These days, it's not uncommon for farmers to practice monoculture planting. Huge fields of rippling corn and shaggy soybeans carpet the landscape. This is encouraged by U.S. farm policy, which supports commodity crops and, unfortunately, can undermine farmers in other countries. (Ironic, isn't it, that feeding ourselves and our animals can cause hunger in other places?)
But monoculture has other effects too. According to small organic farmers like Wendell Berry, monoculture ultimately creates a less stable, more vulnerable agriculture. For instance, monoculture often contributes to soil erosion, pest increases, and loss of biodiversity.
The alternative is polyculture. Indigenous peoples, like certain native tribes, practiced polyculture by planting squash or beans in their corn fields. And some modern African farmers are planting trees near their fields, because they've discovered this is beneficial.
As a writer, I'm trying to learn something from this monoculture/polyculture reality. For, while it's tempting to be monoculture— to knock at the same comfortable doors both in how I write and who I write for— I believe a more stable career will take risks. So I'm aiming to be a writer polyculturist.
Door Photo by Gail Nadeau. Used with permission.