Mixed Greens Blog

Mixed Greens Blog
Living Sustainably in the Pacific Northwest

20
May
2008

Reclaiming Agricultural Roots

“It’s as if we have lost track of the fact that food is linked to agriculture, which is linked to human survival.” I read this in the NY Times just before heading to my Farmers Market the other morning.

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When I arrived there were plenty of us sun-crazed, tomato-basil-buyin’, agriculturally-inspired city dwellers swarming around the market trying to find the perfect plant. Or radish. Genetically speaking, we all have a farmer-hunter-gatherer lurking within. We should care about this stuff, and I think we do. The article, World’s Poor Pay Price as Crop Research Is Cut (NY Times 5/18/08), was about the decline in agricultural research funding worldwide and the havoc, and I mean that literally, that is impending. I read, for example, that the tiny brown plant hopper is an insect that loves rice and is multiplying by the billions right now, unchecked, and devastating rice paddies throughout East Asia. This story is a global red flag – there are many others.

Jan Leach, plant pathologist at Colorado State University who works with rice, said, “Agriculture has been so productive and done so well, people have kind of lost sight of how fragile it really is. It’s as if we have lost track of the fact that food is linked to agriculture, which is linked to human survival.” This got my attention, because I felt that it might be true, maybe we have become catastrophically disconnected from agriculture.

I visited my Farmers Market with this in mind and thinking about both the naivete and good fortune which inform our experience with food in relation to the rest of the world. There is the exuberance and appreciation we demonstrate at Farmers Markets simply by being there. An invaluable connection is made as we walk from vendor to vendor, asking questions, borrowing recipes, conversing with farmers about the food they grow. And the visual cornucopia is something to behold. Profoundly different and better than filling a grocery cart and going through checkout. It’s a start.

Like others, we were on the prowl for our favorite tomatoes and found them at Billy’s, Stoney Plains and Langley Farms. Sixteen tomato plants, thirteen varieties are now snugged into the backyard plot. Sungolds, Black Prince, Prudence Purple, Green Zebra, Fourth of July, Yellow Brandywine, Vintage Wine, Orange Banana, Muskovich, Big Girl, and Amish Paste. Tomato love is kickin’ in.

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In addition to expecting local/seasonal produce from our markets, we can grow some food of our own. Even a tiny plot is enough to regularly fill a salad bowl and now is the perfect time to get started. Seattle Tilth will be your personal assistant, and that’s the truth. Among other resources, they have a hotline that operates 8 hours a day, a real person who knows a lot about gardening answers the phone and is nice about addressing any questions.

You can also revisit our previous posts such as A Call to Your Inner Farmer and Pick Your Plot for some guidance, resources and encouragement about getting started. As each of us become aware again of what is required to grow food, our sensibility about the global picture will be influenced. Small actions with big potential.

Farming among the next crop of startups, Seattle PI, 5/20/08

Growing Washington, a source of information about what’s going on statewide agriculturally.


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3 Responses »

  1. Your photos of ripe tomatoes are mouth-watering. I’m remembering the great tastes from August and September, and looking forward to them coming on again soon!

  2. Thanks for your insightful comments about reconnecting to local food and farmers. I appreciated your mention of Seattle Tilth, which is an organization I’ve been associated with since its founding 30 years ago. As another resource, I encourage you to visit the Washington Food System Directory, which I help edit. Here’s the weblink:

    Washington Food System Directory
    http://wafoodsystem.jot.com

    I also maintain a list of food and farming events around the region that your readers may find of interest. The calendar is updated the first of each month. Here’s the link:

    Tilth Producers Calendar
    http://www.tilthproducers.org/calendar.htm

    Thanks again for your blog and fabulous photos!

    Keep growing!

    ~Mark

  3. I read an article online the other day from a British paper–I don’t remember which one–saying there are waiting lines for space in communiy gardens. I read elsewhere that there are places in California where that’s true, too. Apparently garden centers are doing a booming business this year. Something’s in the air. People are picking up on something and starting to grow some of their own food.