Friday, January 30, 2009

Day 11 - Agroforestry/aquaponics

Every day we build a little onto the previous lessons. This post is to cover what we studied on Thursday, 1/29.

Today we talked about two different types of permaculture systems, agroforestry and aquaponics.

Agroforestry is a practice that takes the ideas of permaculture and creates edible forest gardens. This uses the forest as a teacher, how nature organizes itself should be a model, should it not? We have been fighting the natural cycle since we started monocropping agriculture. Pesticides, herbicides, the need for constant tilling, shouldn't that show us that we are on the wrong track? Agroforestry systems are built in the layers of a natural forest to be self-maintaining, self-renewing, and self-fertilizing by using beneficial plant relationships. They also are delicious, stocked with fruits, nuts, berries, herbs, and all the good stuff.

After discussing how trees are they key to any true permaculture system, we went to visit the Univeristy of the Virgin Islands aggricultural research laboratory. Here they are doing some really amaing things with aquaponics. They are farming tilapia and creating a truly closed system recycling the water and fish waste to feed the various plants they are growing. It's called aquaponics because it combines aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (growing plants without soil). It is a bit technology-laden and requires a LOT of energy input, but it was informative none-the-less.

Personally, while I very much understand the need for farm-raised fish as a way to feed an ever-growing population. Tilapia is easy to grow, high in healthy fats, and a good source of protein. However, after visiting the farm, looking at they tiny tanks sometimes packed with as many as 1200 fish into each tank, I had no stomach for it. I am not vegetarian anymore, I believe that people are omnivores and that the best way to maintain a healthy diet is by eating local, fresh produce and naturally raised or hunted meats and fish. Those fish have no life to speak of and the chemicals that they pump in to change their sex to all-male to manage the population turn me off. I wonder if in all their studies they have determined the effect that those chemicals have on people? I also wonder who funded those studies..

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