With Nature or Apart From Nature; How Will We Eat?
Beans and Peppers, too.
Almost every week another story reminds us of how many more people will need food in the next few decades. Unless partisan bickering, warfare or accelerating climate change greatly reduces global population, experts predict several billion more people by 2050. How those nine billion people will be able to eat is perhaps the major challenge we face.
There are basically two plans for approaching this problem. One is continuing the industrial approach that has become dominant in the last half century; an agriculture and food system that is corporate, distant, large scale and removed from nature. The other approach is more local, diverse, smaller scale and close to nature and ecosystems.
In one, agriculture excludes nature and biodiversity to a large extent as industrial scale monocultures and concentrated animal feeding operations produce food that is processed and delivered to us by large corporations. Increasingly that food is delivered to us in fast food ghettoes and super sized markets that also exclude nature.
In the other, agriculture is embedded in nature and the work of growing food, in the words of the USDA's definition of organic "restores, maintains and enhances ecological harmony." We see that in our members' organic farms and gardens. Just two recent examples I've heard about are a farmer who is raising oysters and kelp in Long Island Sound in a three dimensional system which removes nitrogen from the water while producing delicious food and an urban farmer who is raising trout organically on a brownfield in Waterbury to feed those in need. Waste places in almost every Connecticut city are being converted to bio-diverse food-producing ecosystems which also create more livable spaces.
Some call this approach agroecology. (See my article in the May 2011 Gleanings for more information about agroecology and its benefits.)
I wrote extensively on this issue in the last century. 21st Century Food is a good example. This collection of essays, "The Imperative for a Local Organic Food System" has a lot of the details.
Beans and Peppers
It is not surprising that we are still picking beans and peppers near the middle of October at our Old Solar Farm in Oxford. We've just come through the warmest eight months (January -August, 2012) and the warmest year (since August 2011) in the region and the country.
(This and the melting arctic ice, updated hardiness zone maps and more, are indications of just how rapidly things are changing in response to the greenhouse gases we humans are adding to the atmosphere. Industrial agriculture and the long distance, processed food system play a big role in worsening climate change.)
On smaller scale, more diverse farms, we are better able to adapt to these changes. I've been especially pleased with the beans we've grown this year. This year we grew black turtle and Marfax bush beans and a Portuguese pole bean which were planted where we harvested the garlic in early July. (The garlic harvest gets earlier each year.)
I'm impressed with the beans' rapid growth, their ability to out-compete weeds and with the nitrogen they should add to the farm system, nitrogen which doesn't require fossil fuels to make or machines to spread.
This planting should produce a good supply of delicious beans for the winter. Both the black and Portuguese beans were planted from seeds we grew last year. It is easy to see why beans have been an important food in most parts of the world.
I also planted some edamame soybeans at the same time. They didn't produce so well. We'll plant them earlier next year.
Jimmy Nardello peppers are our favorite this year. An Italian heirloom that first came to Connecticut in the 1800s, they are long, sweet and very productive. We've dried quite a few to provide great flavor and vitamins in the winter and we're saving the seeds for next year's crop.
I hope you are having a good harvest and are enjoying plenty of local, organic food.