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Set-Aside: The New Contemporary Economic Imperative?


How to apply a centuries-old principle to our lives

Fallow land is part of the three-year crop rotation system. Rotation or “soil rotation” was widespread in medieval agricultural cropping systems. The principle was that the land was divided into three parts in order to allow both productivity and soil regeneration. The three pillars of this system were the production of cereals, the production of legumes and the resting of the land – or fallow land. This triptych was capital and was well integrated by the peasant societies that cherished its benefits. It was not until the advent of the modern era that this system completely disappeared, precisely in the era of industrial agriculture based on the diptych of production and fertilizer/pesticides.

It is reasonable to put forward the idea that societies in Europe and elsewhere (fallow land or its equivalent has actually been practised on the 5 continents on a more or less large scale) possess a collective unconscious in which there are real virtues associated with rest.

Intellectual fallow is that which makes it possible to nourish the spirit; it is essential for artists who integrate into their organization the time necessary to acquire new knowledge, to develop new skills or to assimilate techniques.

Why is it important to integrate the principle of crop rotation into our lives?

Quite simply because we are in a transitional phase: that corresponding to the transition from an industrial world to a “craft” world. We are going to return to some extent to an era not so far removed from our forefathers living in pre-industrial times. Not all of us are aware of this, but it is no less true that this process is at work.

In pre-industrial cultures, what counts above all is the quality of the work from start to finish. By definition, jobs in the industrialized era are a link in a chain that can be more or less easily replaced. Industrial hyper-specialisation creates productivity gains, but it also creates the replaceability if not the banality of employees. Conversely, a craftsman is unique, the skills, knowledge and know-how he masters are much more numerous, he is not the link but the chain. He is competing on a different field, which forces him to draw on an organization inspired by crop rotation. What are the three pillars of this structure?

Cereal production: the productive phrase in the true sense of the word
Legume production: the semi-productive phase

→ It is learning and producing while trying out new approaches to measure results and effectiveness.

Fallow land: the seemingly unproductive phase.

→ It corresponds to the period during which the craftsman nurtures his art, his know-how. He is doing something that is seemingly irrelevant. He goes in search of new ideas through reading or travelling, for example.

This structure repeats itself ad infinitum in order to allow a continuous improvement according to an iterative approach.

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