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Fungi growing from a cow pie

August 26, 2022

Fungi growing out of a cow pie.

One of the best things about life on the farm is to be able to observe the complexity and beauty of nature - to slow down and observe is truly a blessing.

The nutrients, carbon, bacteria and everything else associated with that cow pie provides life and a whole ecosystem for mushrooms, bugs, worms, grass and microbes - and in turn those things will all provide life for something else. The cow, simply by being a cow, provides an ecosystem and source of life while it exists on our pastures and will eventually go to provide life for you and me. And even you and I, will eventually go on to provide life for mushrooms, bugs, worms, grass, microbes and many other things.

Regardless if you believe today's rhetoric around carbon, the idea that we need to reduce animal agriculture is short sighted and misleading, and that cow pie and the fungi growing in it can give you a hint as to why.

The "science" states that animal agriculture pollutes and contributes to climate change; however, this assessment (flawed or not) is based on an unnatural system that is obviously out of balance. For many years "the science" and the large corporations funding it, has taken the complexity and beauty of nature out of our food system and replaced it with synthetic inputs and a factory like efficiency. It has taken the soil, once rich and our source of nutrition, and turned it into a substrate to which we add genetically modified seed and chemicals to grow our food. This is a result of a reductionist approach where food quantity was the goal, while quality and the long term sustainability of this system were not factored in. All of this is to not to say that farmers themselves are not doing the best they can and have ill intentions, they are merely doing what is asked of them.

We have destroyed the soils microbiome as we watch our health (and our own microbiomes) deteriorate, and are unable, or perhaps unwilling, to connect the dots. Likewise, to address our declining health, we have developed synthetic inputs and a factory like efficiency to provide temporary fixes. We treat ourselves as we treat our soil - relying on artificial (and highly profitable) inputs, experts and the system to keep it going, all the while becoming more and more unbalanced.

“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them” - Albert Einstein

Removing animals with a linear and reductive view point of reducing carbon emissions, isolating different factors, but not considering the whole, isn't going to change anything. It is the same way of thinking that go us here and will simply perpetuate the problem. We need to return to balance, where we respect and work with nature.

If we did not embrace the synthetic and factory like approach to food production that has got us here, would we be having these discussions? What if instead of relying on the same approach that got us here, we have some humility and admit to ourselves that science is a tool to understand the world around us and not a tool to change the world around us.

The fungi and other organisms extracting life from the cow pie, and us and our customers nourishing ourselves from the beef that that cow will eventually provide are all participating in a natural cycle that mimics nature. Carbon will be "emitted" and carbon will be sequestered and life will thrive.

I would prefer to work with nature than to alter it in the arrogant belief that we can do better.

Mike Dougherty


May 5th, 2022