The Micro-Wildernesses of Rural System

Conservationists have been butting heads with industry for decades, vying to set aside this land or monkey wrench that logging operation. But though Rural System is dedicated to revitalizing and protecting natural resources, it seeks an alternative to the widely accepted cut-and-dry conservation approach.A bubbling stream and the forest around it are a potential micro-wilderness: a pocket of untouched land in the Rural System

Clearer and clearer is this motive, which seems to subtend so much of our writing these past weeks: Rural System is seeking to close a gap between people and the land, between humans and nature. Conservation cannot be limited to setting aside wilderness areas while we do whatever we please to damage the land outside of these reserves.  Rather, conservation must be an awareness that enters all our decisions regarding land use, even in our own backyards. [Read more…]

Groups: Turning Profit in the Rural System


The Gardens Group manages gardens on Rural System enterprise environments.

Say you own a forest and you want to make money off of it.  Do you clear-cut the forest and call it a day? Some might say yes: exploit that resource while you have it and enjoy the money in the short-term. Others, like our team here at Rural System, ask if there are other ways to make a profit off a forest or other tract of land. Unsurprisingly we find our answer already playing out in natural systems. In ecosystems you find creatures living off of other creatures or even off of inorganic minerals in the most astonishing ways. No source of energy goes unused.  Our answer?: Diversify! [Read more…]

Clusters: Creating Community in the Rural System

communityThe local food movement is alive and kicking in America today as community-based food efforts strive to help small and mid-sized farms along. It’s a good thing too, for we’ve seen how these farms struggle in Five Benefits of Small-Scale Farming. Farmer’s markets have sprouted all over the country, providing grassroots places for exchange between small farms and hungry families. Small farms have also banded into coops to help smaller or mid-sized farms market their products to a wider customer base. An example is this organic farms coop, CROOP. Products from CROOP are now familiar under the Organic Valley and Organic Prairie labels in conventional supermarkets. And anyone can visit Local Harvest for a heartwarming visual of how local food efforts have spread across the United States, as well as for information on the farms, coops, and local food stores in your area.  [Read more…]

Redefining the Farm: It’s not Just Science, it’s Survival.

Abandoned Farm BuildingThe traditional definition of a farm, both formally and socially, is “a piece of land used for growing crops or raising animals.” Yet those of us who have vegetable gardens do not consider our residence a farm. Even urban spaces designed to grow crops for multiple families are often not called farms but instead community gardens or urban agriculture. The term “farm” has become synonymous in our culture with rural tracts of land. In fact, many refer to all rural land as farmland whether or not anything is harvested. Some “farms” include bodies of water, strip mines, forests and abandoned properties which are inappropriately labeled as a farm. Terms imply context and framework which is important, but they can also limit our thinking within the box. [Read more…]

Five Benefits of Small-Scale Farming

IMG_8562_compressed.jpgOddly enough, the efficiency and resilience of a system depends on redundancy. A system needs to be able to run well even if one part of it fails or goes missing.

For the American food system, this would mean not having all of our proverbial eggs in one breadbasket… as we are threatening to do. The EPA reports that U.S. agricultural production is becoming more concentrated, with less than one percent (187,816/2.2 million) of farms producing 63% of the agricultural product sales in 2007. [Read more…]