Alternative Agriculture

Research papers and other publications which do not fit comfortably into the above headings but inform the subject.
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Alternative Agriculture


Alternative Agriculture

Alternative agriculture

Innovations for growing and cultivating diverse ways of knowing

Jonathan Code

This chapter provides an overview of approaches to land stewardship and food production commonly referred
to as ‘alternative’ agriculture. With this designation, the question naturally arises as to which type(s) of agriculture
these approaches are contrasted, such that they gain the status ‘alternative’? The answer may seem, when
first considered, to be self-evident – that is, these are alternatives to the dominant industrial and agribusiness
approaches (see Chapters 9, 16 and 31). Whereas this comparison is, in broad terms, the basis for the overview
of alternative agriculture that follows, it must be noted from the outset, that the category ‘alternative’ becomes
problematic if it is used to imply a cohesive set of agricultural practices that can collectively be juxtaposed to the
agribusiness and industrial scale methods that came to dominate agricultural landscapes in the 20th century.
The reality is somewhat less clear-cut than this. Considering just a handful of examples (biodynamics, organics,
and permaculture for instance), noteworthy differences amongst these approaches warrant – it could be argued
– further division into sub-categories of ‘alternative’. This is to say that, when they are studied in some detail,
these alternatives begin to emerge as alternatives to each other, as well as to more conventional agricultural practices.
The term ‘alternative’ will, therefore, initially be treated as a convenient umbrella term for the following
considerations of agricultural practices that do not follow the often mono-cultural and highly industrialised
models previously noted. Once a selection of alternatives has been considered, however, this chapter concludes
with a brief discussion that will delve further into the proposal that a distinction between the approaches outlined
next may well be justified, and will begin to outline possible directions for such distinctions to be made.
One further consideration should be stated at the outset of this chapter. Whereas agribusiness and
industrial scale farming techniques have become, in some parts of the world, the ‘norm’ for agriculture (the
‘alternatives’ explored in this chapter thus being contrasted to these), in several areas of the globe, practices
referred to as traditional farming, akin to ‘organic’ farming, and forest gardening have been the ‘norm’ for
centuries (Barker, 2007). Many of these pre-industrial forms of agriculture remain the primary approach
to food production for large numbers of people to this day (Morton, 2007) and are evident alternatives
to industrial intensive agriculture, though they do not necessarily sit within the context of any one of the
alternative approaches that will be addressed later.

With these initial reflections in mind, this chapter focuses on a selection of some of the most evident
alternatives to industrial agriculture that emerged in the 20th century and that continue to develop in the
early decades of the 21st. ...