Farming Organically on a Flowing Stream of Lava

Illustration: Lucy Fodor The Greatest 2021

A Brooklyn Almanac Feature

by Joe Fodor

During the quarantine the writer joined a food coop, and was very excited to have the opportunity to contribute an article to the coop newsletter. It has been a few weeks since he submitted it to them, and he has yet to hear any response. We run it in the Brooklyn Almanac in a temporary pre-publication version while the author waits for the editorial department at the food coop newsletter to render their decision.

Farming Organically on a Flowing Stream of Lava

Modern agriculture practices are literally killing our planet. Chemicals used in agriculture are getting in our food and are making our children stupid. It’s time for an agricultural paradigm shift – a renewable approach to agriculture that will restore health, both to our bodies and to our mother earth – the only planet we have!

For centuries, indigenous peoples have chosen the rich, fertile soils of volcanoes to farm, using natural, regenerative processes. The problem with farming in those areas is money– the land is already owned by other people who will not willingly give it to you. An alternative is to use flowing streams of lava to farm. The lava is, essentially, new real estate, and costs nothing.

A few pointers before you start your lava farm.

Wear protective boots! One slip into the lava and your typical footwear will dissolve in a wisp of acrid smoke. You may also want to double up on thick socks—a little precaution doesn’t hurt.

Pick plants that can grow in lava. This rules out a lot of the berry plants, which require periods of cold weather, as do most apple varieties. Sorghum, okra and agave are good, warm-weather choices.

Locate a source of lava. Ask around. Look for smoke. Ask older people in the neighborhood if they remember any volcanoes from their youth. You may be surprised where you find lava!

Use long-handled gardening tools. Depending on the size of your farm, add five feet to the length of your rake and hoe. For example, if your farm is one foot wide, you will want a six foot rake. Likewise a 50-foot-wide farm will require a 55-foot-long rake. (A helpful chart is included on the Future Lava Farmers of America Website).

Make sure you water your plants enough! Ask farmers of flowing lava why their farm failed and the number one reason is “lack of consistent watering,” followed by (2.) being swallowed up in lava, (3.) burns from flying lava and (4.) poison gas.

A flowing lava farm involves WORK! Especially if you hope to get organic certification, which may require a 12-week waiting period, a $75 application fee, and an inspection fee – maximum of $600 in most cases.

Good luck and happy farming!