Image credit: Peter Ferland
One of the best things about blogging is how quickly we get feedback and tips from our readers. When I had previously written posts on vegan organic agriculture, and had asked how vegetarians and vegans can avoid animal-based fertilizers, some folks had thought I was taking things too far. Others. however, pointed out that this is a very valid, ongoing discussion among those who would reduce or eliminate our reliance on domesticated animals. So when I wrote a longer post on what a vegan world might actually look like, I was delighted when some commenters pointed me to a farm that is actively exploring truly domesticated animal-free agriculture. It looks like they're doing it with a sense of humor too. Solar-Powered Tractors. Plant-Based Nutrients.
From a conventional, and even traditional organic, standpoint, the idea of vegan or veganic agriculture is certainly a stretch. Almost every organic farmer I know of uses extensive amounts of animal manures—and sometimes other animal byproducts like fish, blood and bone meal—to replace the fossil-fuel based fertilizers used by conventional farmers.
At Huguenot Street Farm in New Paltz, NY, however, they decided that they were going to "be extremists". (Their words not mine.) They were adamant that they did not want to support factory farming in anyway, so blood and bone meal was an absolute non-option. But they also wanted to prove that inputs from domesticated animals of any kind were unnecessary:
"Although we do have access to local clean manures, we decided to be "extremists" and go completely veganic, in part to demonstrate that it can be done. Not having to truck waste to the farm and then use a tractor to spread it saves a lot of fuel and time! It' true that we've had to be a little more careful and long-term thinking in our rotations, but once it was figured it out, it's not hard at all, and the money and time saved more than makes up for the initial planning."
Green Manures, Compost and (Some) Rock-Based Fertilizers
Using a careful rotation, green manures and a little rock-based fertilizer (yes, I am sure they are aware it has an environmental impact), and working the land using their solar-powered tractor, these guys are certainly way further down the road toward sustainable food production than most farms I have seen. They are, as they themselves admit, blessed with abundant, healthy and fertile soil—so have the luxury of growing cover crops and giving some land over to maintaining/boosting fertility. But whatever the blessings of their particular situation, these guys are clearly conscious, forward-thinking and idealistic growers.
And if asked to address the fact that veganic farming is just too expensive, they have a refreshingly honest take:
"The claim is that it is too expensive to produce vegetables without using factory farmed animal waste. We don't care. Food grown in America is too cheap."
Idealism with a Sense of Humor
It's nice to see that—for self-confessed extremists—these guys have both a healthy sense of humor, and a demonstrable respect for other farmers and how they choose to operate. In their introduction to veganic agriculture, for example, they take great pains to note that many organic, sustainable farmers use manure and other animal inputs from their own herds or other relatively sustainable sources—and they encourage people to talk to their own farmers about the methods they use. And as for that sense of humor, check out their rather irreverent take on farming below.
More on Veganism, Meat Eating and Sustainable Farming
What Does a Vegan World Actually Look Like?
Why Vegans Are Welcome to Call Me a Murderer
I Don't Feel Bad for Eating Meat So Why Do I apologize For It?
Even Anthony Bourdain Says Eat Less Meat
Why Eating Guts, Brains, Feet and Genitalia is Green (Video)
The Offal Truth: Would You Eat Guts, Brains and Genitalia?
Why Graham Hill is a Weekday Vegetarian, and You Should Be Too
Vegetarian Diet Could Cut Climate Change Mitigation Costs by 70 Percent