Thoughts From The Quivira Conference

Departing a bit from the norm of linking to articles and such – I’m wanting to share a few concepts I picked up while at the Quivira Coalition’s annual conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico last week. It was an excellent conference over all as essentially all presenters did a stellar job. Their enthusiasm for their subject was infectious to the audience and was quite inspirational. Although 3 days was more than enough to fill my head with good stuff I already look forward to attending next year.

First, let’s look at some terminology.

Sustainable vs. Regenerative: I don’t really like pitting these two terms against each other because they both have their place in the broad scope of ecoagriculture, so to speak. The rub to some folks, which is totally understandable, is why would we want to “sustain” a degraded system, which is mostly what we have. What we want is to “regenerate” it by farming and ranching “in nature’s image”. The term “Regenerative Agriculture” seems to be a much better fit for what we are striving for.

Cover Crops vs. Soil Primers: The distinction between these 2 terms is not as cut and dry as the previous but I’ll roll with it. Soil Primer obviously focuses attention on the soil rather than the crop and implies a broader application or even better reasoning for using such a practice.

Conventional Ag vs. Industrial Ag: The point was made that “conventional” really shouldn’t be used as it presently is. A more appropriate term is “industrial” referring to the massive, large scale operations that rely heavily on inputs (artificial or “natural”) and intensive physical manipulation of the land and animals, wasteful & toxic packing, and long distance distribution. This has only been happening for a relatively short time therefore “conventional” doesn’t really apply. Other terms that might apply to truly conventional agriculture are “traditional” or even, in some cases, “Indigenous Permaculture”.

Now for some concepts.

The conference theme was: How to feed nine billion people from the ground up. Probably one the most notable concepts of the conference for me was the idea that we could likely be close to doing that now. Our problem is not production/food scarcity. It is a broken distribution system resultant from poor political policy and government management. And one simple and straight forward solution to this kind of problem was articulated by Dr. Fred Provenza – teach people to feed themselves first (my paraphrase). We might think this is impossible in urban areas – is it?

Holistic management practices are hardly a new concept. But this idea was foundational to every one of the presentations. Everything is connected. We cannot manage for one piece of the system and not expect a result or consequence (negative or positive) in other parts of the system. Probably the major question is; are we going to work with it, or in spite of it?

I don’t want to be too long winded so I’ll wrap up this post with a link to Loatree and some comments they had regarding the conference.

Hopefully there will be links to recorded presentations at some point I’ll be sure to post those if/when they become available.

Happy Thanksgiving to all you who may be reading. And indeed we all have much to be thankful for.

About Chuck

Soil Scientist USDA/NRCS, Owner - Soilhealth.net
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