What If We’re Thinking About Agriculture All Wrong?

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This is an incredibly interesting little story from Elspeth Hay. It was published in the online magazine Heated, which focuses on food and its connection to, as the editor puts it, “just about everything else.”

In this case, the focus is on sustainable farming.

Hay explains how the typical cereals like corn and rice, the most popular crops in the world, require the clearing of massive amounts of land, which means drastic deforestation and pollution from the land use. The article goes from there to ask the question: Why not put more stock into farming that doesn’t require wreaking environmental havoc, and turn instead to nut-producing trees and shrubs? Unlike the grains most farmed today, they have the benefit of not being annuals, dying and having to be regrown every year. They actually restore habitats instead of razing them.

Hay points readers to cultures around the world that have thrived on sustenance from trees and introduces two individuals who have put this idea to work. One has started a business saving oak tree populations by processing acorns into flour, and another has converted former grain fields into landscapes of thousands of shrubs and trees planted in rows to cultivate chestnuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, apples, and elderberries.

Hay admits that these ideas are not taken seriously by commercial farming at this point. However, it’s discussions of ideas such as these that are necessary for taking steps to make our agricultural systems better for our environment.

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