by Terry Haverkost

Every generation has its challenges. In the 1960′s everyone rallied around the idea that we should Feed the World. The Green Revolution brought that dream into reality as new varieties of corn came to the farm. Food production nearly tripled. As it turns out, feeding the world is harder than it sounds, but the roadblocks were created by politicians and not farmers. Do we have enough to feed the World right now? Probably. But certain countries are not interested in the food we grow, as our corn contains less protein than heirloom varieties and may also be genetically modified.

So what do we do with all of this excess corn? We get creative. We turn it into ethanol and high fructose corn syrup. As we adjust to our over abundance of corn, we realize that our current farming practices are unsustainable. Our corn varieties cannot grow without the application of fertilizers and pesticides, both of which are petrochemicals. Agribusiness has consolidated farms and created humongous monocultures that require gargantuan machines to plant and harvest. Let’s assume those harvester/combines don’t get Prius MPGs. So as the fossil fuels go, so goes our entire system of modern agriculture.

So what do we do? What is the major challenge of OUR generation, or more likely, the generation of our children? I believe it is our job to create the blueprint for a resilient society, one that can sustain itself in perpetuity. How do we do that? Where do we look for inspiration?

We look to nature. These species and ecosystems have been sustaining themselves for millennia, and if we learn and apply their secrets, we can do the same. Enter the Southern Heights Food Forest (SHFF). Lincoln’s food forest won’t feed all of those in need in Lincoln, not even if it was twice the size. That’s not the point. Our intention is something deeper, more organic, and we might not see the fruits of our labor for a generation. In order create a more sustainable society, we have to change our core beliefs and modify our everyday behaviors. We expect the SHFF to serve as an inspiration to everyone that visits, especially our children.

The SHFF will show us that nature can collaborate, that plants can grow larger and more efficiently if grown side-by-side with different species. The SHFF will show us that we don’t need to rely on the Frankenstein crops of our grandparents to sustain ourselves. If we want to be on this planet in 10,000 years, it won’t be by our current behaviors of dominating nature, it will be by the behaviors of future generations that find inspiration in nature.

Our experiment won’t be perfect. The food forest alone will not solve our problems. But by building and embracing the SHFF we are signaling to our children that “We’re ready!” We’re ready to find a new path to sustainability. We’re ready to change our behaviors and embrace a new mode of thinking that will carry us far into the future. We are ready to tackle the great challenge of a our generation. By building the SHFF, we take one giant step forward in that direction.