Garden Pests and Weeds: Bob Cannard’s Unique Take

Bob Cannard, a master farmer who developed his own innovative ecological farming practices, has always been ahead of the curve. More than 25 years ago, he was a lonely voice extolling the importance of carbon in farming when everyone else was emphasizing nitrogen. We know now that soil carbon can build fertility and mitigate climate change. He is also a pioneer in using practices that enhance soil biology.

Bob tends to make seemingly outrageous statements that later prove true. Several decades ago, he was suggesting that humans are really just an amalgamation of microbes. Recent research indicates that the ratio of microbial cells to human cells in the human body is at least 1:1 (and possibly much higher depending on the individual). Cannard, the activist, was the first to initiate a campaign for GMO labeling in California. His latest effort is a campaign to eliminate all pesticides from California agriculture by 2050. This is an excerpt from a past Bioneers Conference presentation. 

There is some acceptance of the term “pest.” I just can’t see that. When I go out to the garden, especially the garden of nature, I see no pests. I see high population levels of some organism that we’ve labeled as pests because they are massing on the fruits or the foods that we wish to consume. The presence of these organisms is a demonstration of weakness, not of the genetic makeup, but most likely the environmental support that the plant is getting.

Weeds and Pests as Allies

I don’t look at those organisms as pests. They’re really great friends. They’re letting me know whether or not the environmental circumstances are sufficient to support that crop at that time. We look so little to the organism that we cultivate, even all the way up through the university research systems. I’d like us to actually look at the plant as if it were one of our children, know the plant, truly sensorially connect with the plant, listen to its speech, its speech of anchorage.

We go out into the garden to pull a weed and that weed doesn’t want to get pulled. It is well bonded with its spot. It likes it there. It is there of its choice. We could learn something from that pestiferous plant organism, the weed. Why does it like it there?

Plant Communication

Plants that like it where they are have good anchorage. Plants that don’t like it where they are don’t have good anchorage. Plants that don’t like it where they are and don’t have good anchorage and which are then fed to get their needs met, increase in anchorage qualities and characteristics. Anchorage is one of the ways of speech of the plants.

Bugs are another form of speech. The plant population that is happy in its environmental structure doesn’t have pestilence problems. Bugs and plants have grown up together beautifully during the life of this planet. If they truly had adversity between each other, one or the other would have won out a long time ago, and it probably would have been the bugs. But they can’t do that because they have completely sympathetic activities. The bugs are the cleaners and the gleaners and the improvers of life; they’re the bathers. They eat the old leaves on the lower level of the plant, which was once the present part of the plant, but has now become the past of the plant. The plant doesn’t need it anymore, it has withdrawn the nutritional support from its past in order to put it into the present, into flowering, into the seed-bearing time of its life.

Attitude of Adversity

The observation of past and present and conceptualization of where that is leading is so important in growing a plant. If we want to grow plants that have energy and completeness and contentment and possibly etheric sweetness, we can’t cultivate those plants with an attitude of adversity.

If we look at the garden and we think of all those hateful weeds and all of those horrid bugs and all of those pests, we carry an adversarial energy into the garden. That adversity is part of what we are likely to harvest. Instead of viewing bugs as pests and focusing our energies on getting rid of them, we can view bugs as a resource that we can utilize. If we strengthen the plant’s resistance to bugs by improving the environment and providing nutritional support, we can harvest a more complete meal, one that digests nicely and has lots of energy – from the great diversity available in the environment – to share with us. We can start thinking like a cilantro or a carrot or a potato, any and all.

But our food is not grown that way. I really feel that it is because we don’t look at plants. We hardly even address the issue, and to me, this is truly restorative. We’ve got to drop right down to the level of the creature that we are interacting with and very rarely do we do this.

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