Dr. Frederick L. Kirschenmann & Sharon Kleyne Talk Soil & Water

Kirschenmann & Kleyne Two Peas in a Pod on Soil Conservation. Views of Water Advocate Kleyne & Dr. Kirschenmann Mix Together Like Soil & Water.

Guest: Dr. Frederick L. Kirschenmann, PhD., Board President of Stone Barnes Center and Healthy Soil Activist

Soil activist and Board President of the seminal Stone Barns Center Dr. Frederick L. Kirschenmann grew up on a North Dakota farm during the Great Depression. As a boy being mentored in farming by his father, Kirschenmann lived through the worst drought in U.S. history. That harrowing experience made an impression on the boy that he never forgot.

As Kirchenmann grew to adulthood is seemed natural that he gravitated into studying and supporting farm models that embraced agricultural resilience—sustainable agriculture focused on the health and restoration of the soil. “For me,: Kirschenmann said, “productive farming and healthy food begin with the soil. Of course, water is absolutely essential, too, but water won’t do anything but run off or pool up is the soil is dead.” Over the years, Dr. Kirschenmann’s effort on behalf of healthy soil and food has blossomed into an international movement.

Kirschenmann’s enthusiastic efforts to teach people about soil, food and water appealed to water advocate and Water Life Science® creator, Sharon Kleyne. Herself an international educator about water and the process of evaporation, Kleyne said that “Dr. Kirschenmann taught me years ago,” that you can’t have a healthy planet without healthy soil.” Kleyne described how our health hinges on the vitality of soil and the invention of new technology with water.

“We have a deeply embedded cultural problem today,” said Kirschenmann, “and that is the feeling that we are somehow separate from nature. Our post-industrialist attitude that we should bend nature to our will is also part of the problem. This is the core cultural change we need to make,” Kirschenmann added. “We simply must make this transformation. Only then will we begin to see water as something more than a commodity.” Kirschenmann offered an appropriate quote by Christiana Peppard in her book, Just Water: Theology, Ethics and the Global Water Crisis: “Water,” wrote Peppard, “is a human right, not an economic commodity.”

Discussing the steady warming of earth’s oceans and Kleyne’s research showing that the water in the atmosphere is evaporating at a faster rate, Kirschenmann reminded listeners that only three percent of the water on the planet is fresh water. Currently, he pointed out, we’re using 70 percent of that water in agriculture. Much of that water does not adequately drip down into the aquifer. It runs off, carries soil nutrients with it and is lost. “Climate change is not only bringing more extreme heat and cold; it’s bringing more droughts and more floods,” said Kirschenmann; “we must make changes if we want to save our soil and food supplies.”

Kirschenmann recommended a successful model for this change, which he found in David R. Montgomery’s book, Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life. Montgomery studied the farming practices of eight farmers and found that all eight followed three simple practices. Each farmer cut back on tillage, grew cover crops and diversified planting. Of additional interest to Kirschenmann was the fact that all of the farmers were no longer interested in getting bigger.

Dr. Kirschenmann’s work in soil conservation is reflected in his long involvement with Stone Barns Center, an organic, educational farm and restaurant in Tarrytown, New York http://www.stonebarnscenter.org Kirschenmann described how ten thousand mostly inner-city children visit for instruction every year. Total visitors number more than fifty thousand a year. Visitors can observe soil and farming conservation techniques, eat at a buffet that is open all day and listen to talks and watch videos. Dr. Kirschenman’s influential TEDx talk in January 2012 can be found and enjoyed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VOBLitSe3KO&list=PLCB19B14A57BBDA98&index=3

The annual Kirschenmann Lecture at Stone Barns (/visit/the-kirschenmann-lecture.html) invites a guest speaker each year to present a talk on Dr. Kirschenmann’s philosophy of food and agriculture. The first three talks were presented by the poet/farmer Wendell Berry (2015), Daphne Miller (2016) and Ricardo Salvador (2017).


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