Gavin went on holiday into the mountains by Carcassone a couple of weeks ago to have a Masterclass with Joel Salatin. To put that in a context that you lovely folks would understand. Its like you going to see your most favourite rock band/classical pianist in the whole wide world. Communication in the french farming community is worse than useless, so he was lucky enough to be there with only 17 other people. Thus, it was a bit like you listening to your favourite music, live in your back garden and then having a beer with them afterwards. Suffice it to say he was very happy, inspired to do more and fully refreshed on his return.
I don't think I would be that far from the truth if I said that Joel Salatin is probably one of the most famous farmers in the world at this moment.
Gavin solidified his knowledge about building soil through regenerative farming practices using, intensive, rotational, grazing techniques. Things he has been studying through the internet for the past 4 years and dabbling in for the last 15 in France. And pottering about on the edges of for his years in Zimbabwe before that.
I read Joels blog after he had visited France and was sad. Although I know that soil erosion is a massive problem, and I know that land management and farming practices are not always good, there is nothing like hearing it from the horses mouth to make you reflect again on the world around you. He commented on the bare soil in the vineyards and how on much of the steep slopes the soil has been washed away and we are down to subsoils (the bit below topsoil). Joel said he was told by his host that France was "not the same all over", and that is possibly true..... But, I do a lot of driving and I know that Joel is right. I have passed more bare fields washing and blowing away in the wind that I care to mention. There are more rocks on the top of some fields than there is soil. Cultivations are done running up and down the slope assisting with water erosion. I have not seen a no-till field (a field that is planted directly with no cultivation or soil disturbance) I have never seen in this area a field with a cover crop (a crop grown for the protection and enrichment of the soil) which is then directly planted with the new crop.
On the up side, I have recently seen cover crops with a couple of farmers though they have then been ploughed in. Better than nothing, though not the best.
Considering all these farming techniques have been taught since the 80's it amazes me that so few people follow them....... Gavin has just explained why..... Apparently, I am from the hippy crackpot course at The Royal Agricultural College and none of the above was taken very seriously by the other "proper" farming courses. Ah well 30 years on, I now know.
What some of you may not know is that soil is the best way to store carbon from the atmosphere and thus help slow/change/prevent climate change.
How to change behaviour in a community of aging, conservative, often single people, who have little or no help, work long hours and have a lot of debt and instability in their lives, I don't know. I do know that criticising, hounding and abusing them is not the way forward.
I always wanted to change the world, maybe thats why I did the "hippy, crackpot course". Is it time for some baby steps?
So you lovely people don't tarmac your driveway, plant some chrysanthemums and marigolds in your vegetable garden, pull out fewer weeds, otherwise known as plants growing in the wrong place, interplant your veggie garden with other plants that grow at different rates and heights and strive for protection rather than neatness in your own space. If you have a gite or a guest house tell your guests that they are living in an environmentally healthy place where you protect the wild flora and fauna to help save the planet.
See you all soon
I am farming sheep and goats on the Dordogne/Gironde border with my husband and our 3 children. We have an on farm butchery and sell our meat direct to the public via the markets and delivery points in our local area