Reading Agroecology

I love having a library of resources at my fingertips. Or, scattered across my desk. Or in a box at my feet, because I needed to take a box of books with me just in case when I went to Merced last summer for two months. (To my credit, I did actually read two of them).

One of the greatest benefits, though, is being able to cross-reference, compare and compile a solid list of notes for transitioning into other forms. Right now, my open tomes are (of course, still) Massy’s Call of the Reed Warbler, Provenza’s Nourishment, Gleissman’s Agroecology textand Toensmeier’s The Carbon Farming Solution. I’m creating a stack of topic briefs (2-pagers) on different aspects of regenerative agriculture, for White Buffalo Land Trust’s work to broaden regen ag’s spread in California, particularly the Central Valley and Central and Southern CA. NorCal is pretty well covered with rockstars and practitioners already, but in the drier south & intensively industrially farmed San Joaquin Valley, there is still much progress to be made.

I love working through a good physical text. It’s an entirely different feel from googling or ISI Web of Science-ing a whole new library full of peer-reviewed articles. While those are important, of course, it’s a lot of wading that frankly, others have done better already: hence their books are already written, and mine only faint fantastical notions of ‘someday I’ll write a book’. (Maybe).

I’m enjoying the deep practical detail and pragmatism in Gliessman’s text. I find Toensmeier’s much more of an inspirational smorgasboard of practices, with great reference to meta-analyses of existing data, but it lacks some of the critical caveats that Gliessman’s text has. Of course, the graphics and photos in Toensmeier’s, being in colour, ‘show’ better: it’s easier to see these landscapes come to life on the page, whereas the black-and-white format of Gliessman’s text loses something in the image presentation. No matter.

I’ll be pulling Massy’s conversations about how he teaches regenerative agriculture in terms of five ecological cycles. Holistic Management International and the Savory Institute teach four. It’s useful to compare these different systems and perspectives: not necessarily right or wrong, but reconsidering different elements and classifications, ways of understanding the flows of energy and materials, i.e. the ecosystem functions of my last post.

One of the biggest hurdles, though, is finding a reliable way to encapsulate, save and then share that information. Mark Shepard maintains that we need more practitioners and working systems, not more blogs. I heartily agree; and yet as a practitioner I also need a way to interface my learning with my long-term memory, and it seems useful to share that learning — even if it’s a total repeat of others’ work — for the sake of others being able to take it up, learn, and add their own.

So I’ll keep reading, and rambling, and hopefully eventually but probably never come back and edit for brevity and clarity. I’m thinking as this experiment in daily blogging continues I’ll get a better flow of things and improve to the point of readability. One can hope, and continue.

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