Regenerative Veganic Gardening for Pure Food and Health
Since a growing number of us care about human and animal well-being, as well as the fate of the whole Earth, we should look at all the ways that our caring, our compassion, can translate into actions that truly make a difference. Let’s explore how we can take local and “backyard” actions that will provide us with the highest quality pure vegan foods while contributing to the regeneration of the Earth’s soil and whole integrated system of life-support.
Our species has for millennia tried the way of exploitation. Life has too often been used and abused, consumed and depleted, stolen and enslaved, sold and eventually “dumped.” Global eco-climatic devastation and worldwide famine could be coming to teach us hard lessons. Is it possible we still have time to awaken our wiser and better selves, and break out of the old cycles of exploitation and disease and unnatural death? If so, I think we need to quickly become the consciously compassionate and generous species, so that our lives serve to help make the Earth more fertile, more beautiful, healthier, more alive, and in cooperation with our fellow seven billion human beings.
Why not start by resolving to obtain your nutritional needs from very healthy plants growing on pure, healthy, mineralized soils? If you want the freshest and most healthful and delicious foods possible, you can grow and harvest them yourself. Is there is anything you can do that is more important for your health and that of the Earth than to grow a garden? Whether large or small, whether you try to grow all your food or just a fraction, it can be your foundation to maximize your health and longevity potential.
“Organic vs. Chemical” Agriculture
Organic gardening and farming was what everyone who grew crops did for about 10,000 years, until the late 1800s when chemist Justus von Liebig burned plants and analyzed the ashes. His very primitive analytical equipment of the day showed nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium were in the plants, and that seemed to be about it. It led him to patent a “complete” fertilizer with these elements in concentrated, acid-treated form which could artificially stimulate soils to release their fertility and stimulate unbalanced plant growth.
Hence the birth of the chemical “fertilizer” industry and the beginning of more serious worldwide soil exploitation or “mining.” What would von Liebig have recommended if he’d had modern analytical equipment showing the 60 to 92 elements normally found in plants? He proved the saying: “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”
After the commercial chemical agriculture fad began to show its serious flaws and dangers to soil and food quality and health, a revival of organic growing came about in Europe via Rudolph Steiner and Bio-dynamic agriculture in the 1920s, Sir Albert Howard and his work in India in the 1930s, J.I. Rodale and his Organic Gardening and Farming magazine and books in the 1940s, and many others who saw the soil-health connection. In the 21st century we have evidence that 100 or more years of chemical agriculture has depleted soils and foods dramatically, resulting in the degeneration of our species. Efforts to reverse the degeneration are trying to garner momentum. Health and environment consciousness is spreading. Organic food expenditures have been increasing about 20% per year. Organic foods tend to be superior due to the lack of pesticides and herbicides and chemical nitrates and the like, and the tendency to be higher in minerals, vitamins, proteins, fatty acids and other key health compounds, depending upon soil fertility reserves and fertilization methods.
Unfortunately, along with the chemical fad having taken hold for decades, the worldwide spread of animal-based agriculture has led to immense pollution of soil, air, water and the bodies of those who consume animal products, and to hell on Earth for the enslaved creatures found in animal fattening factories and slaughterhouses. It has also led to vast amounts of manures and slaughterhouse by-products and the attempt to market these products as “natural” fertilizers. Many gardeners and farmers, even those of vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, have unthinkingly accepted the “natural” advertising and made themselves dependent on the animal-based agricultural system. Most organic certification programs allow these manures and by-products, even if they come from animals given drugs and chemically-grown and sprayed feed. You can look for these and similar by-products on most bags of “organic” fertilizers: bone meal, hoof and horn meal, feather meal, blood meal, even meat meal! If you want to withhold your support of the systems that enslave these animals and produce these manure and body part fertilizers there are, most thankfully, better-for-all alternatives.
Growing Your Own Pure Food
If you don’t already convert your kitchen plant waste and outdoor leaves and weeds and crop residues to compost, you can start saving them today and do a short study of composting methods (including containers, shallow pits, free-standing piles, worm bins) to decide which you’d like to try. I’ve tried most options and currently enjoy the simple method of saving kitchen waste (plentiful on my raw vegan diet) in recycled five-gallon buckets until about 20 have been filled. Meanwhile I’m putting aside any extra weeds, leaves, and non-woody prunings, then I’ll build a pile on the soil (under the partial shade of a tree is helpful) of about 4 feet square and high starting with coarser prunings on the bottom, then alternating with layers of weeds, leaves, kitchen waste, and rock dust to provide an abundance of all the minerals. Adding thin layers of soil also helps bring plenty of hungry microbes to the feast. The rock dust helps produce a microorganism population explosion and they break down the organic matter into the rich, crumbly, sweet-smelling, living protoplasm and humus mix we call compost. This is one foundation of a successful veganic (free of imported animal products) agriculture. The other is the rock dust, which enriches compost and soil with up to the 92 or more natural elements of the Earth’s crust.
What Is Rock Dust?
What is rock dust or gravel dust, as recommended for soil remineralization? If you guessed it is simply a rock, or better still, a natural mixture of various rock types, crushed or ground by Nature or machinery to fine powder or dust, you’d be right. It is what Nature has been using to feed the whole chain of life, starting with the water and soil microorganisms, since Life was found to get rolling on Earth about 3.5 billion years ago. Now there are at least tens of thousands of known microorganism species, and they all love to have rock dust to feed upon, using it to synthesize their organic live protoplasm compounds which serve as the nutritious fertility base for all the “higher” organisms including ourselves.
The Essenes of the Middle East, around the time of Jesus, were possibly the first people to consciously “remineralize” soils with rock dust, according to E.B. Szekely in The Ecological Health Garden and Book of Survival: “They pulverized rocks, mixing the powder into their compost heaps which thus yielded excellent black humus in a few months.” Julius Hensel’sBread From Stones in 1893 was a key work to advance the practice, although reported attempts by the fledgling chemical fertilizer industry to steal the book from libraries and in other ways suppress this threat to their business were apparently effective. The lack of efficient rock grinding equipment may also have been key. J. I. Rodale saw first-hand the centuries-old super-agriculture of the Hunza people of the Himalayas, who fertilized annually with the “glacial milk” full of glacier-ground minerals from the mountains above, and urged us to follow the Hunza example in his 1948 book The Healthy Hunzas. Dr. Herbert Shelton advocated soil remineralization in the Hygienic Review he published for 40 years. John Hamaker re-ignited the remineralization movement worldwide with his brilliant writings from the 1970s-1990s, and JoannaCampe’s Remineralize the Earth magazine and now website have been key to advancing the cause and pass the torch to new, more conscious generations. If you search the topic in 2012, you’ll start to see that the inner “fire” and actions to remineralize and regenerate the Earth are spreading across all borders.
Rock Dust for Health
I’ve been using rock dust since I adopted an all-raw vegan diet at the Farallones Institute in 1977, and I think always having a mineralized garden since then has been the most important reason I’ve been so healthy and still feel so youthful after 56 trips around the Sun. I find the taste and feelings of vibrant well-being to be obviously superior when eating daily from my garden/orchard, and when you look at (or analyze) beautiful mineralized produce, it should not be surprising. If I’m traveling and can only eat “conventional” organic produce, I usually notice a major drop-off in taste and how I feel after the meal. The first time you taste produce grown with your own plant compost and rock dust, you may as I did feel you are eating “real” food for the first time! The soil life also loves to have these primal foods of life available to them in abundance, and can thus regenerate and deepen the topsoil of your garden and even the whole Earth’s soils, should we choose to save ourselves and planet number one on the endangered list. John Hamaker found that his produce tested around 50% to 200% or more higher in the various minerals when compared with “normal” produce. Since there can be variations of 1900% or more in food mineral content, why not aim for the higher ranges of nutrient content, so we don’t need to try eating ten apples to obtain the mineral content of one apple a century ago!
There are thousands of books and methods of gardening, although few covering veganic gardening in particular, but if you generously apply rock dust and all the compost you can make, you’ll have built the foundation for healthy plant growth in a veganic garden. Try for a minimum of a one-half inch of compost added before planting any crop, and I suggest an initial remineralization of about one pound per square foot of soil. That is equivalent to about 20 tons per acre on the farm scale. That may be less practical for farmers, but they can get very good results with as little as 1 ton per acre if they use a finely ground mixed rock dust.
By nourishing soil organisms you’ll find they do most of the work of cultivating and aerating soil. As with compost, simply spread the rock dust by hand or shovel, aiming for even coverage of your growing area. If it is at all breezy or you might otherwise breathe some dust, I recommend a dust-mask since we’re only designed to breathe fresh air. You may want to dig in the rock dust and compost at the start so the nutrients are quickly available throughout the top 6-12 inches or deeper, but usually top-dressing or light surface cultivation will suffice. A mulch of leaves or straw or wood chips or the like can help protect the life in the soil, and will “compost” in place. (Just rock dust and mulch will start building fertility if you don’t have compost ready when you start planting.)
Earthworms and their countless billions of microbial co-workers can handle the future “plowing,” etc. Thus your main job will be to plant seeds or seedlings of your favorite 10 or 20 or 50 or 100 vegetables, fruits, nuts and seed crops, and to keep learning by trying the growing techniques found in organic seed catalogs, books, magazines and online, or perhaps apprentice with an experienced organic grower. Finding your own natural techniques for your particular garden, farm or orchard, based on your own perception and inner wisdom is also part of the path and the joy of living close to the soil.
Where can you find rock dust? Sometimes local gravel pits will have fine dust as a by-product of their crushing and screening operations, and may call them “waste fines.” You can find them under “Sand and Gravel” in the Yellow Pages or online. You might ask if they can spare some for garden experiments, and if it works well you and other gardeners and farmers may wish to obtain more. It might be free, or they might want about $10 per ton for it, or they might be less open-minded and not want to be bothered with providing small quantities for gardeners. There are also a growing number of good commercial sources with sizes from small containers to 50-pound bags to 2200-pound supersacks to larger truck and container loads, and these are listed in the Rock Dust Sources section of the Remineralize the Earth website:www.remineralize.org.
If you have an existing garden/orchard/farm and want to convert to veganiculture, simply stop adding animal manures and slaughterhouse wastes and start using rock dust and compost. Cover crops can be grown to return to the soil as “green manure,” too. That makes more sense than feeding it to an animal, letting it extract all the nutrients it can from it, then using the remaining manure waste as fertilizer. That manure, while it is still being produced, could be composted with rock dust and returned to soils which need reforestation, or to grow biomass fuel crops. The birds and insects and earthworms that will flourish on your land will add their natural “wild” manures to your soil. You can say thanks and also be thankful you didn’t support animal exploitation by hauling in more or less toxic “commercial” manures and slaughterhouse byproducts. Human manure from people on a pure healthful organic diet can be a valuable addition to the soil if buried or composted safely. The Humanure Handbook by J.C. Jenkins is a good starting point on that topic.
Thanks to the North American Vegetarian Society (www.navs-online.org) for publishing this and other articles related to veganic agriculture, and for offering to be a clearinghouse for veganic growers by maintaining a database and encouraging networking. Let’s also share our preferences and the “good news” about soil remineralization and the veganic option with farmers and gardeners everywhere. Now is a great time to transform our relationships with the soil, our systems of agriculture and animal “husbandry,” and our small, beautiful, ailing planet.
To make a fuller study of soil remineralization and Earth regeneration, I suggest you start at the website of the non-profit Remineralize the Earth: www.remineralize.org. The free online books The Survival of Civilization and To Love And Regenerate the Earth by Hamaker and Weaver are found in the Agriculture section of The Soil and Health Library:www.soilandhealth.org.
My 2011 book, titled Regenerate the Earth: Nature’s Call to Remineralize Our Soil, Re-Green Our Land, Rescue Our Climate and Restore Our Health, is available from Vibrant Health & Wealth at http://www.vibranthealthandwealth.com/bookstore/bookstore-individual.php?ID=58. You can find related articles available on veganic growing such as “Is It Time For A Plant-Based Agriculture” at www.navs-online.org. If you have feedback or questions, you’re welcome to email me:firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for caring!
This article is reprinted with permission from Vibrance Magazine, Issue Number 8