Suburban Harvest

18 09 2008

I did a site visit today for a new neighborhood plan I am working on. We spent the better part of the morning tramping around fields like this, getting wet up to our knees from all the dew in the sow thistle, rogue barley and grasses that grow thickly at the edges and in the uncultivated parts.

I reacted pretty strongly to this field. I thought that something this beautiful and natural should be left as it is.

Harvest fields in Big Lake

Harvest fields in Big Lake

And then I realized how funny it is to react to modern, intensive agriculture as if it were a shining example of natural systems at work.

The lake this farm is adjacent to is in danger of becoming eutrophic due to all the phosphates and other fertilizers that end up in it as a result of agriculture, especially intensive livestock operations, upstream. It’s being choked by shit and fertilizer, essentially.

This field is not as bad as an ILO in terms of its effects on water quality, of course. But it is ironic that this seemingly natural landscape I reacted to in sentimental terms is almost certainly worse for the lake than the rows of houses and apartment buildings that will replace it.

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