We’ve all heard it. Some of us have said it. “Not in my backyard!” A refrain born of the modern world it is echoed in protests and editorials. Whether it is Northern Metals in North Minneapolis, the Dakota Access Pipeline, or any other unpleasant scheme or machine milling money for absentee profiteers, no one wants it in their yard. Last August at the Minnesota State Fair, I heard a radical idea that subverts that old saw. Russ Rooster Henry, a soil maker and compost advocate from Southeast Minneapolis, told a standing room only crowd about the food forest that everybody wants to have in their backyard.
Russ pointed out that our “backyard” is a part of the global food forest and it feeds everyone. Not just humans and domestic animals. He took the corporate food and chemical companies to task for designing products that create conditions favoring the return of the weeds and getting us hooked on pesticides. Russ wants break that negative cycle. He aims to restore the health of our soils by applying what he has learned from Elaine Ingham about using compost to promote the soil microbiome best suited to desirable crops while discouraging weeds. The picture of the soil food web painted by Dr. Ingham was potent compost for Henry’s ideas and the Backyard Food Forest was the result. The forest is not so much in our backyard, as it is our backyard. After all, everywhere is someone’s backyard.
Henry’s talk was rich with details and meant to educate everyone about how to renew, nurture, and sustain the forest we share with all sort of creatures and critters. Russ built from backyard gardens through urban agriculture, to truck farms, tree forests, lakes, rivers, and oceans, as he wove a comprehensive tapestry of the Food Forest he envisions. I encourage everyone to listen to the full length version of the Backyard Food Forest because Russ breaks it all down, then puts it back together, strategically, to describe a full spectrum approach that will better align modern human societies with the natural cycles of Grandma Earth.
Rooster knows that healthy forests are the source of much more than fungi and food. Our backyard is also medicine. It can heal our harms. The Soil Story of Regenerative Agriculture offers hope in a situation that is generally devoid of the stuff. Sequestering excess atmospheric carbon in the soil through fungi is a rendition of the Soil Food Web at the global scale. We all contribute to it from our piece of the web; our backyard. Whether we admit it or not. When our efforts align with those of our neighbors and the larger enterprises enacted on broader scales, our positive spins can couple and cooperate to enhance their effect. That is how forces are multiplied and effective solutions are amplified. That is how the local translates to the global.
I’m very pleased to initiate the Spin Positive thread by featuring Russ. He has taught me a lot about compost and community over the 4 or 5 years that I’ve known him. My yard has never looked better. Many pictures are available from Brixton Hughes on Facebook. He runs a successful landscaping company and makes certified organic compost, all within easy walking distance of my home. Russ applies the soil food web approach in the social and political “forests” in his neighborhood and our city. He is always spreading compost of one sort or another. In a positive way. Watch for Russ when you’re out and about, looking for friends on social media, or in the voting booth, and give him your support.
Backyard Food Forest – Full Presentation