Discussing the ‘Sustainability of Buying Local’

Kaleva farmer gives keynote during green technology expo

EVART — When talking about the state of agriculture in the U.S., organic farmer Craig Schaff doesn’t like using the word “sustainability.” He said it is a buzzword used to help sell products.

Schaff prefers saying “regenerative,” because he wants to rebuild the nation’s farming industry from the ground up.

Craig Schaff, of Golden Rule Farms in Kaleva, gives the keynote speech during the Green Technology Expo on Saturday at Evart High School. He gave a presentation on the “Sustainability of Buying Local.”

“Our culture is the polar opposite of what sustainability is,” Schaff said. “‘Sustainability,’ in a sense, means that we sustain right where we’re at, and where we’re at as a country right now in our soils and agriculture is not sustainable. I want to regenerate the soils and want them to be able to build and grow and become more life giving.”

Schaff gave the keynote presentation during the Green Technology Expo on Saturday at Evart High School. More than 40 people attended his early-morning discussion on the “Sustainability of Buying Local,” in which he discussed the connections between purchasing local versus buying products from a supplier many miles away.

Purchasing supplies and items as locally as possible not only benefits the local economy, it also reduces the amount of energy, especially oil, used to transport those purchased items, Schaff said. He also answered questions about farming processes he uses at his Gold Rule Farm in Kaleva.

“One hundred years ago, you had to do it yourself (grow your own food); all of these years you had to depend on what you and your neighbor could produce,” Schaff said. “Oil changed all of that. Not just oil, cheap oil. … The more we’re dependent on oil, the more prices will go up.”

He grows crops on his farm, including parsnips, broccoli, beets, tomatoes and more, using organic methods and no chemicals. He also uses hoop houses to help grow his produce earlier in the season, as well as to heat his water.

“Talking about sustainability, you want to use as much land as you can,” Schaff said. “Part of sustainability is using the resources we have to grow things close to home. … We try to live very simply. I can support a family of five on less than $10,000 a year.”

The methods he uses may seem strange to others, he said. But as more people talk about the idea of sustainability, the more common place they will become. With energy prices increasing, more people are looking for ways to save money.

“It’s not necessarily something that everybody is going to be willing to do right off, but I think as time goes by and the more expensive energy gets with the price of oil going up, I think more and more people will start to take up gardening and grow more their food themselves,” Schaff said.

He also noted that less than 2 percent of the U.S. population grows food for the rest of the population, and that number is shrinking. Younger generations need to become more interested in farming, he added.

“If our culture wants to be sustainable, we need to invest in the young people,” Schaff said. “By introducing students to (produce), we’re improving the future.”

The expo also featured energy and land use workshops on biofuels, wind, solar and geothermal energy, building better soils, liquid fertilizer and extending the growing season.

Display booths on composting, recycling, landscaping alternative energies and more were set up in the high school gymnasium.

 

Pioneer News Network reporter Jonathan Eppley contributed to this report.

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