From the Executive Director
Garlic knits together the seasons
The garlic pictured here on March 26, 2011 was planted in October 2010, and will be harvested in July 2011.
Garlic is at the center of our winter eating. The garlic that was harvested last July and stored in a basket in a cool, dark place still flavors most of our dinners. It's not clear if we use so much garlic because of its health benefits, its wonderful flavor or because it is relatively easy to grow and store most of the winter. And, by the time last year’s crop is gone or no longer edible, the garlic we missed at harvest last summer sends up strong shoots which are delicious used like scallions.
It is easy to grow a lot of garlic in a small space. John Jeavons says that between 60 and 240 pounds of garlic can be grown in 100 square foot bed, depending on soil fertility and the grower’s skill.
A brief rant… (Feel free to skip if you like and drop down to Back to Garlic.)
If you grow 60 pounds of garlic on 100 square feet and value it at (a very low) $5 per pound, it produces a value of $3 per square foot of growing area. Typical inputs, besides seed garlic (which can run over $17 per pound in 5 pound quantities, but you can grow your own) include compost, mulch and organic amendments such as fish emulsion and linseed meal.
Contrast this with a value of just a penny or two (1¢-2¢) per square foot from the 92 million acres of corn our tax dollars subsidize. And, that is before the farmers pay for genetically-modified seed, anhydrous ammonia, Roundup herbicide, big tractors and diesel fuel. And, before corn growers account for their role in creating a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico and releasing two powerful greenhouse gases while destroying biodiversity and soil structure.
Most of that corn is either fed to animals in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) or fed to our cars as ethanol (which is of questionable environmental or economic value, but we subsidize it anyway). Some goes to make high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Of course, we all pay for the health costs of consuming all that meat and HFCS. (But that’s another whole article.)
The best chance we have to change this abominable situation is the 2012 Farm Bill. Pay attention to the debating and strategizing now going on in the farm and food activist communities. Look for more information about the farm bill at the NOFA Summer Conference, in the fall issue of The Natural Farmer and in the policy section of www.nofa.org
Back to Garlic
Garlic is one of the most common crops grown on Connecticut's organic farms. Garlic is convenient for farmers and gardeners alike because its planting and harvest times occur during the slower times for planting or harvesting other vegetables. And, it is not eaten by any of the common, four-legged herbivores (e.g.,deer, woodchucks, rabbits) that are so troubling to growers these days.
Yet, most of the garlic eaten in this country is grown in China with all the questions about growing technique, transportation pollution and food security that that brings up. This too, is a discussion for another time, but it is tragic that most of the garlic that’s consumed in the US is grown in China when it’s so easy to grow garlic right here in the USA. Go here to learn more about this.
Growing garlic on farms and in backyard gardens or buying garlic from local farmers are powerful ways to cast your vote for a local, sustainable food system and to help prevent the inevitable problems of relying of food from far away.
Photo: Anthony Salamone ~ Garlic at the Old Solar Farm, Oxford, CT