Aquaponics is a great example of a symbiotic system where the living beings in the system all rely on each other. Without the plants the fish would pollute the water, without the fish the plants would be nutrient deficient, and without the bacteria the nutrients would not be converted into usable forms. Understanding that nature is a complex, interconnected system that can be used to our advantage has had a resurgence in the last couple of decades. I say resurgence because much of this knowledge was around hundreds of years ago, but it was lost as farming transformed into monoculture models and technology developed pesticides and fertilizers.
This article tells the story of how a book titled The Power of the Duck has transformed small rice farms in Japan. In this book, a Japanese rice farmer explains how he uses ducks, like his ancestors did, to replace his fertilizers and pesticides. The ducks eat pests, condition the water, and provide fertilizer. The farmer also sells the ducks, making additional profit. What particularly caught my eye about this article was the picture at top of the article of the man spraying pesticides (at right). He is wearing respiratory protection that is inadequate for the job, no eye protection, and no protection from absorbing the pesticide through his skin. This picture symbolizes what I love so much about sustainable and ecologically minded farming: it protects human life. By not using pesticides the duck/rice farmer raises his profits, creates a better products, keeps harmful chemicals from entering the environment, and protects the health of himself and his family. What’s not to love?!
-written by Rachel Burmeister, Internship Coordinator 2011-2012