S.A.N.T.E.E. Farm and Gardens
Garden of Seven Gates
The Sustainable Agricultural Network for Training and Environmental Education

Why a Garden of Seven Gates? The Quiet Revolution

 

Swiss chard and okra production.
The act of learning to garden and farm, so sincere and simple on its face, is an act of restoration that has implications far beyond one lifetime. With the demise of family farming comes the separation of people and places and products from their histories. Most of us are unaware even of the histories of our families or our habitats, what to speak of the land on which our food is grown.

The 6.5 acres called the 'Garden of Seven Gates,' like most West Virginia ridge tops, has a long history of use and abuse. In the 200 years since the first pioneer family cleared the timber and exposed the virgin black top soil, the field has been over plowed, over planted with corn, over fertilized with petrochemicals, over grazed, and finally--once it was eroded, infertile and forgotten--over grown with underbrush. The descendents of those farming families have migrated to cities in search of jobs. Those who stayed put mostly work for coal mines or chemical companies strewn out along the Ohio River Valley, a region whose residents suffer from environmentally induced high cancer rates They breathe some of the nation's most virulent air, ranking according to the EPA, in the top 10% of America's worst. Their food now comes from California via Krogers and their once fertile fields are playgrounds for deer numbering, on the average, 100 per square mile.

 

Greenhouse and 6.5 acre Garden of Seven Gates.
That's the legacy inherent with restoring an abandoned West Virginia ridge top The reward - should we accept the challenge--won't be measured solely in crop yields or nitrogen levels. Our victory is in declaring a "cease fire" in agricultural warfare. Our victory is about transforming modern food production from war against the land to a force for building community - a community whose culture enshrines the golden rule of economics: what you take must be returned and whatever you return shall again come back to you.

Small farms and small farm projects like the 'Garden of Seven Gates' are where agricultural advances are nurtured. They evolve out of a basic need to know our food and to have some sense of control over its safety and its security. The symbolism of "seven gates" (there are actually seven gated entrances to the 6.5 acre site) signals our resolve to map out the future food security for the next seven generations .The seven entrances also represent seven educational approaches which dispel the seven deadly myths of industrial agriculture, namely 1). Industrial Agriculture Will Feed the World. 2). Industrial Food Is Safe, Healthy and Nutritious. 3). Industrial Food Is Cheap. 4). Industrial Agriculture Is Efficient. 5). Industrial Food Offers More Choices. 6). Industrial Agriculture Benefits the Environment and Wildlife. 7). Biotechnology Will Solve the Problems of Industrial Agriculture.

 

Deer damage to pumpkin crop.
On December 8th, 2001 S.A.N.T.E.E. Farm and Gardens received organic certification status for its display gardens as well as the Garden of Seven Gates from the Mountain State Organic Growers and Buyers Association Our goal is to restore the field's native fertility, and in the process regain a culture and agriculture that is local, family scale and fully integrated with the richness and diversity of creation.

Sustainable agriculture and industrial agriculture are two fundamentally different philosophies -diametrically and irreconcilably opposed. They reflect fundamentally different perceptions of how the world works, and how we should live as part of that world. Those who believe agriculture is mostly about products and profits - not people - have told us that a centralized system of food production is a sign of progress. They claim that industrial food will feed the world's growing population. The reverse is true. Transnational corporate control of our food supply is eroding both cultural and biological diversity and is a major cause of environmental problems The pressure on resources does not come from numbers (overpopulation). The pressure on resources comes from killing the relationship of community to nature. The worldwide march of people driven from their homelands into ever bigger urban conglomerates is the inevitable consequence of technological progress - we are told. But industrialization is not inevitable, nor is it progress. There is a better way to farm, a better way to produce food and fiber, a better way to live.

 

Installation of 8' deer fence.
S.A.N.T.E.E. Farm and Gardens promotes the original meaning of economics- household management. This is not so much a science as it is an art that is handed down from parent to child: how to grow food and prepare it; how to produce cloth; how to produce a simple shelter and care for it; and how to join together with others, including animals, to lighten the burden of the struggle for survival. All this is learned in the same way that language is - organically, by participation and by sharing in the experience. Humanity has now arrived at the point where it is taking more than we are returning. Or worse still, we are taking goodness from the earth and returning poison, and as a consequence, we are receiving the same poison back from the earth. If we are to resolve the environmental problems that now beset us, we must examine the connection between our environment and our way of life.

 

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