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TEDxBratislava - Ján Šlinský - 05/29/10

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The Chinese have a saying: “If you want to be happy for an hour, get drunk on wine. If you want to be happy for a day, get married. And if you want to be happy for life, be a gardener.” I became a gardener after I graduated from college, but working as a vegetable producer in a local cooperative somehow didn’t make me happy. First I thought it’s because I’m not a Chinese, but rather an eastern Slovak. When I was losing hope and faith in Chinese wisdom and truthfulness of that saying, the system changed in our country. Thanks to that system change I gained access to information that besides the agro-industrial farming there is also a so called ecological or bio farming. It was then when I realized that for Europeans or rather representatives of the western civilization the saying should rather say: “If you want to be happy for life, you have to be a bio vegetable farmer.” And for the past 20 years I have followed the goal of becoming a happy gardener that would ecologically grow vegetable. After those 20 years the ecological farming has become institutionalized and that previous video just confirmed what I had inherently felt – we should beware of institutions. In Slovakia, like in whole Europe, the ecological farming is institutionalized, but there is one interesting aspect – even though vegetable is the most sought-after product of ecological farming in reality the portion of ecologically farmed land in which it is produced is the smallest. The problem is people. And the problem is also the remote control, because I don’t know how to switch it. The problem is that our general notion of how the farming should be physically done is set in two extremes. The first is an esoteric-romantic approach that doesn’t respect physical limits and the objective reality. I’ve met lots and lots of nice people who spoke with such an enthusiasm in their eyes about how we should become one with nature, cause no harm and be at peace with everyone. But as soon as they had to actually take care of having a place to sleep at night, they turned out to be impractical people living in the fifth dimension, without being able to cope with the third, yet desiring to tell others how to exist. This is the esoteric-romantic approach indeed disrespecting physical limits and reality. The other approach is the one I have 10 years of first-hand experience with – the technocratic-bureaucratic approach that doesn’t respect the "bio-logic" of life. My idea of how to become a happy gardener looks like this – after 20 years of developing a system I called "AgroKruh" or AgroCircle. AgroCircle is a vegetable production and distribution system with an emphasis on sustainable development principles. Sustainable development is a generally recognized term and I don’t have time to explain things that are theoretically very well defined. That’s why I'd like to focus on explaining what AgroCircle is all about. or the happy gardener to be happy whole his life he cannot be neither an esoteric romantic nor a technocratic bureaucrat – he must be a person who deals with a situation here and now, by means available to him and his sympathizers In my case it meant changing 90% of what I had known. First of all, if I wanted to come up with a sustainable vegetable farming system, I had to forget about long straight fields. The long straight fields nowadays considered normal basically emerged in the period when oxen were introduced as draft animals to make the agricultural work easier. Oxen, due to their enormous physical power had one problem though: They were extremely difficult to turn. So, to make it somehow work, long and straight fields emerged, requiring perhaps only three turns a day. I suppose, today nobody makes themselves an ox, but fields continue to be straight and long and people consider it normal. I definitely don’t make an ox of myself and I found out that long and straight fields are a problem - if I ever wanted to be a happy gardener, I had to change my approach. I discovered a new approach by a coincidence: A travelogue from Ladakh showed what a pernicious influence Western civilization had on the self-supply and existence of communities that had been self-reliant for millennia. That sort of woke me up. There I saw a scene with a stake in the middle of the square, and an ox tied to the stake by a rope – well, a yak rather than an ox. These oxen somehow keep appearing in one's life – There was corn spread on the floor and the yak absolutely refused to evenly trash the corn with his hoofs as the villagers wanted it ut since he was tied to that stake, the rope prevented him to go where he wanted. But by wanting to go where he did, i.e. places other than where he was to work, that vector, the physics forced him to walk forward, turn round and round and with the rope winding around the stake the yak was forced to hoof the entire crop, centimeter by centimeter. That’s when I realized:"You ox! Change the long fields to circular and all technical problems disapear. I don’t have to worry if four satellites can correctly position my machine without rolling over my neighbor’s plot or my property. A spiral-shaped line would allow me to easily automate 70% of the physically straining work in connection with alleviating the consequences of prior brutal land use. Considering the limitations of my physical abilities and and money that I had available I designed the machine you see here. It’s an automated machine that works on circular plots, produces spiral-shaped lines, is powered by an electric motor and therefore there is no engine roar, no diesel stench, and it can work in an automated mode. Based on practically verified experience I can say that Sod’s Law works and all possibilities you try out first do not work. Only then, if you learn from your past mistakes and add to it what you thing is good you come up with a solution that actually works. What happened to me after 20 years of my work was that I ended up moving from the very east of Slovakia to the very west and thanks to a lucky coincidence, after my lawsuits and problems here in Slovakia, I was offered money from Japan and a land owner donated a piece of property to build a model farm by which I scientifically prove that the vegetables we give to our children to be as healthy as possible can be widely available throughout the year for standard prices to anyone interested. My biggest problem with the institutionalized ecological agriculture is that the organic quality is considered a higher quality or which consumers should willingly pay a higher price. The problem with vegetable is that it includes 52 botanical species within which there are 2180 varieties on the list of permitted varieties in Slovakia alone. It’s such a broad range that it’s practically impossible to scientifically prove the organic quality as defined by law. That’s only possible based on a personal contact - when the farmer meets with the consumer, looks him in the eye and says: “I have used nothing ... and I try to hurt the environment as little as possible because I consider myself part of that environment. At the same time, however, the consumer has to be accommodating and understand that the farmer works under open sky and he has no control over anything there but himself, and even that only to a limited extent. Based on that, after 3 years we managed to build a model farm that started to produce vegetables first time this year for anyone interested, until the produce lasts. Due to time constraints I’m not going to go into details, but what we are trying to do is to create a network of consumers who define their needs and based on their number persuade farmers to take this new approach. A new approach to relation to soil, a new approach to relations to people and a new approach to being as such. So, that’s it. Since the issue is quite broad ranging, let me end up by emphasizing what ancient Romans used to say: “Vegetable produced on foreign soil by the hands of a slave is not good for your health.” Thank you

Video Details

Duration: 11 minutes and 34 seconds
Country: Slovakia
Language: Slovak
Genre: None
Views: 563
Posted by: dejna123 on Aug 13, 2010

Farmár, autor jedinečného systému ekologického pestovania a distribúcie zeleniny Agrokruh

Je presvedčený, že zelenina ako zdraviu prospešná a nenahraditeľná zložka výživy človeka nesmie byť pestovaná s použitím jedov, hrubej sily a bezcitnej vypočítavosti. Tvrdí, že kráča k vytvoreniu trvalo udržateľného systému pestovania a odbytu BIOzeleniny. Ing. Ján Šlinský, autor konceptu Agrokruh, je inšpiratívny človek svojimi myšlienkami, prístupom k prírode aj svojim prejavom.

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