Seedstock Digest: Sustainable Hog Farming, Hydroponic Window Farms, Farmer John and Biodynamics, and Natural Systems Agriculture
August 5, 2011 | seedstock
Happy Friday! To get you through the hopefully beautiful weekend weather and lazy Saturday and Sunday that you have ahead of you, Seedstock is highlighting some our latest and greatest stories. These stories feature a sustainably creative Indiana hog farmer, an innovative farm that you can grow in your bedroom, bathroom, and living room windows, a truly trailblazing biodynamic farmer from Illinois and a Kansas visionary seeking to use a prairie model in agriculture to farm crops more sustainably and in line with nature’s intentions. Enjoy your weekend reads!
In 1998, the bottom fell out of the hog market. There was a surplus in supply. Pork was selling as low as 14 cents per pound. It was also only the fourth year that Greg and Lei Gunthorp had been managing their hog operation in LaGrange, Indiana. The pressure was on. While 90% of hog farmers have gone out of business since 1980, Gunthorp Farms has added land, expanded markets, and hired help. They’ve been able to do so because Greg Gunthorp farms differently.
Windowfarms will not save the world. But even in the big picture, every little piece counts. What exactly is a windowfarm? At the most basic level, it’s a vertical hydroponics system; rather than growing in rows, in soil, outdoors, plants within the system grow in columns, in water, indoors – in a window to be exact. The nutrients crops would get from the soil are instead dissolved in water and delivered to the plants with the help of an air pump. On a more profound level, windowfarms are a powerful tool for changing the way consumers relate to their food.
Under tremendous debt pressure, Farmer John Peterson lost most of his family’s farmland in the ’80s and was “laid flat by losses.” To heal himself he turned to classical homeopathy. It was restorative. Peterson sought a similar “energetic medicine for the earth” as he rebuilt his farm in the ’90s. This led him to biodynamics. “Biodynamics is about deepening relationships between the farmer and the farm,” says Peterson.
If it were up to The Land Institute, instead of miles upon miles of amber waves of grain the American heartland would look a lot more diverse. The Salina, Kansas research institution promotes agricultural systems that are more in line with the state’s prairies—where different varieties of plants thrive side by side—than with its celebrated monochromatic wheat fields.