Editor’s note: My good friend over at Durable Faith got my wheels spinning with his article challenging conventional wisdom about farming and gardening. I’ve always grown gardens. Til a patch of earth or prepare a medium for a container garden. Plant in rows, build a fence, water, and harvest. Is there a better way to grow more food with less effort?
In his article, Durable challenges us to pursue the ancient paths – of permaculture. We might learn something hidden. I know I did.
Tending the Wild vs. Farming – “ask for the ancient paths”
Conventional wisdom is that mankind has evolved from hunter/gatherers to agrarian societies and that only primitive societies gather …
By the Bronze Age, wild food contributed a nutritionally insignificant component to the usual diet. If the operative definition of agriculture includes large scale intensive cultivation of land, mono-cropping, organizedirrigation, and use of a specialized labour force, the title “inventors of agriculture” would fall to the Sumerians, starting c. 5500 BCE. Intensive farming allows a much greater density of population than can be supported by hunting and gathering, and allows for the accumulation of excess product for off-season use, or to sell/barter. The ability of farmers to feed large numbers of people whose activities have nothing to do with agriculture was the crucial factor in the rise of standing armies.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_agriculture
So farming progress brought us mono-cropping (potato famine anyone), big cities, and standing armies…Progress indeed…
We know that conventional wisdom is just dead wrong on many items. God’s thoughts are higher (Isa 55:9) than our thoughts and his ways are higher than our ways.
Let’s take a fresh look at the creation story’s account of the garden
Geneses 2: 8 Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
10 A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin[d] and onyx are also there.) 13 The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush.[e]14 The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;
Clearly, it was God who planted the garden, NOT ADAM. So, he was caring for something that already exists, sounds more like tending perennials than planting annuals.
But then came the forbidden fruit, the fall, the curse, and everything changed.
Gen 3: 17: To Adam he said “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
So looking at this in english, it appears that when Adam was blessed, he ate perennials in a sheltered river valley, but after the curse he had to work the fields and produce annuals, battling weeds, weather, etc.
But in the Hebrew, the word translated as field (haś·śā·ḏeh) in verse 18 is pretty generically used to refer to all types of land in other places in the old testament.
A few quick examples of other ways the hebrew word haś·śā·ḏeh is translated into english
Ezekiel 20:46 – forest land
2 Samuel 19:29 – the land
2 Samuel 23:11 – plot of land
2 Chronicles 25:18 – the wild
So then, the curse should not to be interpreted as any dissuasion or lack of permission from eating off wild and forest lands. Adam was certainly not promoted to tilling and dealing with weeds as a result of the fall of man.
In the context of what is being called ”peak topsoil”, scientists are taking a fresh look at the methods of historical indigenous peoples and the line between gathering / optimized foraging / permaculture and what we consider to be active farming has disappeared. It seems that it was the pride of the superior race that looked at gatherers and saw their methods as rudimentary.
In fact, a noted expert observed that :
“The Iroquois could support roughly three times as many people on an acre as contemporaneous Europeans could with their wheat crops.”
So much for our modern superiority of technologically advanced agriculture.
1 Corinthians 1: 27 – But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
Jeremiah 6: 16 – This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”
As for Durable, I am studying native american soil management techniques and the modern equivalent of optimized foraging referenced by the concept of food forests.
I humbly suggest you do likewise.
- Redesigning Civilization With Permaculture (nextworldtv.com)
- 5 Ways to Make Permaculture Practical (groundtoground.org)