But the most important 'tool' we have in this quest is our loving attention, and our respect for nature and how she works. We need to learn to work with the nature of the soil, plants and animals, and combine it with our own ingenuity, to build the best possible ecosystems on our land. And we need to really get to know, respect and love all that lives and works there. Then the plants and animals will, from the love that made them grow healthy and strong, make the food that we need, and be happy for us to take our share of it.

I also found a mention of the following in some lectures of Steiner:

In the far future, the new earth will be permeated by love, in the same way as in our time we can find wisdom in all of nature (think for example about the complicated working together in ecosystems, where apparently unrelated creatures turn out to be essential for each other’s existence). And it is mankind's task, from our time on, to work that love in to the fabric of the earth.

The Gardens of Love project is a real and hands on way to make a start on this, to build love in to the Earth, sowing the seeds of that future world of love.

Noor Bunnik, writer for the Gardens of Love

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