Saturday, July 12, 2008

Downward and backward for a better way of life

This July 4th weekend we attended Horse Progress Days here in Mount Hope, OH. This event rotates amongst the major Amish communities and won't be back in Ohio for another six years. We were thrilled to be able to have such a wonderful event so close to us. I tend to forget that a lot of people don't have the same experiences and lifestyle that we do and they haven't come to the same conclusions that we have. So, that being the case, I'll list some reasons why we think animal power is the best choice for a sustainable future.

  • There is nothing sustainable about tractors using fossil fuels. Not only is the use of fossil fuels going to drive food prices sky high, but what about folks that aren't living here in the U.S.? What about folks in, say, Uganda? Gas there is $6.00 a gallon but unlike us, they earn around a dollar a day. At 3-4 gallons to plow an acre with a tractor they are taking advantage of animal power because they have so few options. Assisting them is a group called Tillers International. Tillers' mission is: To preserve, study, and exchange low-capital technologies that increase the sustainability and productivity of people in rural communities. Tillers' Vision is: To create an international learning community in which we seek understanding of local conditions, encourage an attitude of experimentation, and give promise of sustainable productivity for generations to come. We strive to preserve low-cost, historical rural skills; to find contemporary refinements within low-capital constraints; and to share this information with those interested in small farms, both in America and around the globe. They teach a variety of classes from "post and beam construction" to blacksmithing. The oxen team shown below is one of the two teams that they brought to Horse Progress Days. It was hard to get a good picture of them out on the grounds so here you see them resting in the barn. Don't they make you smile?

Farms powered by draft animals have to be a manageable size, a family size. You can't farm 2,000 acres with a team of horses. Agriculture has an innate culture to it, agri-business, however, doesn't. Animal husbandry can't be relegated to a business model that is interchangeable with a hardware store or a Wal-Mart.
  • "Modern" farming is actually more of a hobby than any of the draft powered ones that I'm familiar with. Modern farmers can't make it without Government handouts. Their methodology is so far removed from reality but yet they persist in the same tried, true and failing methods relying on farmer welfare to make up the difference. I don't know about you, but it goes down hard with me to have tax monies spent on bailouts to folks who just don't seem to get it. Want to see what the farmers in your area are pulling in via their own special welfare? Go here.
  • Did you know that ground can be worked earlier in the spring and after rain with draft horses? That soil compaction is a big problem with tractors? A horse not only reproduces itself but also fertilizer adding to field fertility; a tractor doesn't do any of these.
  • And finally........ though I titled this post "downward and backward", I don't really believe that a return to Christian agrarianism is anything but progress in the purest sense.
  • A horse powered treadmill. Another nifty idea from Horse Progress Days.

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